Oven Roasted Tomatoes & A Sweet Adieu.

ovenroastedtomatoescover.1I woke up this morning in our recently purchased home and decided to stop making excuses as to why I’m too busy to sit down and blog–because truth be told, I’m not. Though I do feel overwhelmed at times and all I want to do once I arrive home from work is wander aimlessly in my boxer shorts, turn the A/C down to some unbearable icy temperature and watch Netflix, it doesn’t make for the most efficient use of my time, but it’s what often happens.

Time is a precious thing and to squander it on frivolous things often convicts this ol’ heart.  Not to mention, home-ownership requires more discipline than I ever thought I’d need to exhibit since being forced to stay in my seat during elementary arithmetic. I actually have to live with greater intent to accomplish tasks by specific times, times I didn’t have to allot for with apartment living. The summer has been good to us. We found our new home after a long and tedious search. I can’t tell you the number of times my wife didn’t even get out of the car upon arrival to some potential residence, quite comical. But many disputes over more land, less land, more kitchen, less dining room have led us to our new home and we are elated. It’s not quite photo-shoot ready but I’ll slip you a few shots of our sacred space in the near future.

I’m rather in love with the natural lighting in my kitchen and if the truth be told–my whole kitchen would be made of windows if I could have my. My cooking space has quadrupled from that of our apartment where the kitchen was an afterthought but the dining and living room conquered all. Any-who, we feel blessed and overwhelmed with gratitude for what we believe was a gift from God after months of searching and losing homes to higher bids and ridiculous inspections.oven roasted tomatoes.2

oven roasted tomatoes.3I love the summer time. I love the warm weather, seeing people riding their bikes, families spending time together in backyards, and the smell of smoky meat funneling through your window. It evokes the free-spirit in all of us and we’re off to the lake on the weekend, mini road-trips pursue and we’re tending to our gardens on the patio. Just about every Summer I’m left feeling convicted that I didn’t quite enjoy it enough. I didn’t eat enough tomatoes, there’s not enough squash in my freezer and I didn’t can anything. I’m still dealing with that aching feeling this year but trying not to let it ruin taking advantage of  Autumn’s produce, I do love some root vegetables, figs, apples, winter squash and greens.oven roasted tomatoes.1

This recipe for oven-rooasted tomatoes is as simple as it gets and there is still time for some of you to gather from the summer’s harvest to make these. And if not, the recipe works just as well with slightly out of season tomatoes from your local grocer. The roasting process helps to concentrate the sugar so that tomato-y flavor is amplified and leaves you with this sweet, chewy little piece of ‘summer candy’ you won’t regret making.oven roasted tomatoes.7oven roasted tomatoes.8

I’m simply going to walk you through this recipe because it is so simple that it hurts. First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees. I had two pints of grape tomatoes, Sungolds and heirloom Cherokee purples I got from the Franklin Farmer’s Market and some from Maxwell’s Produce on Nolensville Pike. I rinsed them off under cold water and patted them dry with a kitchen towel but paper towels will work just fine. Then, cut the larger ones in half and leave the smaller ones whole. I like the contrast of some juicy and some dryer. I generously coated them with about a quarter of a cup of evoo, two-teaspoons of kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Place the tomatoes on an ungreased sheet pan  and cook for three and a half hours or until the desired shriveled-ness is reached, you be the judge. Once tomatoes are done, allow them to cool and I stored them in my Weck Jars because I’m pretty much addicted to the aesthetic of their containers. This recipe also works fantastic with grapes and figs, though cooking times can be scaled back to about one hour and a half to two hours. And I want to hear how you used to tomatoes this Summer, so prey-tell?

What to do with them?

I’m guilty of eating a quarter of the tray once they came out of the oven. Some of the ones around the edge of the pan get really dry and crunchy and they have little bits of clumped pepper and salt. Those drive me crazy because their so good and barely make it into another recipe. But I have been using them in pastas which you will see if you follow on Instagram, as well as salads or just as a snack on bread and butter. I’m sure you’ll find your own creative use but I hope this helps! Bon Apetit!

Cornbread Panzanella Salad

Cornbread Panzanella Salad via The Local Palate Magazine

When we think of summer, we often equate it with being stress-free or being able to worry less. We’ve planned our family vacation to the lake house and the quiet Sunday picnic in the park. We enjoy a glass of wine on our patio and relish at the sight of our blossoming tomatoes. It’s the perfect time of year to brush up on those culinary skills with the local farmer’s markets overflowing with produce and there’s no shortage of recipes on the inter-webs. You might even try asking your local farmer’s what they enjoy making with their own produce. I’m sure you’ll encounter an endless sea of inspiration for your summer cooking.

Oh, yes! While we were in the midst of discussing all this summer goodness, I forgot to share with you. I was selected as The Local Palate Magazine’s favorite blogger of the month which is the best form of flattery. TLP is a southern-based magazine that celebrates the food culture of the south. I delight in knowing there are people out there who enjoy my passion for food and I’m elated to be working with them this month. You can check their blog tomorrow for my post on comfort food in Nashville. I’d love to hear your thoughts on places you find dishes that remind you of home or simply take you to that ‘happy place’.

In my spare time, I enjoy surfing through recipes to find inspiration and challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone when it comes to meal preparation. We don’t typically eat a lot of salad around Casa de Hunter, we enjoy cooked veggies and sometimes there’s even cheese sauce involved. But I saw this recipe for Cornbread Panzanella Salad on The Local Palate Magazine’s website and I couldn’t resist the temptation to try it out. If you’re a fan of southern cooking, you should definitely check out their recipe archives for some of the best recipes from southern chefs. I mean, if cornbread is involved, then enough said.Cornbread Panzanella Salad

Cornbread Panzanella Salad via The Local ForkfulI’m often looking for ways to bring some southern influence into other genres of cuisine and I love the addition of cornbread to this Tuscan salad as opposed to the typical rustic country miche of some sort. If there’s a food that can take me on a stroll down memory lane, cornbread is definitely at the top of that list. I can hear the butter sizzle around the edges of the cast-iron skillet and smell that rich nuttiness erupting through the corridors of my childhood. And what better way to use those beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh herbs than in such a simple salad with great layers of flavor.

The preparation doesn’t take too long and the best part is the ‘left-overs’ are even better, which is always a plus. As you make this recipe, remember that recipes are merely guidelines. You always have room to improve and with that being said, I added two tablespoons of red wine vinegar and about two teaspoons of kosher salt to this recipe and it was killer. It may even make a guest appearance at the Thanksgiving table wearing fall produce selections. It has such a clean flavor with those fresh vegetables and then a rich corny-nuttiness from the combination of the butter and toasted cornbread croutons. You’re family and friends are guaranteed to love it and if they don’t, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy.Cornbread Panzanella Salad on The Local Forkful Food Blog

I always recommend reading the recipe all the way through before tackling it. It ensures the least amount of mistakes made. No one likes to backtrack when hunger is involved.

Cornbread Panzanella SaladIngredients

1 pint teardrop tomatoes, cut in half
2 each cucumber – cut in half, seeded, cut into half moons 1/8-inch thick
2 each large red and golden beats roasted (*see below)
2 tablespoons chiffonade basil
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
2 cups toasted diced corn bread
1 tablespoon garlic
2 bunches frisée lettuce, rough cut
Salt & pepper to taste
½ cup grated fontina cheese

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For Dressing

¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup olive oil

Directions

For Dressing:

1. Whisk the lemon juice and the oil profusely with a wire whisk until you form a temporary emulsion.This means the two liquids will look as though they’ve combined, but its only temporary.

Side Note: This is where I included the ounce of red wine vinegar and two teaspoons of salt into the original dressing recipe. Once you’ve emulsified the mixture, I add the salt and whisked until barely any crystals of kosher salt were left.

1a. Mix all ingredients, except the grated fontina, together in a large bowl. Add a little dressing at a time to the salad until to your liking. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with cheese and serve.

Cornbread Panzanella Salad

For Cornbread

8 ounces butter, softened (plus 2 tablespoons for pan and cubes)
2 ounces sugar
2 ounces powdered sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cup milk

Sift together:

1 1/3 cups cornmeal
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10×14 inch square pan.

2. In large mixing bowl whip together the butter, sugar, and powdered sugar until in looks creamy. Add the eggs and continue mixing. While mixing add, a little at a time, the dry ingredients and then a little of the milk.

3. Continue by alternating both ingredients a little at a time until all ingredients are blended. Place in a buttered pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

4. Remove from oven and let cool. Cut into ¼ inch squares for salad. Toss together in a bowl with melted butter. Toast in oven on sheet tray until browned.

Roasting Beets:
*To roast beets, coat lightly in oil, place on a sheet tray, roast in oven at 375 degrees until fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Take a towel and remove the skin from beets. Cut into a medium dice. Set aside.Cornbread Panzanella Salad

Cornbread Panzanella Salad

 

 

 

 

Summer Chicken Salad & “My Writing Process Blog Tour”

Homemade Summer Chicken Salad & My Writing Process Blog TourSummer time is the perfect time to get back to kitchen basics. Those recipes that mom made which are still your favorite, with a short ingredient list and lots of love. Well, this homemade summer chicken salad recipe is just that but first, lets talk about the “My Writing Process Blog Tour”. It is an opportunity for bloggers to get to know each other better and for you to share some of your favorite bloggers that you might follow. The tour is also a great way to share what you are currently working on as well as what inspires you to blog.

I was asked to participate by Teresa Blackburn from foodonfifth.com. Teresa and I have become friends not only via blog but in person through our love for food, good writing and food photography. I’m always inspired after reading one of her posts and I absolutely love the ‘warm feeling’ captured in her food styling. So thanks Teresa for inviting me along on the “My Writing Process Blog Tour”.

1. What am I working on?

By day I work in a kitchen from 7-3 pm and on the weekend I’m a Sous Chef at Mangia Nashville on Friday and Saturday. I work six days a week and I’m currently working on my desire to be a personal chef. It has been a project in the works over the last year or so that’s beginning to gain more traction and I’m super excited about it. I enjoy being creative and the ability to discuss with clients their likes and dislikes and then create a menu, just makes my heart flutter. Its what I love to do and what I’m most passionate about. So if you know anyone looking for a personal chef or wanting to take cooking lessons, click the Cook@Home or Contact tab and lets talk.

2. how does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not sure where to begin. I’ll focus on when I’m working with clients for personal chef projects and blogging. I do my best to allow a little part of me to shine through in everything that I do. I recollect experiences from my past that are relevant to present day to tell stories of my love for food and cooking. I try to let my “love affair” with art, words and emotion all shine through in my food styling, blog posts and menu selections. I want people who admire my work to feel a sense of connection. The world is full of chefs and food bloggers alike but I want to leave an everlasting impression that isn’t like the rest.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. Its been one of my greatest outlets to release all of my creativity without having to stop and paint whenever I have something that needs to come out. Because I do love to paint, but I don’t get to do it very often.

I wouldn’t consider myself to be an expert at writing. You may have already come across many an error but it doesn’t deter me from doing so. I have journals dating back to my pre-adolescent years, laced with dis-conjugated verbs, fragment sentences and the rambles of a frustrated boy growing up in an estrogen-filled environment.

My affinity for all things culinary runs quite deep and blogging has been a vessel in which I can share the things I love about cooking. A source that I can come back to and find ways to improve upon what I once may have believed to be the “perfect” recipe. A letter to my offspring in which they can have a little piece of me for years to come. Something filed away in the rolodex of technology that I don’t have to worry about being lost in the little tin box of an estate sale or lost in a fire.

All in all, I write what I write because I’m inspired by life and the fact that I’m blessed to have the talents that I do. I enjoy sharing food, life and all things local with people who love to do the same.

4. How does your writing process work?

I’m not even sure if I have a writing process. I cook according to what’s in my refrigerator. Some meals are inspired by seasonal produce but that isn’t always the case. I may cook and photograph three recipes in an evening and they may be out of season before I even blog them. I’m not sure but sometimes I think I suffer from mild version of ADHD, if that is possible. My mind is always a little bit of everywhere. I find inspiration in so many things that reflect in the mood of my writing. Rainy days, grey skies and windy mornings are some of the best days to be inspired. I’m an observer. I watch the details of life that most may look over on a daily basis. Mothers interacting with their children, people crying on the phone and young men who open the door for the elderly all inspire me to write. Memories of my grandmother’s Saturday morning breakfast spreads, the fabricating of fish and deer on the sun porch. Her nightly bowl of wheat cornflakes, sliced bananas and %2 milk.

My mom used to make simple meals that didn’t take much time to prepare and I try to introduce that simplicity in some of my blog posts. All these things, food-related or not, all inspire my writing process. I don’t want to make a recipe several of times so I use my knowledge of food with the assistance of research tools and friends to tackle the best techniques in which to create new recipes. I’ve been known to spend up to two weeks working on a blog post that should be finished but it isn’t perfect and I’m waiting to figure out what the missing element is.

It is getting better over time as I receive offers to write for brands and do sample reviews of products that I enjoy. My lackadaisical nature is the only thing that keeps me from monetizing my site thus far. I have two jobs and I’m not quite sure three would do me any good, but one day.

…Who’s next in the blogging tour, and some bloggers whose sites I recommend you check out?…

Unfortunately, I don’t have three bloggers to tag. but you will enjoy Lindsey’s blog over at DIY Dietitian. Lindsey is a registered dietitian who’s passionate about helping you live a healthier lifestyle. I enjoy her simple recipes like the Baked Black Beans & Sweet Potato Flautas or her simple equation recipe for Basil, Goat Cheese and Tomato Bruschetta which is perfect for the summer time.

Also, check out Angela of Spinach Tiger, Matt of Real Food by Dad, and Jill of Jill Cooks Here for their blogging tour posts.

This recipe for chicken salad is so easy, you actually don’t need a recipe. Wait, scratch that, you do need a recipe or else I wouldn’t be posting this. Silly me, summer time is the best time for easy foods that are low-maintenance and reliable for quick go-to meals that can be eaten more than once. Anytime I make chicken salad, most of the time I opt to roast a whole bird. This way you can control just how much chicken salad it is you desire to make and use the remaining chicken for a different meal of some sort.

My wife and I enjoy the addition of grapes to our chicken salad for that sweet fruity burst of flavor that contrasts well with the richness of the mayonnaise and savory tang of the green onions.Homemade Chicken Salad

Homemade Summer Chicken Salad

2 pounds of pulled roasted chicken
3/4 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 halved seedless grapes
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Everyone makes chicken salad slightly different. So feel free to adjust the ingredients accordingly but I have a feeling you will enjoy this as much as we do.

 

Homemade Summer Chicken Salad You can find the recipe for how to roast chicken here.

 

Homemade Summer Chicken Salad & My Writing Process Blog Tour

Quick & Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

Quick & Easy Chicken Noodle Recipe by The Local Forkful Dear Journal:                                                                                                            1.23.2014

It seems that this schizophrenic weather has clearly taken its toll on my immune system. breaking down my defenses and leaving me vulnerable and in a state of mere confusion. You know that if there is one thing I detest, it is being sick and yet, here we are. Despite the many hand washes and habitual usage of hand sanitizer, I was unable to escape the little germs from doing their sugarplum dance. And now, here we are hacking and coughing, watery-eyed and chilled to the bone, buried beneath the blankets and drowning in the Vernors ginger soda which I stumbled upon at the local Kroger. Score!

I think I’ll swing by the store later and grab some items to make soup. Chicken noodle perhaps? No need to go changing tradition. I mean, it’s the default, go-to soup of illness. I remember my mom breaking out a can of Campbell’s chicken broth and heating it to a temperature somewhere around “scolding” and pleading with me to drink (le sigh). But if there’s one thing anyone would long for during times like this, it’s the affection of a loved one whether it be a parental unit or spouse. I’m glad that Jenna was able to spend the day with me because if there’s one thing that stinks about being sick is ‘being sick alone’.

Quick and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup by The Local Forkful

Chicken Noodle Soup is one of my favorite things to indulge in. It doesn’t have to be prepared when you’re feeling ‘under the weather’ but maybe when you need a little piece of home or comfort. Its one of the many foods that evokes childhood memories for me and every now and again, we all need those warm moments to come by and stay for a spell.

This recipe is really ‘off the cuff’, no Googling, searching cook books or inquiring of anything or anyone for their favorite version. Because I feel like chicken noodle soup should be in our mental rolodex and somewhat instinctive. Your version might have celery, potatoes or maybe even a little curry but you have a chicken noodle soup recipe that will warm ‘the cockles of your heart’. So tell me, what’s your favorite ‘feel better’ soup?

Quick and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup by The Local Forkful

Quick & Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

4 quarts of water
5 chicken bouillon cubes
1 medium yellow onion diced
1 lb peeled and sliced carrots
1 lb pulled chicken meat
8 ounces wide egg noodles
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Method

1. Fill your stock pot with the water, bouillon cubes, onions, white pepper, butter and cook over medium high heat. Allow contents to come to a rolling simmer, stirring occasionally and then reduce heat to medium. After about 10 minutes, add your carrots.

2. Cook your noodles according to the recipe on the back of the package until al dente and then let them cool down. I like to cook them separately because they hold better for a couple of days without breaking down in your soup. And it will leave with some broth instead of your noodles continuing to soak it all up.

3. Add your pulled chicken meat and noodles, then allow the meat to heat through. Your soup is done at this point and ready to be consumed. Grab some saltines, a warm blanket and call it a day.

Side Note: I already had some chicken leftover from a roasted bird. So feel free to buy a roaster from the store or cook your own. I always prefer cooking my own because I’m picky about the seasoning on it and I like to prepare more than one meal out of it.

quick and easy chicken noodle soup by The Local Forkful

Sage Roasted Chicken with Israeli Cous Cous & Cabernet Mushroom Reduction

Sage Roasted Chicken : Recipe by The Local ForkfulI enjoy trying a vast variety of foods, never limiting myself to one regional cuisine or the next. My roots will always be southern-based and you’ll typically find the traditional ingredients somehow incorporated. Last year, I taught a cooking class at Williams-Sonoma and one of the salads I prepared contained tri-color couscous. I am a lover of couscous and why no one is really clear as to where it originated, that doesn’t keep me from indulging whenever it’s in my presence.

The general public may often confuse it for rice but it is not, but closer to a pasta of sorts. The tiny granules are actually bits of durum wheat, which is also the grain ground into semolina flour, which is commonly used for making pasta. Voila!CousCous

I prefer the Israeli couscous, which is a larger granule with a fluffier texture. Today’s blog post was inspired by my desire for something hearty but not heavy and that was perfect for this ‘sweater weather’ we’ve been experiencing in Middle Tennessee. Brrr! So when scurrying through the isles of the supermarket I discovered sage for a dollar, carrots are always cheap-er, and some button mushrooms that were just screaming to be picked-up, so I obliged. I typically always go for shallots when a recipe calls for onion. I love their mild sweetness with just enough of that sharp onion tang,and they won’t leave you with offensive breath. Score!

This dish may look and feel slightly overwhelming but don’t allow it to be. Read it all the way through before tackling and ‘mis en place’. You’ll be thankful you did. It’s 2014 and you’re conquering your cooking fears. There’s a chef in all of us just screaming to get out. Open the door.

Sage Roasted Chicken, CousCous, & Cabernet Mushroom Reduction

1 lb skin-on chicken breast
1 T. Olive Oil + 1 tsp
2 T. unsalted butter
2 stems fresh sage leaves
kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

1.5 peeled carrot medallions
4 medium shallots peeled & quartered
2 T. Olive Oil
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

5 oz. tri-color Israeli CousCous
1 cup chicken stock
1 T. unsalted butter
smidgen of kosher salt

1 cup quartered button mushrooms
1/2 cup cabernet sauvignon wine (or a syrah/malbec)
3 T. cubed, chilled unsalted butter
smidgen of kosher salt to taste

Method:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400. Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside. In a medium saute pan on medium-high heat, heat olive oil until it begins to spread, about 20 seconds. Add butter, allow to completely melt while swishing pan lightly in a circular motion. Once butter is melted and you have a nice sizzle lay the chicken skin side down gently. Snuggle the sage stems around the chicken. Let the chicken brown on the skin side checking it occasionally, as we do not wish to eat burned chicken. Once Chicken is ‘golden brown delicious’ flip it over and allow it to finish in the oven. Use a thermometer to check temp. 165 degrees is safe but I prefer 155 or so and allow for ‘carry-over’ cooking.

2. Get your water for the couscous on the stove. Rinse, peel and cut your vegetables accordingly. On a sheet pan toss your carrots and shallots in the olive oil and season with salt in pepper. Roast for about 15-20 minutes on 400 until they are fork tender. Simply follow cooking directions on the back of the box for couscous and set aside once finished. taste for seasoning. Once veggies are finished, toss them into your fluffly couscous and combine. If you have it, a little chopped parsley, leftover sage would be nice thrown in to this mix.

3. Using your oven mitt remove your chicken and sage leaves from the pan, set aside. Return your pan to a medium heat, if you need a little more olive oil to sautee the mushrooms add a little now. Toss in the mushrooms and just cook until they get a little color on them, about 2 minutes. Add in red wine and allow to reduce by half. If splatter is occurring then slightly reduce heat. Once wine is reduced, remove your pan from the heat and add the butter. Using a wooden spatula vigorously stir butter into the sauce until completely melted. The wine should begin to thicken and coat your spoon. Timing is very crucuial as your sauce will break if butter is not combined quickly. You are relying on the fat content to emulsify the sauce.

4. Spoon your couscous mixture onto the center of your plate, piling in a mole hill fashion. Lie your chicken breast vertically along the side of the hill and ladle your mushroom cabernet reduction across the chicken. Grab a glass of that Cabernet and the rest is history. This dish would be perfect for a dinner-for-two. Also known as Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!