Sunday, January 3, 2016

Emilee's Southern Biscuits

Happy 2016, Y'all!  To celebrate this new year, I wanted to share with you a tried and true recipe that I have been perfecting over the past few years.  If there is one thing I know, it is that every culture has a few unique foods that is strictly theirs.  The Northeast have their clam chowder.  The Midwest have their meat and potatoes.  The West Coast have their fish tacos.  And we, in the Deep South, have our fried chicken, collard greens, grits, and biscuits.  Even though we may have different backgrounds, we all know that food is best when served with people that we love.

This Christmas season, Matt and I were not able to go to Mississippi, but thankfully, our dear families decided to come to us.  We had the pleasure of having Matt's mom and sister come before Christmas, and my parents visited after Christmas.  While each family was here, I made two recipes twice for them to try.  First, I made the Spaghetti ai di Mare from my previous blog post, and second, I made these Southern Biscuits.  They are always a hit with my sweet Naples family, as well.  I made them as a little Christmas happy before we all traveled for the holidays.  No matter what occasion it is, they are welcome addition to any meal.

Emilee's Southern Biscuits

Yes, that's right.  I put my mom to work when she came.  Have you ever tried bossing your mom around in the kitchen?  Yea, that's not a good idea unless you want to hear, "Girl, you're not too big for me to turn you over my knee."

Take 2 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour, 3/4 teaspoons of salt, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and sift into a large bowl.

If you do not have a sifter, whisk the flour until it is fluffy and everything is combined

Now, you can't make biscuits without butter, but this is a lot of butter.  I was making two batches of biscuits so I could freeze one batch.  For one batch of biscuits you need 4 TBSP of butter.  I like to cut them into small pieces before adding them to the flour.  It makes it easier to combine.

The butter needs to be cold for this recipe; not straight from the freezer, but definitely not softened.  Right out of the fridge is the best.  It makes the biscuits more flaky, which is bad in a friendship but so good in a biscuit. 

Work the butter into the flour until it is a crumbly mixture with flecks of butter throughout.  If you have a pastry cutter then this is the time to use it.  I haven't acquired one yet, but it is on my list of kitchen utensils to get.

Add 1/2 cup of milk

then add 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream

Stir everything together until just combined.  Please, please do not over mix the dough.  The more you mix the flour and the milk, the more the gluten tightens up creating a firm biscuit.  Although this can be the goal in making pizza dough, this is not the goal when making biscuits.  You want the biscuits to be soft and airy, not tough and chewy.

Take a cutting board and lightly flour it.  Dump the dough onto the cutting board and flatten it with your hands until the dough is uniformly 1 1/2 inches thick.  Take a biscuit cutter or cookie cutter to create a biscuit shape.  If you do not have either of this, just use your knife and cut the dough into squares.  There is no rule against that!

Place each of the biscuits on a baking sheet.  I like my biscuits to have an edge in case I want to make a breakfast sandwich out of it.  But if you want the biscuits to be super soft, place the biscuits right next to each other with no space in between so all of the sides stay soft.

By this point, mom and I had switched places and she insisted on taking a picture of me cutting out the biscuits.  Thanks, mom...

The other half of the biscuit dough, I cut into circles and place in freezer bags.  When you are ready to bake them, just pop out however many you need and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Be still my heart!  I love these two more than I can say.  They were playing in the kitchen, anticipating some biscuits straight from of the oven.

Ooooooooooo.   Ahhhhhhhh.  Don't these lil guys look delicious?!?  They go great with honey, sausage gravy, or just plain!  I wanted to get a picture of us dressing up the biscuits the way we like them, but they were gone before I had the chance!  I guess it's a good problem to have.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

2 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour (I use Sir Arthur)
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
4 TBSP unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  In a large bowl, sift or whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined.

Cut butter into small cubes and use your fingers to work the flour and butter together until it looks crumbly.  Add the milk and heavy cream.  Stir until the dough just comes together.  Do not over mix!

Lightly flour a large cutting board.  Dump dough onto the cutting board and use your hands to flatten the dough until it is about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Use a biscuit or round cookie cutter to cut out biscuit shapes.  Continue until all of the dough has been used.  This recipe usually makes about 8-10 biscuits depending on the size of your cutter.

Place the biscuits in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 12-15 minutes until the tops have lightly browned.  If the biscuits are coming straight out of the freezer, it may take a few more minutes to bake.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Spaghetti ai di Mare

A few weeks ago, I posted a picture on Facebook of one of Matt's and my date nights in where I made a seafood pasta.  I got so many requests for the recipe, I decided it was time for another blog post.  Don't be afraid of the name!  I know it sounds intense, but I promise it is not a difficult dish.  You got this!!

Spaghetti ai di Mare

If this picture doesn't make you want to kiss someone, then I don't know what does!  One of the first people that contacted me after I posted the picture on Facebook was our dear friend, Susan.  Susan is in Matt's class, and we kinda adopted her once we moved to Naples.  She helped me create this beautiful meal for our husbands.  It really is a stunner for entertaining.  The dish serves 4 easily!

Before I show you how to make the seafood sauce, I made some garlic toast and spaghetti to be waiting in the wings until the sauce is finished.  You want all of your focus to be on the sauce so the seafood does not get overcooked.

Take 1-2 baguettes and slice it at an angle into 1/2 inch pieces.  

Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil (about 3 TBSP), layer the toasts with the cut side down to allow the oil to sink in slightly, then flip the toasts to coat the other side.  You can also use a brush to apply the olive oil to both sides of the toast, but I found this method to be a little faster.

Once the first side is toasted, flip the bread to get the other side nice and toasty.  Remove the bread from the skillet and start a second batch until the toasts are done.

While the bread is still warm, cut a garlic clove in half and rub both sides with the garlic juices.  This makes the bread have a garlicky taste that is not overwhelming, but just right!  Look at Susan go!  Go Susan! Go!

Cook some spaghetti according to the package recommendations.  I thought this was how much we needed for 4 people.  I was wrong.  This was enough for 8... maybe one day I will learn.  Once the spaghetti is cooked, strain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  The sauce will heat it up when you are ready.

Reserve 1 cup of pasta water in case the sauce is too thick.

It's time to prep your seafood.  When I first started cooking, seafood really intimidated me, so it is understandable to feel apprehensive.  That is what I am here for!  Let me share a few pearls of seafood wisdom I have found out over the years.

Take 1/4 lb of scallops.  Bay scallops would be great in this recipe because they are small, but I had some regular sized scallops on hand so I used those instead.  Scallops have this tough, muscley portion that comes off easily.  Trust me, you don't want to eat it.  It is rubbery and not soft like a scallop should be.

Cut each scallop into quarters

Woah...what is that!?!  This is squid.  You make think, "Ew, squid," but don't think of it as squid.  It sounds much more appetizing as calamari.  I just tell you this because if you go to your fish market and you ask for calamari, they will direct you to the frozen, pre-breaded stuff.  What you need are squid tubes.  

I used 1/2 lbs of squid tubes which I cut into 1/2 inch rings.  Lay the squid on your cutting board, as shown, and cut a vertical line down the length of the tube.

These are mussels.  They look similar to clams, but are longer, skinnier, and have a black shell.  These will come alive...yes...alive.  And you should not get them if they are not alive.  They won't look alive, cause they don't do much.  The ways you can tell if they are alive is that once you cook them they open.  If they do not open, throw them away.  

The only thing you need to keep in mind with mussels, besides the alive thing, is they have beards.  Yes, beards.  Pretty cool, huh?  Yes cool on a mussel; no, not cool in your mouth.  The beards should be removed before you cook the mussels.  I usually get Matt to do it, because my fingers are not always strong enough.  If you do not have a handy Matt, then place the beard between your thumb and the flat surface of a kitchen knife (the not sharp part) as close to the mussel as you can get, and turn the kitchen knife at a 90 degree angle to help leverage the beard out.

Susan asked the very good question of, "What if you eat a beard?"  I told her that nothing would happen, but it would be like eating a feather off of a chicken wing.  It won't hurt you, but may not be very pleasant.  Keep in mind that not all of the mussels will have a beard, but just be on the look out for them.

All of your seafood is prepped!  I also grabbed 1/2 lb of large shrimp.  Now for the easy part!  The sauce!

List of ingredients: 1/2 bottle of 750ml white wine, 4 oz of tomato paste, 2-3 garlic cloves, 3 TBSP of butter and olive oil, 1/4 cup of chopped Italian parsley, salt, and red pepper flakes

Finely dice your garlic cloves.  I know, I know!  Garlic for date night!  But when you are both having it, the garlic cancels itself out, right?

In a large skillet, melt 3 TBSP of butter with 3 TBSP of olive oil

Add your garlic and saute at medium high heat for 1 minute until it becomes fragrant

Add the 4 oz of tomato paste.  The can I had was 6 oz so I used about 2/3.

Heat the paste until it begins to loosen, about a minute or so

Add 1/2 of the bottle of white wine, and bring the mixture to a boil to allow for the alcohol to cook off.  This takes about 3-4 minutes.

Add the mussels.  The mussels take the longest to cook, so they go in first by themselves.  Turn down the heat to medium.

Cover the mussels and allow them to cook for 2 minutes

Add the shrimp and stir in the sauce.  Allow both to cook for another minute.

Add the calamari and scallops.  

It is time to season the sauce.  Add a pinch of salt and crushed red pepper flakes to your liking.

Stir the seafood in to coat in sauce.  Cook everything for 2-3 minutes.  If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of reserved pasta water until it becomes like a soup consistency.  Wow!  So you saw how fast the sauce cooks.  This is why everything needs to be prepped prior.  You also do not want this sitting on the stove for long or all of the seafood gets over cooked.

Add 1/2 of the chopped parsley.  Isn't that just one of the most beautiful things you have ever seen?  Susan is a genius with the parsley.

Dish it up!  I placed a bed of spaghetti, heaping spoonfuls of seafood and sauce, then garnished with the garlic toasts and the remainder of chopped parsley.

I have to give a shout out to my fur baby, Leyla.  Thanks for always keeping me company in the kitchen!  Don't even try to tell me that dog is not smiling.  

Since the weather is practically perfect right now in Naples, we had an al fresco dinner.  Cheers to good friends, good food, and a great time!


Garlic Toasts:
1 medium or 2 small baguettes
Olive oil
1 clove of garlic, cut in half horizontally

Spaghetti ai di Mare:
1/2 lb spaghetti, 1 cup of cooking liquid reserved
1/2 lb large shrimp, deveined and shells removed
1/2 lb mussels, de-bearded
1/2 lb squid tubes cut into rings
1/4 lb of bay scallops or regular scallops cut into quarters
2-3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/2 750ml bottle of white wine
4 oz of tomato paste
Pinch of salt
Red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup of chopped Italian parsley


Cut the baguette into 1/2 inch thick pieces.  Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil (about 3 TBSP), layer the toasts with the cut side down to allow the oil to sink in slightly, then before they toast, flip the toasts to coat the other side.  Allow the bread to toast, flip them again to allow the other side to toast.  Remove from the pan and rub the cut side of the garlic clove on both sides of the toast.  Repeat the process as necessary.  Set the toasts aside until ready to serve.

Cook 1/2 lb of spaghetti according to the package's directions.  Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.  

Prep seafood.  In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 3 TBSP of butter with 3 TBSP of olive oil.  Add the garlic.  Saute for 1 minute until fragrant.  Add the tomato paste and heat to allow oil to combine and loosen the paste.  Add the wine and bring to a boil.  Allow the alcohol to boil off by cooking sauce for 2-3 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium.  Add the mussels and cover for 2 minutes.  Add the shrimp and stir to cover shrimp with sauce.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add the scallops, squid, salt, and pepper.  Stir to cover the seafood with sauce and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.  If the sauce is too thick, add some reserved pasta water to make it a soup-like consistency.  Add 1/2 of the chopped parsley.  Stir to combine. 

To serve, place a nest of spaghetti in the bottom of an individual serving bowl.  Ladle seafood and sauce over the spaghetti.  Garnish the dish with parsley and garlic toasts.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

I am so excited to share this blog post with you!  I am typically excited about any blog post, but especially this one.  The recipe I am sharing today is one that I received from my dear co-resident, Sara.  Since having moved to Naples, I have been exposed to so many new people with different backgrounds than myself.  Thankfully, we all share the love of good food, so I have been collecting recipes along the way that I am adding to my Naples cookbook.  That's right!  I am compiling recipes that I receive from the amazing people I have met here, so anytime I make the recipe, I am reminded of them.  So sweet, right?  And, of course, I will be sharing the book with these lovely ladies you see in the picture below (plus Lory who is behind the camera).

When we first started residency in Naples, we decided to have a weekly girls night.  With all of us moving from various parts of the country, we knew next to no one here.  We quickly established what we call "Our Naples Family."  I feel blessed beyond measure to have such sweet, smart and beautiful girlfriends to spend these two years with.  

Like I said, we have a weekly girls night that started as The Bachelor Night, but has now progressed to themes such as, but not limited to: breakfast for dinner, movie nights, and recipe sharing.  Tonight's girls night was learning how to make Summer Rolls.  The recipe makes quite a few rolls, so bring a crowd.  Besides, eating is always more fun when you are sharing it with a group!

Vietnamese Summer Rolls 

We had quite a spread!  In addition to the summer rolls, we also made Mandu (Korean pot sticker) which were to die for.  I can't take credit for that recipe, but I would highly recommend making them.  They were some of the best dumplings I have ever had!  Click here to find the link to the blog we got the Mandu recipe from.

Back to the summer rolls!  These guys are super easy to make.  We used rice paper wrappers, vermicelli rice noodles, shredded carrots, shredded cucumber, bean sprouts, lettuce, shrimp, cilantro, mint, and basil.
The rice paper comes in thin disks at your local Asian market, but everything else can be found in most standard grocery stores.

We started by heating water in a kettle until it is warm.  We used a shallow plate to hold the warm water so we could dampen the rice paper disk to make it more flexible.  The first few times I tried to make my roll, I made the mistake of getting the rice paper too wet, and it became sticky and difficult to handle.  I placed the disk in the water for 2 seconds, flipped it for 2 more seconds, and took it out of  the water.  The disk will become more flexible as you go.

Take your rice paper out of the water and place it on your work station such as a plate or cutting board.  I start with laying a few leaves of cilantro in a line. 

Next for the shrimp!  What we did was boil the shrimp in water until they a fully cooked (about 4 minutes) and blanch (dunk) them in cold water to keep them from over-cooking.  After the shrimp have cooled, cut the shrimp in half length-wise.  This step was completed during our prep time, so now we can assemble everything.  Oh! I almost forgot!  I like putting the pink side of the shrimp towards the rice paper.  Once it is rolled, you can see the shrimp from the outside so everybody knows it is a shrimp summer roll.

Following the shrimp, I added a leaf of romaine lettuce, shredded carrots, thinly sliced cucumber, and fresh bean sprouts.  One thing I had a problem with in the past is over-filling the roll.  I had to keep reminding myself that I was not making a burrito.  You just need a little bit of each ingredient!

On top of my veggies, I arranged some fresh basil and mint leaves.  In the past when I have made summer rolls, the thought never occurred to me to add mint and basil.  Let me tell you, I will never not add them from here on out!  They add a fresh, aromatic flavor that is unmistakable in these rolls. 

And lastly, I grab a small handful of rice noodles.  The rice noodles give the rolls some substance to them, cause Hello, we can't just eat vegetables and two shrimp!  At least that's not how I roll...yea... pun intended.  I could not help myself.

Alright! so we have made it to the rolling part.  I fold the left and right side of the wrapper over so nothing falls out the ends.  Next, I grab the end farthest from me and bring it towards me, covering the filling.  Lastly, I roll everything towards me until the roll is sealed.

Eek!  That's all it takes!  Look how gorgeous the cilantro and the shrimp look.  There is no mistaking what is going on in that roll.  Even little Jaxie wants some!

Every summer roll needs a good dipping sauce, and this one could not be easier.  We used 2 parts Hoisin (Asian barbecue sauce found on the International aisle of your grocery store) and 1 part creamy peanut butter.  We, then, added a little warm water to thin the sauce.  Do so to your liking!

Dip and enjoy!!!

And, seriously, don't forget about the Mandu!  Look how amazing they turned out!  This was one of the best girls nights we have had.  It was like craft night, but you got to eat your craft afterwards.  Does it get any better than that??  Grab your best girls (or guys) and get to cookin'!


Summer Roll:
Rice paper disks
Large shrimp, cut in half longways
Romaine lettuce leaves with rib removed
Shredded carrots
Shredded cucumber (seeds removed)
Bean sprouts
Vermicelli rice noodles

Peanut dipping sauce:
1/2 cup of Hoisin sauce
1/4 cup of creamy peanut butter
1-2 TBSP of warm water


Warm some water and make the peanut dipping sauce by adding the Hoisin sauce and peanut butter to a small mixing bowl.  Add the warm water until it has reached the consistency you want and the mixture is thoroughly combined.

  Add warm water to a medium sized mixing bowl and place your Vermicelli noodles in the water.  Drain and remove the noodles to a plate once they have softened.  Arrange all of your vegetables, herbs, noodles, and shrimp assembly line style.  

Pour some of the warm water in a shallow, large diameter bowl or plate.  Dampen your rice paper wrapper on each side.  Place the wrapper on a work station (plate, cutting board, etc).  Lay a few leaves of cilantro in a horizontal line in the center of your wrapper.  Place the pink side of the shrimp over the cilantro leaves.  Put a leaf of Romaine lettuce over your shrimp and add the shredded carrots, cucumber and bean sprouts.  Lay a few leaves each of mint and basil over the veggies.  Top everything off with a small handful of Vermicelli noodles.  

Fold the right and left edges of your wrapper over the sides of the veggies.  Take the top edge and fold it over the veggies towards you.  Gradually roll the wrap towards you and allow the bottom edge of the wrapper to seal your summer roll.  Dip the summer roll in the peanut dipping sauce and eat to your heart's content!