Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bushes of Basil

Basil. It is a lovely word. It has a lovely smell. I even like it as a name, and I have a particular aversion to naming children after food or drink. At the 29 South garden we will harvest all of our basil in the next two weeks. Today I cut off three branches, two for myself and one for Gan Gan as a thank you for being so good to Lil' Bit.

When you walk past this bed in the garden the fresh scent of this delectable plant cuts through even the most humid air. It just hangs there in the thick the insufferable stagnant air a whiff of vigor.
Today I spent an hour pulling buckwheat and grass out of one bed in the garden. It is the end of September and 90+ degrees in Florida. Hell, I tell you. In the garden right now there are few edibles...the basil, some scraggly eggplant, and a few tomato plants on their last leg.

We are spending the next week cleaning it all out and preparing for our fall planting.
We...being myself and Jeannemarie...the newest edition to the 29 South team. She is our new gardener, and has impeccable timing. I have been stressed out about how the garden will be maintained alongside the impending birth of a new babe. Jeannemarie appeared at our door seemingly out of thin air, with an appreciation for organic food which is rare in this neck of the woods. To say I am glad she is here is an understatement.

While she yanks the rest of the plants out of the garden, our Chef Mike and his kitchen team will harvest all the basil for pesto. Pesto freezes amazingly well, and I am curious to see how many pounds of it he will get from our bushes. I am going to whip up a batch myself this weekend. It is so easy to make...and a little goes a long way.

We are off to the land of milk, honey, and fine wine next week...Napa Valley and my favorite city in the US...San Francisco! We will be eating our way through...stay tuned!

Good Life Recipe #12 / Pesto/Alice Waters/The Art of Simple Food
*This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of pesto. I like to make a lot of pesto at once, add a little lemon juice to keep it from browning, and freeze it in ice cube trays for later use. It freezes perfectly, and it is a sauce you can use on almost anything! Alice Waters uses a mortar and pestle in this recipe, but tossing all of the ingredients in a new fangled food processor has the same effect. If you go that route, add all of the ingredients but the olive oil and give it a few pulses, then add olive oil slowly at the end while the processor is running.

  • 1 Bunch of basil, to yield about 1 lightly packed cup
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts, lightly roasted
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin-olive oil
  • In a mortar and pestle pound 1 garlic clove and a pinch of salt into a paste.
  • Add and continue to pound 1/4 cup of pine nuts, lightly toasted (toast briefly in a pan over medium heat)
  • Add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Transfer this mixture into a bowl. Coarsely chop basil and put in the mortar.
  • Pound the leaves into a paste.
  • Return the pounded pine nut mixture into the mortar and pound with leaves.
  • Continue pounding as you gradually pour in 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
*You can use walnuts instead of pine nuts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Constant Craving

Yes, that is pimento cheese on fried chicken. I have a disgusting thing to admit. In the past five days I have eaten a pound and a half of pimento cheese. It is an uncontrollable craving...lustful even. It is as if the little human growing inside of me has tapped into my subconscious, whispering "pimento cheese, creamy and delicious" over and over again until I am forced to go the refrigerator and eat more. And more. I imagine pimento cheese is like heroine. There is no having just a taste.

Personally, I prefer pimento cheese on crackers. The classic sandwich is all well and good. It is something I will settle for in a pinch, but I like the spread on a cracker because of the crunch. The added texture, the little bit of crisp, lightens it up a bit.

Pimento cheese has a long history as a Southern snack of choice. It has found its place on grocery store shelves in the South since around 1915. It really took off as a food of choice during the Depression. For more info on pimento cheese and some quality recipes check out the
Southern Foodways Alliance. Oh, but pimento cheese is not just some provincial confederate delight. It is a worldly cheese spread. It is very popular in the Philippines, where they refer to it as cheese-pimento. Who knew?

I figure if I eat this terribly wonderful cheese spread on whole grain crackers it somehow justifies the indulgence. Well, actually pregnancy is the perfect justification...but so many store bought pimento cheese spreads are made from processed food stuffs that I have decided to go wholesome with
I am on a mission to find the perfect pimento cheese recipe.

This week I will indulge in a recipe of the Southern Queen of Indulgence...the one...the only Paula Deen. I left the house seasoning out of my batch for fear of too much salt. From here I will explore some of the recipes from the Southern Food Ways Alliance Pimento Cheese Invitational. This will a be a six month journey, unless another craving conquers all.

Good Life Recipe # 11/ Bobby's Pimento Cheese / Paula Deen


  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, room temp
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon House Seasoning, recipe follows
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons pimentos, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion
  • cracked black pepper

  • Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add all of the remaining ingredients and bat until well blended. It can be used as a dip for crudites or a sandwich filling.
House Seasoning
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup black pepper
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blushing Hostess

I would like to share with you something special. The Blushing Hostess, a fabulous food blogger, has recently written an incredible post about our restaurant 29 South. It is truly an honor, and I thought you may appreciate it as much as we do. Please, take the time to enjoy her prose and her piece What Comforts You It is really lovely.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Olive Oil Here, There, Everywhere

I once dated a man that used olive oil as both a hair product and as a "special" lubricant. I should have seen this as a warning sign, but hey, live and learn. While this was a little much for me, the truth is aside from being good for you to ingest, olive oil has a multitude of uses. Lil' Bit has a case of cradle cap, and I recently went online to see if there were any holistic solutions to the case of the crusty skull. There listed was "shampoo with olive oil." A number of mamas said it worked well, so I decided to give it a whirl.

After Lil' Bit ate dinner I stripped her of her shirt while in high chair and set to work. I dipped my hand in a small bowl of extra virgin olive oil (only the best for our babe) and began to massage it into her scalp. She seemed to enjoy it...I mean who wouldn't. It wasn't until I had basted her head like a turkey that I realized that I had to transport her from the kitchen to the bathtub.

Oil is not easy to remove from clothes...I know, I do Chef's laundry and it is next to impossible. So I stripped off my shirt, picked up my greasy baby and trucked it on to the bathroom for bath time.

The following morning it seemed that the dry skin on her scalp had lessened, and two days later it was even better. Turns out there are all sorts of things olive oil is good is are a few:
  • polishing copper or brass, and cleaning stainless steel
  • removing paint from your hair or skin
  • use it to free stuck zippers
  • coating garden tool blades with a little bit of olive oil will keep dirt from sticking to them and prevent rust
  • it can be used for shaving, and if you apply it to your razor it can prevent rust
  • some people even use it to remove makeup
So there you have it. Olive oil, the only vegetable oil that can be consumed freshly pressed from the fruit...the miracle elixir of the Mediterranean diet...also is great for baby dander. Who knew?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Guinea Pig, Guinea Pig Let Me In

Summer is dwindling down...I mean it was in the high 80's today instead of the high 90's! At 29 South we celebrate all seasonal matter how minimal...with a new menu. Lil' Bit was my date Tuesday evening, with Chef popping in and out as he helped show the kitchen how he wanted to see each dish plated for the late summer menu. It was a lot of food...more than a lot. And, it was all amazing. Being his guinea pig is a dream come true. I honestly think this is the best new menu Chef and his team have created. Really extraordinary food, and yeah maybe I do get paid to say it...but just read below and judge for yourself. I want to apologize for the quality of the was dark and I had a 1 1/2 year old scrambling all over me as I tried to take them.


Lumpy Blue Crab Cake on Old Bay Butter with Watermelon Rind Chutney
The really special thing about this dish is the Watermelon Rind Chutney, our chef Mike Gass's creation. It is sweet, spicy and is something completely different and delicious.

Knuckle Sandwich / Butter-Poached Lobster Knuckles on Petite Bun with Meyer Lemon Remoulade and Dill Pollen

I love this little sandwich pictured at the top of the page, not just because I am a wordsmith. When I was in Colorado last week Chef called and said he was going to a local bakery to have them make mini hot dog buns for this dish. It is a fun play on words and palette.


Herb Roasted Tomato /Roasted Tomato with Sweet Grass Dairy's Fresh Chevre Mousse, Basil, and Olive Coulis
All I am going to say is the Chevre Mousse is perfect.


Mediterranean Shrimp on Mixed Greens with Roasted Eggplant, Peppers, Olives and Onions with Tzatziki and Falafel Croutons
We bypassed this course, but it seems like a tasty one.


Horseradish Crusted Wild Salmon on Minted Cucumber Potato Salad
Okay, I am a big salmon fan and this dish is fresh, savory and bright and wonderful. The fingerling potato salad was a perfect accoutrement to the salmon, with its light crunch. The taste and textures are totally spot on.

Springer Farms Chicken / Fried Chicken Drizzled with Naked Bee Honey with Cracked Pepper on Buttermilk Smashed Potatoes

Who doesn't love fried chicken? I mean really. This entree takes an unarguably fabulous classic and makes it just about perfect.

Painted Hills Short Rib / Bourbon-Spiked Black Strap Molasses Glazed Short Rib on Granny Smith Apple Slaw with Summer Corn and Green Chili Bread Pudding

Point Blank...the best Short Rib I have ever put in my mouth. This is a serious piece of meat. The glaze is almost a deep purple on the outside and the meat is unbelievably tender.

Fennel Pollen Rubbed Tuna on White Beans with Homemade Chianti and Summer Truffle Sausage in a Conner Farm Tomato Broth

I am pregnant, so Tuna really isn't on my diet these days...but damn I wish it were. While I could only have a few bites it is my new favorite preparation of tuna. I love tuna when it is prepared as the steak that it is, not some flaky fruit riddled fish. The sausage and broth were to die for.


Lemon Tart / Almond Shortbread Crust with Lavender Honey Chantilly

There is no picture for this one because as soon as this plate hit the table we just dug in without even a thought to taking a pic. There is a secret ingredient in this dessert...Bergamot olive oil drizzled around the tart. Chef didn't put it on the menu for fear of freaking people out...olive oil on tart and lavender cream...but its subtle flavor will haunt your taste buds as you try to pin it down. that is the new grub. The menu will only be out for 8 to 10 weeks, so I suggest you hustle on down for a mouthful. I mean run.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Too Many Tomatoes

Chef recently did an interview for a newspaper in Mendocino, California about what to do with the last tomatoes of the season. Isn't it globalization wild. A chef in Florida participating in an article about veggies in California written by a woman who lives in DC. The writer of the piece wrote a great article published in a local publication on Chef and Slow Food this past spring, and decided to use him as a source for this article she is writing for the paper in California.

While our tomato season ended months ago due to the heat, in California farmers are harvesting the last of their crops. There is a lot you can do with tomatoes. When Chef and I first started dating we jarred roasted tomatoes and gave them out as holiday gifts. It was the cheapest, easiest, most delicious present I have ever given. And, I have to admit it was terribly sexy to watch a man cook and jar food.

This year, since I am dealing with a major pregnancy marinara fetish, perhaps we will make homemade sauce and jar it for keeps. I thought today I would share with you two recipes, one for homemade sauce and one for roasted tomatoes. You can learn how to jar them by following this link - Next week I will be featuring the first of my monthly farmer profiles. We work with so many fantastic people and I would like to share a little glimpse into their lives with you.

Good Life Recipe #9 /Roasted Tomatoes/Chef Scott Schwartz
  • 12 Plum Tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds (not cores) removed
  • 1/4 cup of good olive oil, plus a bit more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbs Fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees F
  • Place tomatoes on a sheet pan, face up, in a single layer.
  • Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Sprinkle with garlic, herbs, sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Roast for 2 hours until the tomatoes are concentrated and begin to caramelize.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature
Good Life Recipe #10 /Simple Tomato Sauce / Chef Scott Schwartz

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion small dice
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup fine chopped carrot
  • 24 roasted tomatoes and their juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Basil to finish the pasta

  • Saute the garlic in olive oil until just barely golden and toasted.
  • Add onions and carrots and saute until the onion is translucent.
  • Add the thyme, wine and tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Toss with pasta. Add a little pasta water to thin if necessary.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and chiffonade of basil.