Monday, July 7, 2014

A Trip to the Farmer's Market

My July Chef Impersonator column in Fort Worth Texas Magazine is titled, A Trip to the Farmer's Market. All the ingredients used in this month's recipes were purchased at the Cowtown Farmer's Market in Fort Worth, Texas.

Supporting Farmers. Supporting Freshness. Buying Local. 

Let's all give that a try.

You can find my monthly cooking videos online here.

(Click on this link. The video icon below isn't active...yet)

 The final plate

The yellow squash and Red Candy Apple onions

The kale and spinach salad

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chef Impersonator Is Now in Print

This is the happiest blog post of my life. So far.

My dream of actually doing something with my passion for food and cooking has finally come true. In June of this year I became the new Food Columnist for Fort Worth Texas Magazine, the city's glossy monthly magazine. 

It's an absolute dream come true for me. And here's a bit about how it happened. I'm sharing this to encourage all of you to do what you love, and love what you do. And take steps every single day to move toward that dream. It works! Really~

If you're interested in the whole story, just scroll down to the bottom of this post. I hope it provides some inspiration to others who've been thinking and praying and dreaming of doing something special in the world of food.

Here's my very first food column - Mediterranean Flavors.

So here's the story:

I started Chef Impersonator way back in 2009 with the humble intention of trying something new. I loved to cook. I took photos of food everywhere I went (much to the dismay of my significant others). I wanted to share home recipes. So I started to blog. I posted pretty irregularly most of the time, but somehow I knew I wanted to try and do something with my deep and abiding love of food. 

Then back in 2012, together with my sister Sandy, I sent an entry to a Bobby Flay show about Home Cooks, and low and behold, I never heard a word. You can see my entry here in this old post - Dear Mr. Bobby Flay

Time passed and all the while I was posting food pics and recipes and restaurants and travel musings to Facebook and Twitter and my blog. In 2013, I decided to attend my first food blogger conference, BlogHerFood, in Austin, TX. I had a BLAST. And I found myself attending all the workshops on food photography and I thought - This Is It! I've found my passion. I'm going to become a great food photographer. I'd always loved to take photos, and I always had a pretty good eye. So I came home, bought a professional Nikon D5300 camera and a macro lens, took some classes and starting shooting food (all the while posting my pics and recipes and rants about food). 

Then in late 2013, I heard about a casting call being held for yet another Food Network home cook competition show. So I dropped everything and created my entry, Moroccan Lamb Tagine. My food was fabulous, but again, no call-back. 

And here's where the miracle occurred. 

A Facebook friend of mine who runs the local culinary school had posted a shot of a dish she made and I decided to call her to talk about taking some pictures for her. I told her all about my background and love of food, and she told me she was retiring as food columnist for the magazine and that they were filling the spot that week! So I dropped everything and called and emailed the editor and associate publisher, who I actually have known for some time. They scheduled me to come in and talk. I poured my soul into my preparation for that meeting, and guess what? I got it. 

So the moral of the story is GO FOR IT. Take steps, no matter how small, to move toward your dream every day. Shed all that FEAR that keeps us from trying new things, and just do it!.  Nancy

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fish Bisque

With a well-stocked freezer, you can have a fabulous fish bisque in no time at all. Bisque and lobster tails from Omaha Steaks

Fish Bisque
2 packages Lobster Bisque (pre-made from Omaha Steaks)
2 lobster tails, cooked (purchased from Omaha Steaks)
8 scallops (frozen, then defrosted
4 pieces Cod Fish, cut into 2" pieces (frozen, then defrosted)

Defrost soup and fish. Combine in a nonstick pot. Cook until fish is cooked, about 15 minutes. Spoon onto your prettiest bowls and serve. 

Can it be that easy? YES!!!'

Soft Shell Crab Benedict

It's hard to believe that we still have one fried soft shell crab left over and that nobody ate it yet....but we did. So for breakfast, I decided to make Soft Shell Crab Benedict, using the crab that had already been fried (from the prior post below), and bread that we had in the pantry. Didn't have any muffins, so I just improvised. In a pinch, I always use Knorr brand sauces in the packets. They're almost as good as homemade and oh so much simpler. This recipe was quick and easy, and serves 2 people.

Soft Shell Crab Benedict 
One fried soft shell crab (made from recipe in my prior post below), reheated
2 pieces of 45 calorie wheat bread, toasted (or an English muffin, halved)
4 poached eggs
1 packet Knorr Hollandaise sauce (made according to package directions)

Reheat the already-fried soft shell crab in a small skillet on low heat, turning until hot
Make Knorr Hollandaise according to package instructions.
4 poached eggs  How to poach an egg
Toast the bread in the toaster.

To make 2 plates: Place one slice of toast onto each plate. Cut the heated soft shell crab in half and place 1/2 onto each piece of toast. Place two poached eggs onto the crab and top with 2 tablespoons of Hollandaise.

And VOILA! Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Soft Shell Crab BLT's

Thanks to the Wall St. Journal for the inspiration to buy the soft shell crabs. And thanks to #GailMonaghan for providing the wonderful story in the weekend journal that inspired tonight's dinner. Read it here. 

I used the flour and cornmeal mixture from Gail's recipe in the Wall St. Journal to create my Soft Shell Crab BLT's.

6 soft shell crab
1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs 

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix eggs and buttermilk in separate bowl. Dredge crabs one at a time in flour then buttermilk, then flour again. Fry in 1 inch of canola oil for 3-4 minutes per side. 

Fried soft shell crab, mayo, applewood smoked bacon, butter lettuce and tomato. Yummy. 

Fry for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown. 

Sizzling deliciousness. 

The Soft Shell Crab BLT.

These guys sure liked it. A lot. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Homemade Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

I got this recipe from Pinterest, where I spend a good bit of time searching for great recipes. First off, anyone who knows me knows I'm not a baker. Something about all that precise measuring makes my baked goods less than perfect. But I decided to give it a try, and with the right equipment, the right ingredients and MUCH attention to detail, I did it!

The recipe says these rolls are just like the King's Hawaiian Rolls you buy at the grocery store. And guess what? They were right!

So this is my first foray into baking homemade rolls. I borrowed my BFF Angela's professional mixer and they turned out amazing.

I loved it so much that I asked my hubby for a mixer for my birthday, and his response was, "No way. I don't want you making great bread. That would be very bad for us." (not really a direct quote, but you get he idea. He doesn't want to eat all those carbs.)

The pineapple juice and yeast will bubble.

You'll know it's mixed when the dough removes itself from the sides of the bowl.

The dough rises twice. Once now in the bowl until it's doubled in size, and again after you form the rolls.

Rolls will smooth out in the oven.

I was so proud! My very first homemade rolls.

Then of course, I had to put them on a pretty plate and eat 2 or 10 of them with a half pound of butter. haha

Don't skimp on the butter. If you're gonna eat hot rolls, EAT HOT ROLLS.

Buttery, sweet deliciousness.

Here's the recipe!

Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
1 ½ c. pineapple juice
4 ½ tsp. active dry yeast
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. butter, at room temperature, plus extra for brushing rolls
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
5-6 c. bread flour
1 tsp. salt
  1. In a small saucepan, heat pineapple juice over medium-low temperature until juice reaches about 105 F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stir together yeast and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  3. Once the pineapple juice is at temperature, add to the bowl. Stir, and let the yeast mixture stand for 5-10 minutes, or until foamy.
  4. Once the yeast is foamy, add the remaining sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and eggs; stir to combine.
  5. Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook, and add 3 cups of flour and salt. Stir on low.
  6. Continue adding flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough clears the sides of the bowl. The dough will feel slightly sticky. It takes 5 1/2 cups of flour for my rolls.
  7. Once the dough comes together and clears the sides, continue to knead for about 1 minute.
  8. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and let it rise until dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  9. Shape dough into rolls. If you would like smaller, dinner-sized rolls, shape into 24 rolls. If you would like larger, bun-sized rolls, shape into 12-18 rolls depending on desired size.
  10. Cover rolls with plastic wrap, and let rolls rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
  11. Toward the end of the second rise, preheat oven to 350 F.
  12. Bake rolls for about 20 minutes (for dinner-sized rolls), or until rolls are golden brown.
  13. Immediately brush rolls with butter.
  14. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shrimp Diablo Enchiladas.

Photo shoot today at Los Vaqueros Stockyards.

My Food Photography

I've finally found my one true love. Food Photography. Take a look. I'm just getting started, but I really do love it. Shooting with my Nikon D5300 with a Tamron 90 mm. marcro lens.

Ingredients for my Meyer Lemon Soufle:
Sugar, lemon juice, egg yolks, lemon zest, and of course, the lovely Meyer lemons.

Meyer Lemon: A cross between a lemon and a tangerine.

I have the most beautiful light coming in through my kitchen windows. Almonds and dried cranberries.

Fig jam, apple and walnut flat bread. This was left over from dinner at Kona Grill in Fort Worth. Shot in my kitchen inside the black Styrofoam take-home box.

I got this lovely bowl at the BlogHer Food Conference in 2013.

This is a spice rack located inside a specialty grocery store in New Orleans.

The Pescado Vera Cruz at Los Vaqueros in the Fort Worth Stockyards. The fish was covered with onion and avocado so you can't really see it here. But I love the light and the depth here.

Shrimp Diable Enchilladas, also at Los Vaqueros in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Tangy red sauce with tender, delicious little shrimp inside.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

We traveled from Spain to Morocco a couple of years ago and I fell in love with the rich flavors and exotic spices used in cooking traditional Moroccan food. I've tried a few different recipes and even made up my own, but this recipe for Moroccan Lamb Tagine from is one of the best Tagines I've made. It has a lot of ingredients, but after making the Ras El Hanoud, the traditional Moroccan spice blend, and marinating the meat overnight, the rest goes fairly quickly. If you don't have time to marinate overnight, 30 minutes to an hour will do.

If you love cooking exotic fare, be sure to buy a traditional Tagine. The conical cover of the vessel allows the juices and flavors of the meat and vegetables to circulate and enhance the flavor of the dish. You'll be tempted to open the top to peek, but don't do it until at least halfway through the cooking time. I waited 1 1/2 hours before opening the top to check on it.

I've used store-bought Tagine Spice before, but take the time to make the spice blend yourself. The result is a complexity of flavors that only comes from making it from scratch.

I'm happy to report that of all the spices in the list, the only one that was not in my pantry was the Cardamom. Making this recipe also gave me the chance to clean out old jars of spices I've had for a bit too long. You should replace spices in your pantry after about 2 years.

To serve, bring the Tagine to the table. Your guests will love this exotic presentation, and your home will be filled with its fragrant aroma.


Moroccan Lamb Tagine

For the Ras El Hanoud (Moroccan Spice Blend)
2 Tbsp. Paprika
¼ tsp. Tumeric
½ tsp. Ground Cumin
¼ tsp. Cayenne
1 tsp. Cinnamon
¼ tsp. Ground Cloves
½ tsp. Ground Cardamom
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
½ tsp. Ground Ginger
Pinch of Saffron
¾ tsp. Garlic Powder
¾ tsp. Ground Coriander

Other Ingredients
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 pounds lamb meat, cut into 1 ½ inch cubes – or 3 medium sized lamb shanks
2 medium onions, sliced
5 carrots, peeled and sliced into ½ inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. freshly ground ginger
1 lemon, zested
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. cornstarch (optional)
1 Tbsp. water (optional)
10 dried apricots
Pine nuts
Parsley sprigs

1.    Place lamb in a bowl, toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and set aside. In a large resealable bag, toss together the paprika, turmeric, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, salt, ginger, saffron, garlic powder and coriander. Mix well. Add the lamb to the bag, and toss to coat. Refrigerate at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

2.    Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add 1/3 of the lab, and brown well. Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining lamb. Add onions and carrots to the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh garlic and ginger, continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot and stir in the lemon zest, chicken broth, tomato paste, apricots and honey. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 ½ - 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is fork tender.

3.    If the consistency is too thin, you may thicken it with a mixture of cornstarch and water during the last 5 minutes.

4.    Garnish with pine nuts and parsley and serve with couscous.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Grilled Shrimp with Watermelon, Basil, Corn and Burrata from Chef Joseph Lenn at The Barn at Blackberry Farm

I read the Wall Street Journal every weekend and there's always an amazing recipe just calling my name. Ed chose this one, and we decided I had to make it today. The perfect Sunday supper. Grilled Shrimp with Watermelon, Basil, Corn and Burrata.

This recipe is from Chef Joseph Lenn at The Barn at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee.

I made some minor alterations just due to what I had on hand, so I'll share those here. This was amazingly easy and even more amazingly delicious. It actually made Ed do a dance in the kitchen. He won't let me post the video of him doing the "corn salsa dance." Trust me. It was priceless.

This recipe has delicious fresh ingredients - shrimp, olive oil, minced garlic, sliced basil, salt and pepper, kernels of fresh corn, white balsamic (which I didn't have so found the perfect substitute), watermelon, and burrata (which Whole Food was out of, so I substituted small fresh balls of mozzarella.

The mound of mozzarella look like little clouds. They were a perfect substitution for burrata cheese.

When you cut the watermelon, cut it into very small pieces. Small as the corn kernels.

The combination of corn, watermelon and basil is amazing. This would be a great accompaniment to chicken, fish or any number of summer dishes.

I didn't have white balsamic, so I Googled what the substitute might be, and it said that white wine vinegar with a touch of sugar is a good sub, so I used it. It was perfect.

Plate prep was pretty fun. The light was just perfect. These are my favorite "fish plates" that we got at the Kosta Boda factory in Kosta, Sweden when we visited my brother Gregg there a few years back. This is just the mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and a little pinch of salt.

And this is the final dish. Fresh. Light. Flavorful. Healthy. Recipe is right below. You must try this one.

Grilled Shrimp with Watermelon, Basil, Corn and Burrata
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 teaspoons minced garlic
4 tablespoons finely slice basil (I did a chiffonade of basil by rolling up the basil leaves and then cutting the roll with scissors)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Kernels from 4 ears of fresh corn on the cob
1 1/2 tablespoons white balsamic (substitute is white wine vinegar with a touch of sugar)
3 cups cubed watermelon (very small cubes - see the pic)
2 balls burrata, halved, at room temperature

In a small bowl, toss shrimp with 2 tbsp. olive oil, garlic and 1 tbsp. basil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss corn with vinegar and remaining basil and oil. Add watermelon and season with salt.

Recipe calls for grilling the shrimp, but I put them into the wok. Just easier....

Divide burrata, shrimp and corn-watermelon salad among 2 plates. Season burrata with salt and drizzle with olive oil and serve.

This is one we'll serve to company. Enjoy! And thanks Chef Lenn and thanks Wall Street Journal!