Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A little Gado Gado experience

Mmmmmm, Gado Gado, sounds slightly naughty. It's not, but it's oh so tasty and is one of my favorite dishes. I love it for its wide variety of sensations on my palate, that it's refreshing and not too heavy. Gado gado is a great dish that I learned from my aunt Marianne. She, along with her family, lived for many years in Indonesia as missionaries. She picked up how to prepare and make many of the local dishes. 

This was when I was pretty young. I do always remember though that it was a family dish. It really brought everyone together. And it had such different flavors than I was used to. My young culinary palate was just starting to get tickled.  My aunt served this dish to us many times and it was always wonderful. It’s an Indonesian vegetable dish topped with Sambal Kacang, a spicy peanut sauce.
This is a fun dish to put together and great for a crowd as well as for solo dining. I have changed the recipe a bit to fit my tastes, but I must pay homage to the roots of the dish in my family.

This dish is great leftover as well. The sauce keeps well. For reheating the sauce, just microwave it and put a little water to thin it if needed. This is a great dish to try. It’s also a great vegan dish if you leave off the hard-boiled eggs and substitute tofu (grilled is very nice). Otherwise it’s still vegetarian.

And for those of you with a peanut allergy, try substituting in another nut or seed butter such as almond, soy, sunflower, etc. You can also use the spicy peanut sauce as a satay dipping sauce for grilled chicken, shrimp or tofu. That makes an excellent appetizer.

So, go ahead and enjoy a little Indonesian cuisine tonight--you’ll thank me for sure. Gado Gado is a simple and tasty dish that can be enjoyed alone or shared with friends.

Gado Gado with Sambal Kacang (Spicy Peanut Sauce)
2 T sesame seed oil
1 t garlic, finely chopped
1 t ginger, finely chopped
1 c natural peanut butter, creamy
¼ c coconut milk
juice of 2 limes
¼ c water, or as needed
3 T Kecap Manis (sweet soy sauce)*
1 t dried red chili peppers
Salt to taste (if needed) 

1 - Heat sauté pan with the oil.
       2 - Saute ginger and garlic for 1-2 over medium-low heat till softened.
       3 - Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir over low heat till well combined.
       4 - Put in food processor or blender and blend till smooth.
      5 - Serve warm

Serve the spicy peanut sauce on top of vegetables and other food of your choice. Some are cooked and cooled and others are served raw. Cut them up and arrange on a platter and serve the spicy peanut sauce drizzled on top or on the side. Here is a list of ones I use for mine (but you can use whatever vegetables you like).

Hard-boiled eggs and/or grilled tofu
Boiled peeled potatoes
Blanched green beans
Steamed cabbage
Steamed spinach
Fresh bean sprouts
Fresh carrots
Fresh cucumbers
Fresh red onions

*Kechap Manis is a thick sweet soy sauce. You can sometimes find it at your grocery stores, but definitely at Asian markets. If you can’t find it at all, you can also use a combination of soy sauce and dark molasses as a substitution.

Recipe guide:
T= Tablespoons
t=  teaspoons
c=  cup/s

Hope you like the little slide show of my Gado Gado experience that I have posted here. Do you have a favorite dish that maybe is a little out of the ordinary that you remember from childhood? If so, please share. I’d love to hear about it. There is nothing better than great food stories to warm the heart and the belly.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I, the sassy Chef Ashley Simone, love a good adult beverage and I want to learn more about beer especially local brews. Luckily, in this great city of Chicago I live in, there are many to choose from. I decided to go to a little brewery located in the Ravenswood neighborhood called Half Acre. I’ve never had their beer before, but thought it was both a great way to have a few samples and to find out more about the beer making process. It turned out to be an awesome FOODGASM fieldtrip!

First of all, they are a super laid back and fun company with the Brewery in the back and a little store up front. I met with Rog who gave me a tour of the facilities. But before all that began I got to sample their three staple beers: Daisy Cutter Pale Ale, Half Acre Over Ale and Gossamer Golden Ale. These are their mainstays that they brew. They also have a whole bunch of seasonal and short run brews that they release. They are super creative about the beers and are always coming up with new batches and recipes to try.

Half Acre brewery was started in October of 2006 when a group of friends decided to come together and take the plunge in and start a new beer company. And I found out that’s how most people at the company (only about 15 on staff) got their jobs--by having personal connections with the Half Acre crew and having a genuine love of beer and of the beer-making craft.

They were bottling a new batch of beer that day, so I go to watch them as they hand bottled each beer. I love seeing such care taken in preparing each beer.  Very much like the feeling I have when making food for people. Half Acre is a great company and has even better beers. I look forward to trying all of their many varieties and special release batches.   

I would highly recommend that you go over to the brewery, have a sample,  and take a tour. Totally worth it and it will be a BEERGASMIC time for all (of course you need to be at least 21 to taste the beer).  I recommend trying the Daisy Cutter beer, which was my favorite.

If you go, tell them Chef Ashley Simone from FOODGASM sent you. Click for more information and the Half Acre website. CHEERS!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Make the Pizza Yourself

Here are the recipes for the pizza from episode 11.

Grilled Pizza with pesto and grilled vegetables
This can be made with either the regular dough or the gluten-free dough

Regular Pizza dough
Makes 2 10-inch pizzas
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sugar or honey
1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt)
½ teaspoon instant yeast
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3/4 to 1 cup room-temperature water
Extra flour for dusting

In a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment on, add all of the ingredients and mix till incorporated. Let it knead for 5 minutes. Put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let rise till it doubles, about an hour.

Gluten-free pizza dough
Makes 2 10-inch pizzas
2 TB dry yeast
2 cups brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
½ cup white rice flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder (Knox)
2 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning

1 1/3  cup warm milk (110 degrees F.) or non-dairy liquid
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Extra white rice flour for dusting

In a medium bowl mix the yeast, flours, salt, gelatin powder and Italian seasoning together till mixed. In stand mixer with the paddle attachment on, add the milk, sugar, olive oil, and cider vinegar on medium. With the mixer still going slowly add in the dry mixture and let mix till fully incorporated. Put the dough into a greased bowl and cover. Let it set for 45 till it slightly rises (it will not rise nearly as much as the regular dough does).

Pizza toppings
1 red pepper thinly sliced
1 zucchini sliced into rounds
1 summer squash sliced into rounds
3 large portabella mushroom caps sliced into long strips
1 cup grated fontina or fontinella
1 cup grated mozzarella
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
(Optional) 3 tablespoons thinly chopped fresh basil

Toss the sliced vegetables with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Over medium high heat, grill the vegetables till nice grill marks appear and they are tender.

Pesto recipe
Makes 1 cup
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts (toasted)
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Toast the nuts till light golden brown. Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

2. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Assembling and grilling the pizza
Get the grill going to a low to medium low heat (too much will burn and cook the pizza too fast). Make sure the grill is well oiled up. Have the grilled vegetables, pesto and cheeses ready to go.

Spilt dough into 2 portions. Using rolling pin (or empty wine bottle in a pinch) and extra flour for dusting, roll out the dough balls till about ½ inch thickness all around (this will make two pizzas).  Carefully put dough onto a well floured back of a cookie sheet. This will work like a pizza peel. Quickly and carefully side the dough straight out onto the grill. Do this for both. Keep the heat fairly low, so the pizza won’t burn too quickly. Put lid down. Let the dough cook till nice grill marks appear, anywhere from 3-7 minutes depending on your grill. Once the one side is ready, flip the dough over and put back on the cookie sheet. Quickly brush the edges with olive oil. Spread the pesto over the cooked dough side. Add the grilled vegetables and top with the cheeses. Slide the pizza back onto the grill and cover. Grill for 3-7 minutes on the other side till nice grill marks appear.

Take off the grill and let the pizza rest for a moment. Slice and serve.

(Optional) Top finished pizza 3 tablespoons of fresh basil thinly chopped

Take Pizza Out of the Oven!

Let’s throw a twist into homemade pizza and throw it on the grill. Grilling pizza gives it a nice char like the restaurant wood-fired pizza has. It cooks much faster and it’s even tastier than oven-made pizza (at least to me). Here's a gluten-free dough that is nice and crisp and perfect for your gluten intolerant friends. The gluten-free crust is super flavorful and crispy--you just might prefer it for yourself.

What really makes this grilled pizza stand out is the fresh pesto sauce and the fantastic cheese. The Fontina and Mozzarella cheeses melt so seductively down the pizza that you will just about lose your mind. All this with the fresh grilled vegetables makes for an amazing new twist on pizza. This grilled pizza might just render a FOODGASM for you and your special friends. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Sexy Sidecar and Spiced Pecans

I feel a cocktail time coming on…..Oh my! Nothing sexier than a classic cocktail and some spiced nuts.

The sidecar is a classic cocktail that was invented around the 1920’s in Europe. This was a popular and zingy drink in the 1940’s.  I love the fresh zesty citrus in this drink and mixes perfect with some spicy sweet nuts too much on. The perfect cocktail hour combination that will set people to dancing and having a grand old time. Mmmmm, I do believe I found a FOODGASM in my cocktail. Enjoy!

Sexy Sidecar

2 ½ oz. Cognac or brandy
1 ½ oz. Cointreau
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. fresh orange juice

For garnish
Superfine sugar (or regular sugar pulsed in food processor)
Slice of orange and lemon

Put the ice, cognac (or brandy), Cointreau and juices into a martini shaker (or into a martini stirrer) and shake till combined and chilled.

For rim/garnish super fine sugar and orange and lemon slices

Serve in a martini glass or classic champagne saucer glass.

Spiced Pecans

4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle powder (or cayenne if you can’t find this)
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon  ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a small bowl, combine the spices and sugars. Spread the pecans on a large, rimmed baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes, until fragrant.

Transfer the pecans to a large bowl and toss with the butter. Add the spices and toss to coat. Return the pecans to the baking sheet and bake in over for 3 to 4 minutes longer, until fragrant. Let cool.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Triple Threat Brownies

Chocolate is one of the most sensual and pleasing food I know. It has the capacity to tempt even the most stubborn palate. Especially these super decadent fudge brownie bites. The three seductive threats in these brownies are from the coffee liqueur (YUM), instant coffee (YUM), and extra chocolate in the form of chocolate chips (YUM, YUM, YUM)! 

These brownies make your palate submit and come creeping back for more delicious edible pleasure. Once you take your first bite of these brownies, your epic FOODGASM is sure to follow!

First watch the video:


And now you can try this yourself!  Here's the recipe:

Triple Threat Brownies
Makes 24 -30 mini brownies

1.5 sticks unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon coffee liqueur
2 tablespoon instant coffee
1 cup all-purpose flour
dash salt  (don’t if you used salted butter)
6 oz. chocolate chips

24-30 chocolate covered espresso beans (for on top of brownies)
Caramel sauce (see below)
Fresh raspberries, for garnish

Preheat oven 350 degrees
Melt butter and unsweetened chocolate on medium heat in saucepan. Melt slowly, stirring periodically until completely melted. Once melted, turn off and remove from heat. Stir in sugar. 
In separate bowl whisk eggs and then stir into chocolate mixture. Stir in the vanilla, coffee liqueur, instant coffee, salt and flour. Slowly mix in chocolate chips. Spray a mini-muffin sheet Add one scoop of dough to each, filling to ¾ full.
Top each with a chocolate covered espresso bean (optional). Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.


Caramel cream sauce 
Makes a little over 1 cup of sauce

1 cup sugar
Water (enough to cover the sugar)
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Put the sugar into a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan and put in enough water to just cover the sugar so it looks like wet sand. Before staring, take a wet paper towel and wipe the insides of the pot down to the water/sugar mixture. This is to ensure no sugar burns on the sides. Heat the sugar and water on moderately high heat. Don’t stir at all: you can lightly swirl the mixture in the pan. Be very careful at the heated cooked sugar reaches very high temperatures and can burn easily. 

Let the water boil off until the sugar starts to bubble and the mixture gets thicker and starts to turn color. As soon as all of the sugar crystals have melted (the liquid sugar should be dark amber in color), immediately add the butter to the pan. Whisk until the butter has melted. Once the butter has melted, take the pan off the heat. Then slowly add the cream to the pan and continue to whisk to incorporate. (When you add the butter and the cream, the mixture will foam up considerably.) Whisk until caramel sauce is smooth. Let cool in the pan.

Ladle caramel sauce on top or beside the brownies and serve with fresh raspberries. Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Catfish Are Biting

Spicy and sweet is a great combination and is so good to eat. That’s what I love about this dish, blackened catfish with mango salsa. I am also in love with anything mango. Eating a piece of fresh mango is true bliss. This dish always reminds me of sexy summer nights. The sultry spiciness of the catfish is enhanced with the sweet tanginess of the salsa.  Magic begins when you take your first bite and continues on to the last seductive bite.

Also when thinking about what catfish to buy (or any other fish/seafood for that matter), it’s always good to consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. They help you to find good sustainble fish to purchase and which ones to avoid. I find this is a super helpful guide for me and for others as well.

Well, I hope you love this dish as much as I do and it brings some sexiness to your mouth.  Mmmm, bring on the spicy FOODGASMs!!!

Now here are the recipes you need to do this yourself. Or with someone else!

Blackened Catfish with Mango Salsa

Mango Salsa
 2 mangos cut up in small dice (about 1 ½ cup)
½ red pepper, cut up into small dice (about ½ cup)
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Optional -Sriracha sauce, ½ to 1 t depending on taste (this will add a bit more heat)
•Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Blackening seasoning
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon ground chipotle
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon medium hot chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
•Mix spices together in a bowl and set aside.

4 large catfish fillets (USA farm raised)
Olive oil for pan.

•Put dash of oil into frying pan or on cast iron griddle pan.
•Heat it up, medium high heat.
•Sprinkle catfish fillets with seasoning on both sides (more or less depending how
  much spiciness you want)
•Put in pan or onto griddle and cook for 2-3 minutes each side.
•Cook till the catfish is firm to touch. Take off the heat and let rest for a moment.
•Top with mango salsa and serve.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Have you had a Big Night?

Here’s another dinner in a movie suggestion.
You may or may not have seen it. Big Night. This 1996 film met with some critical acclaim, including a nomination for the "Grand Jury Prize" at the Sundance Film Festival.
It’s set in the early 1950s and stars Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub, as two Italian brothers who are trying to make a go of it with a restaurant, The Paradise,  in New Jersey. They should be able to make it. Nearby there’s a much inferior restaurant which is filled with customers.
But chef Primo (Shalhoub) is an artiste! Things must be perfect. He’s outraged when a customer orders risotto and then asks for a side of spaghetti. It is all that his brother Segundo (Tucci), the businessman of the pair, can do to keep him from tossing the customer in the street.

But the bank is breathing down their throat, threatening foreclosure, so when rival restauranteur promises to bring jazz singer Louis DiPrima to The Paradise, the brothers gamble everything, certain that the publicity will turn things around.  They invite the press, friends, and acquaintances.
Primo prepares a fantastic feast. It’s centered around a timpano (a form of timballo, a very involved baked pasta dish).
The responses are, shall we say, foodgasmic!
“Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,” gushes one of the diners.
The response”
“Oh my God is right. Now you know. To eat good food, is to be close to God.”
Well, no matter how many foodgasms were had, Louis DiPima doesn’t show, and the hoped-for publicity fizzles, as does the chance for the brothers to save their restaurant.
If you haven’t seen this film, rent it now. But be prepared to be hungry. Even the final scene, the preparation of a simple omelet is bound to make you hungry.

posted by Etta Worthington

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Carrot Potato Soup

Who doesn’t love comfort food? I sure do! This recipe is one of my favorites that my mother always used to make me when I was little girl. It is a creamy carrot potato soup and is vegetarian and can be easily made vegan by leaving out the butter. I have updated the recipe a little by adding some chopped tarragon and mini homemade potato chips for garnish. Super tasty and oh so comforting. A big bowl of this soup is like a big bowl of hugs from mom!

And now here's the recipe so you can try it.  Let me know what you think.

1 Tablespoon butter ( to make it vegan exclude the butter)
1 Tablespoon olive oil (to make it vegan double the olive oil)
1 whole onion medium dice, about 1 ½ cup
4 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced, about 4 cups
7 medium carrots grated, about 5 cups
6 cups of vegetable broth, or to just cover vegetables
1 bay leaf
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

1 potato, peeled
Oil for frying (vegetable or any other neutral oil is fine)

(to make this soup vegan, you can cut out the butter and double the amount of the olive oil)
Simmer for 15 minutes over medium heat, until tender
Put immersion blender in pot and blend until smooth and creamy (if you don’t have an immersion blender, you can put the soup into a blender and blend till creamy and then put back into the pot).
Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon and use the other tablespoon for garnish.
Optional -Garnish with the homemade potato crisps.

Optional garnish
In a medium pot place oil about halfway up and heat over medium heat, till when a test piece of potato is thrown in it starts to sizzle. Slice very thin circles of the potato about 1/8 thick, or as thin as you can get. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes or slice thinly into smaller pieces and fry until crisp and golden brown. These are basically cute mini potato chips. Put onto paper towel to absorb oil and season with salt.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I just love the combination of sweet and savory in my mouth. Mmm, makes me drool and that’s why I just love this dish. It’s called Bisteeya and it’s a traditional Moroccan phyllo pie that combines sweet and savory flavors. It has wonderful saffron, ginger and cinnamon elements. 

The traditional Bisteeya is made with squab, although mostly chick is used these days. But in my version, I make it vegan.  I use seitan, which is a vegan protein that is made from wheat gluten. But if you prefer a taste that is more similar to chicken, you can use the Gardein chick’n strips

This is a great dish to take to a picnic or just to enjoy while sitting on your back porch. It’s a complete meal all wrapped up in a deliciously crispy phyllo crust. FOODGASMIC!

Now, here's what you need if you are going to try this yourself.  My recipe.
Vegan Bisteeya


½ onion small dice  (approx ¾ cup onion)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon saffron
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 packages (8oz. each) of seitan, chopped (you can also use Gardein chick’n strips if you prefer)
cover with broth, approximated 2-3 cups
½ cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ package of 8-ounce package of tofu
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in water
1 cup slivered blanched almonds, toasted in dry pan
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
half package of phyllo dough (defrosted)
olive oil for brushing

Garnish (optional)
Powdered cinnamon
Powered sugar

Preheat oven to 400
In large pot, sauté onions with olive oil till translucent and soft. Then add to onions then broth, seitan (or Gardein chick'n strips), ginger, saffron, cinnamon and golden raisins. Bring to boil and then simmer fro 30 minutes. With slotted spoon or sieve separate the liquid from the solids. Let the liquid cook down till it’s about 2/3 cup. Whisk the tofu into the broth mixture over medium heat till it’s nice and creamy. Whisk in the cornstarch with water until it thickens and comes together. Stir back in the seitan and solids that were removed before and the chopped parsley and cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
Sauté the almonds with olive oil over medium heat until golden brown. Remove from heat and toss with sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
Prepare your phyllo dough by unwrapping it and keeping it covered with a moist towel to keep it from drying out. Take care when working with the phyllo dough, as it is very delicate. Brush a round 9-inch pan lightly with oil. Line the bottom of the pan with a couple of sheets of oiled phyllo dough, with the dough hanging over the sides. Lightly oil 6 sheets of phyllo dough so you have six corners hanging and place in the pan. Leave an overhang of phyllo on the edges. Put seitan mixture on top of phyllo dough. Then cover with four more sheets of oiled phyllo dough. Sprinkle nuts on top. Top with 2 more sheets of oiled phyllo dough. Then fold the edges of phyllo dough over the top. Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Carefully flip over on a flat plate the pie and then slide it back into the pan to back for 15 more minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully flip pie out and let cool on a wire rack.

Sprinkle powered sugar and cinnamon on top with a sieve. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 © 2011 Fernwork Productions, Inc.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It Wasn't Like This When I Was a Kid!

Some days all you crave and want to eat is some delicious comfort food. For me, my favorite was always grilled cheese sandwiches and cream of tomato soup. I’ve decided to recreate my favorite childhood comfort food into a tasty and fun appetizer! 

I’ve pumped up the flavor and spice of the simple tomato soup and turned it into a Zesty Tomato Soup.  The grilled cheese is made with a little basil on the inside and some dark pumpernickel bread to give it a nice twist. And to serve them, I have the soup in little shot glasses and the grilled cheese cut into cute sticks perfect for dipping and munching. Oh, it is so tasty and fun to eat.

I love when I can play with my food…….even as an adult. You can make them for yourself or for a party of your favorite friends. Just relax and enjoy my Zesty Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sticks. Childhood never tasted so good!

And here are the recipes!
Zesty Tomato Soup

1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (you can add more if you like it spicier)
¼ teaspoon Chipotle chili powder (you can add more if you like it spicier)
½ teaspoon Paprika
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional
Salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, to taste and roast until caramelized, about 15 -20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted chopped canned tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, vegetable broth, bay leaf and spices. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Puree with a hand held immersion blender until smooth. Stir in the cream, if using. Salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve
The soup can be enjoyed the usual way in bowls. But I like to serve them in cute 2-3 oz. tall shot glasses as an appetizer. You can best fill the glasses by using a small funnel and poring the soup in. Serve hot in the shot glasses with a Grilled Cheese Stick on the side and enjoy.

Grilled Cheese Sticks
6 pieces Pumpernickel bread (any bread will do though)
3 pieces sliced Havarti cheese
3 pieces sliced Provolone cheese
Fresh basil (4-6 pieces)
¼ cup melted butter for bread

Heat a griddle or frying pan on medium to medium-high heat. Spread the melted butter on one side of each of the pieces of bread. Place one buttered side down on the griddle or frying pan, layer 1 slice of Havarti and one slice of provolone on each, top with a piece of basil or two (as you like it) and the other piece of buttered bread (buttered side up). Cook till each side is crispy and the cheese is melted inside.

To Serve
You can enjoy this as a regular grilled cheese sandwich cut into two and served with a bowl of the Zesty Tomato Soup. But I like to serve these sliced into long thin sticks (crusts on or off as you like) and with a nice shot glass of the Zesty Tomato Soup as a delicious appetizer.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Nicoise with a Twist

 Here's my recipe for Nicoise Salad, which I demonstrated on Episode 4 of Foodgasm.

Salad Nicoise
Serves 4

·  1/2 pound small red new potatoes, scrubbed and boiled in salt water, cooled
·  4 large eggs, hardboiled and sliced
·  1/4 pound haricots verts or French green beans, stems trimmed, shocked and blanched
·  1 pound fresh sushi-quality tuna
·  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
·  Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
·  ½ pint teardrop or cherry tomatoes,
•  ½ red onions thinly sliced half moons
·  ½ cup Nicoise olives (pitted)
• several leaves of romaine and red leaf lettuce
• 1 cup pesto (recipe below)
• ¾ cup balsalmic vinagrette (recipe below)

Make the pesto (see below)  and toss the pesto with the red potatoes and green beans and set aside. 

Pat dry the tuna. Lightly coat the tuna with olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Grill tuna for good sear marks on a very hot grill pan or grill, about 2-3 minutes each side (this can be done in a sauté pan if no grill pan or grill is available). 

Make the balsamic vinaigrette and set aside. 

Slice the tuna into thick long strips. Arrange lettuce leaves on the plates and place on top the pesto potatoes, pesto green beans, sliced eggs, tomatoes, sliced red onions, olives and sliced seared tuna. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve.

• 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
• 1/4cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts
• 1 -2 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Lightly toast in a dry sauté pan the pine nuts tills they are golden brown. Then put all of the ingredients into a food processor or blender. Blend till smooth.

Balsamic vinaigrette

•  ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
• ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
• 1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots
• dash honey
• salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Whisk all the ingredients together till it’s well blended.

And now all that is needed is some good French bread, and a glass of wine.

Ashley Goes a Little French

I love a dinner salad. And one of my all-time favorites is that classic French salad, Nicoise Salad.

Now, I've had my share of really mediocre ones. So I wanted to make mine version of this really stand out. And here's what I came up with.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the fine crew that made this episode possible. And I want to thank our sponsor for this episode, The Windy City Media Group.

In my next post, I'll share the recipe for this salad.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

National Restaurant Association Show Day 3

I made it through another day!  My feet are tired and so am I. Here are my reflections on the show.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

National Restaurant Association Show Day 1

I spent the day at the NRA in Chicago.  And here's a summary of what it was like.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Drink for the End of Time

Surely we need something for this momentous occasion. I’m referring of course to the prediction by Harold Camping that the world will end on Saturday, May 21, 2011. Well, not the world ending exactly, but the Rapture to occur, when all the faithful are taken up to heaven, and the rest of everyone left on earth, which goes quickly to hell on a handbasket.
There are other ideas on the end of time. Maybe the world will end in some quieter fashion, such as T. S. Eliot suggested in the poem “The Hollow Men.”
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
No whimpering tonight, however, on the eve of the end of the world.
Charles Baudelaire, the French poet, posited a different plan for dealing with the fast passing of time.
Be drunken, always. That is the point: nothing else matters. If you would not feel the horrible burden of Time weigh you down and crush you to the earth, be drunken continually.
Drunken with what? With wine, with poetry or with virtue, as you please. But be drunken.
So, it’s the last night till the rapture and I feel like a great cocktail is in order. This drink incorporates many of my favorite things such as flowers, rosemary and fruit. It’s sophisticated yet fun. So I raise my glass to you and say, “Cheers, it’s been a great life.” Time for.........The Last Drink

The Last Drink
1 ½ oz. gin
1 oz. St. Germain (Elderflower Liquor)
½ oz. dry vermouth
1 oz. mango nectar
1 ½ oz. soda water
½ oz. rosemary simple syrup
dash fresh lemon juice
Garnish (optional)
Lemon slice
Rosemary sprig
Partly fill a rocks glass with ice. Pour in the gin, St. Germaine, dry vermouth, mango nectar, soda water, rosemary simple syrup, dash lemon juice and stir.  Serve with a lemon slice and sprig of rosemary (optional).
Rosemary simple syrup.
½ cup water
¾ cup sugar or honey
1 sprig of rosemary
Bring water in pot to boil and add in the rosemary sprig. Turn off heat and let sit for five minutes. Remove sprig and stir in sugar or honey till fully incorporated. Let cool. There will be extra for more drinks : )  So, enjoy your Last Drink!!!!