Thursday, June 25, 2009


You may notice that Amuse Bouche got a little makeover. My fabulously talented husband Jason (whose portfolio will soon be found here) is helping me with a major facelift of the blog.

He started by surprising me with an all-new header. Isn't it fab?

Lentil Love

I don't have a recipe to share, just some ideas on making a simple, yummy dinner.

Cooked inky-black beluga lentils, sliced and cooked spicy Italian turkey sausage, and fresh spinach...sauteed together in a healthy splash of olive oil, and enlivened by 1 grated clove of garlic, red-wine vinegar, and a dollop of Dijon mustard. Serve with extra mustard on the side.

Easy, quick, healthy...what's not to love?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Roll Out

Last week when I was cooking from my freezer, I found the other half of this great whole-wheat pizza dough I made some time before the wedding. I never got around to blogging about it the first time around, but it's definitely worth telling you about. The whole-wheat flour adds a wonderful chewiness and nuttiness that you don't get with regular white pizza dough. It's definitely not traditional Italian-style crust, but we loved it.

I made a quick fresh tomato sauce by halving and seeding, then roughly chopping 4 fresh tomatoes. I simmered them in a glug of olive oil with 1 grated clove of garlic. Instead of salt, I added about 2 teaspoons of anchovy paste. The one I have has butter in it (or some such thing) which added a lovely creaminess—but just a touch. Off the heat, I stirred in a few big pinches of fresh basil chiffonade.

Plain and simple mozzarella was sprinkled on top, and the whole pie was baked at 400
° until the cheese was bubbly. Belissima!

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

{From Cooking Light magazine}

Especially since it's been so hot out, our air-conditioned kitchen isn't exactly warm and free from drafts. So what I like to do it fill a pan or bowl with superhot tap water, and put the dough and the water-filled bowl in the oven (but don't turn the oven on!). It creates a nice warm spot for the dough to rise.

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (100° to 110°)
2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Cooking spray

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, oil, and salt to yeast mixture, stirring until well-blended. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough in half; roll each half into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface.

{katie note} We always par-bake the crust because we like our pizza extra crisp. If you do, too, place the un-topped dough on a preheated pizza stone or a baking sheet on which you've sprinkled a bit of cornmeal. Lightly prick the dough with a fork, and bake at 400° until it's lightly crispy. Top, then bake again until crust is brown and toppings are hot and bubbly.

Also, as I mentioned, the dough freezes quite well. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and then in foil. Then place the dough in a freezer bag, mark it with the date (and with what it is), and freeze for up to 3 months.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Like a Schoolgirl

{photograph from}

As you might remember, I have a major food crush on the California-based sister restaurants Zazu and Bovolo. Today as I was drooling over my monthly Bovolo email, at the very bottom in teensy tiny font, like oh by the way, it's not big deal, but... it said "Out and About: DISNEY WORLD's PARTY for the senses at Epcot, Florida on Saturday, November 7. come with us!"

Yes, hello— Party for the Senses is only the coolest, most swoon-worthy of food parties out there. It's a gathering of some of the most incredible restaurants around the country, all offering bite-size tastes of their cuisine. It's a pleasure I've been fortunate to indulge in only once. And now, knowing that Zazu and Bovolo will be there...well, let's just say Southwest just booked two more passengers on its Nov. 6 flight from Birmingham to Orlando.

I'll hopefully get to meet the's hoping I'm not too geeked out to make intelligent conversation. I'm that excited. It's like a first date with a really dreamy boy, only this boy tastes like bacon.

{aside to Jon and Jason: haha, the e-mail from Bovolo says Epcot, Florida.}

edited to add: I just realized that my first post on these gems was almost exactly one year ago. Fate.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chez Nous

Our French bistro-inspired dinner was magnifique. The sauce tasted pretty close to the ones we had in Paris, the filets were tender and delicious—I didn't get the skillet hot enough to get a nice, crusty sear on the steaks, but I think that was the only hiccup in an otherwise delicious meal.

I'll just link to the recipes I used...I followed everything to the letter for the green peppercorn steak sauce and the clafoutis. For the individual potato gratins, I just sliced Yukon golds thinly with the mandolin, layered them in the buttered dishes, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and then poured a mixture of heavy cream and whole milk over them. Topped with a bit of Gruyere, and baked for 45 minutes. Voila.

Here's a glimpse of our lovely evening...

{our delicious red}

{salade vert with classic vinaigrette}

{nice and rare}

{the guys}

{plum clafoutis}

What a Guy

So the other weekend, as I was busy making homemade hash browns in my new cast iron skillet, Jason was busy with a project all his own.

I turned around just in time to see him putting the finishing touch—a fresh, plump strawberry—on some bright, bubbly mimosas.

What a dreamboat.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Our Eats for the Week

Last week, I tried really hard to eat out of our pantry and freezer, and as a result, I saved quite a bit on our grocery bill—I only spent $50 total for the whole week! I'm going to do my best to do it again this week...especially since my good friend Joanna gifted me with 2 grocery bags FULL of pantry staples. (She and her husband, Jason, are moving away from Birmingham :( and she didn't want to move any of the food in her kitchen.) She has great taste, and a lot of her gifts to me were wonderful things like quick-cooking barley, roasted jalapenos, roasted red peppers, cans of beans and tomatoes, couscous, arborio rice...etc. So the menu this week will be based on some of the things in there.

Tonight, though, we're having Joanna and Jason over for a last dinner together at our house. To share from of our Parisian honeymoon, I'm making a traditional (or, as traditional as possible) French bistro meal.

Le Menu
Champagne, olives, baguette
Plat du Jour
Filet de Boeuf avec Sauce au Poivre Vert {steaks with green peppercorn sauce}
Gratins Dauphinois {individual potato gratins}
Salade Vert {green salad}
Le Dessert
Clafoutis aux Prunes {plum clafoutis}

The rest of the week...
Monday- Chicken, veggie & udon-noodle bowls
Tuesday- Black-bean soup, spinach salad
Wednesday- Lemon-harissa chicken, couscous
Thursday- Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez's Chana Punjabi (via The Wednesday Chef)

Friday, we're off to Danville, Kentucky for the Brandon Family Reunion 2009! We're sure to enjoy some great Southern cookin'.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Food, Inc.

This film stokes the small flame that burns in me...
and I have a feeling that after I see it, it will become a giant wildfire.

p.s. Sign this petition

Sunday, June 7, 2009

This Week's Menu

Sunday - Tilapia, millet-veggie salad with tomato vinaigrette
Monday - Spinach-cauliflower tart, green salad
Tuesday - Chicken paillards with lemon pan sauce, brown rice, green beans
Wednesday - Pasta with roasted veggies
Thursday - Turkey burgers, salad, homemade potato chips

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mr. Bean

If you are like me, regularly drooling over fabulous foodie blogs like, chocolate and zucchini, and Last Night's Dinner, you've hopefully heard about Rancho Gordo beans. But if you haven't, consider this my hearty endorsement.

I must admit, I'm not tough to please in this department. I love beans. Refried beans, lima bean soup, black beans and rice, white bean dip, three-bean salad...I love 'em all. But aside from once making the aforementioned lima bean soup with a ham hock and Publix brand dried limas, I'd never cooked beans from scratch. Why take all that time when canned beans are so easy?

...Because they taste so much better, that's why. Truly. And Rancho Gordo heirloom beans...well, they're in a class all their own. I'll let their Web site explain more. I got my dad a few varieties for Christmas, and he loved them, so I'd been meaning to order some myself. I finally got some, but then it took me a month and a half to get around to cooking them. But, the day finally came, and I am here to report that They. Were. Awesome.

I ordered black beans, craberry beans, and Christmas Limas. I decided to try the Christmas Limas first. I soaked them for 5 hours, then cooked them for another 3 1/2 hours. With nothing but water and a dash of salt in the last 30 minutes of cooking, the beans cooked beautifully and created a mohogany-colored pot liquor. The beans themselves were nutty, tender, and creamy. Fabulous.

I ate a bowl—plain, save for some Louisiana hot sauce—for lunch one day, but I wanted to try a little something more...exciting, so I built a vegetarian salad using the beans, some veggies, a zesty lime dressing, and a few handfuls of cooked whole-wheat couscous. It ended up being a light, filling, healthy one-bowl meal.

Veggie-Couscous Bowls
serves 4 as a side, or 2 for dinner with leftovers
Of course I now must recommend dried heirloom beans for this salad, but if you must, canned beans will work in a pinch. One 14.5-ounce can of drained, rinsed black beans or butter beans would work well here.

1 small lime, zested and juiced
Extra-virgin olive oil (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ripe avocado
3/4 cup vegetable broth
2/3 cup whole-wheat couscous
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 pound dried Christmas Lima beans, cooked and drained

In a medium bowl, combine the lime zest and juice. Whisk in olive oil, tasting as you go, until you get a dressing that you like. (We like ours on the very tangy side, but just keep tasting as you drizzle.) Add salt and a few grinds of pepper. Dice the avocado, and put it directly into the dressing. Set aside.

Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan over high heat, and then stir in the couscous. Remove from heat, cover, and let steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

In a large bowl, combine the avocado and dressing, cucumber, red pepper, and beans. Toss gently to combine. Add the couscous, and toss to evenly coat everything with the dressing. Serve.

A Simple Snack

One of the coolest parts {for me, at least} about marrying a man with a Palestinian family is his mom's cooking. She makes a lot of really delicious Arabic dishes—hashweh, mjaddarah, mashi, kibbeh—that I absolutely love, but I don't know how to make almost any of them. There are recipes, of course, but the thing about these dishes—and it's what makes them really special—is that the food is made by women who "measure" by memory, sight, and taste, not with recipes. So to learn how to make these recipes the right way, I'll be spending some long afternoons in the kitchen with Jason's mom and grandma. And I can't wait.

In the meantime, when an Arabic "recipe" involves just one ingredient, I know I can handle it. Lebneh is thickened yogurt, and it's a breakfast staple. Jason's mom lightly salts hers, so I do, too. I absolutely adore lebneh, and lately I've been spreading it on my toast in the mornings. It's traditionally served more as a dip, but I find it's a perfect partner for whole-wheat bread. With a drizzle of olive oil, it's deeeelish.

Oh, and—if you like Greek yogurt, this is essentially the same thing, only when you make it yourself, it's about 1/3 the price. At my Publix, a big tub of plain yogurt costs almost the same as a single serving of Fage Greek yogurt. Sheesh.

Here's what you need

A smallish collander (I use a silicone strainer with a handle, not a stand-alone colander)
A bowl that the strainer can rest on without it touching the bottom
Paper towels
1 pint plain yogurt (I use low-fat, but the full-fat kind gives a slightly thicker end result)
Plastic wrap

Here's what you do

Place the strainer over the bowl, and line it with one layer of paper towel, covering the strainer's entire surface. Scoop out the yogurt into the paper-towel-lined strainer (wash, dry, and save the container). Smooth it out so it's even and flat on the top. Wrap with a layer or two of plastic wrap, and place in the fridge. Leave it alone for at least 8 hours, but 10 to 12 is even better.

Scoop the lebneh back into the cleaned yogurt container (or into a tupperware). When ready to serve, spoon into a serving bowl and drizzle over a healthy amount of extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt...or drizzle with honey and serve with berries...or use on tacos or baked potatoes instead of sour cream...or...

It's that good. :)