Sassy Living Below the Mason-Dixon Line

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the cooking category.


Are you a Barefoot Contessa fan?  I am, and the good news is that Ina Garten makes cooking easier than ever with her new cookbook, Make it Ahead:  A Barefoot  Contessa Cookbook (Clarkson Potter/Publishers).  ‘Tis the season to get some great tips and recipes for making a meal so you can enjoy your guests.   She even gives advice about which dishes are better when they are prepared in advance.

Ina features some of the new recipes on her blog, which will give you a taste (pun intended!) of this fabulous new book. Here are the types of food dishes you can expect: Make-Ahead Roast Turkey with Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy, Crusty Baked Potatoes with Whipped Feta, Skillet Brownies, Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes and Overnight Raspberry French Toast (my FAV).




Make it Ahead also follows Ina’s other book formats with conversational language and examples for how to prepare an actual meal in advance.  She also spotlights her food mentor Lee Bailey, who I was introduced to by my Aunt Nancy when I was in my early twenties.  While I was living the urbane lifestyle of Washington, D.C., Lee Bailey’s City Food was the blueprint for my fledgling entertaining style — how grateful I am for his advice to give guests a simple, good meal.  It’s exciting to see that Ina and I have the same food idol.

The holidays are upon us, so start them right with this book which will make entertaining easy and fun.  Thanks for my friends at Clarkson Potter for sending me this book to review.






Spring Food Fling!

Last time we met, I mentioned the 3rd Catering Classic event at The Women’s Club.  Well, it was fabulous!  The Bolling Haxall House is the Club’s headquarters, and it was the perfect event location.  The 1858 Italianate Mansion was replicated for Bolling Walker Haxall in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

A large crowd sampled signature dishes from 10 caterers, a dessert table from two additional caterers, wine tasting by J. Emerson and craft beer tasting by Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery.  Here’s a glimpse…




























Tyler Florence: FRESH!

Last week we had a mix of winter snow and spring temperatures here in Virginia!  Definitely a hello, goodbye experience.  I planted pansies on Sunday, and then started dreaming about the farmers’ markets around town — they will be opening soon.  And, of course a new season calls for a new cookbook for ideas and inspiration.

Tyler Florence’s recently released book, aptly titled, FRESH, emphasizes fresh ingredients over courses and spotlights the importance of quality produce.  It has many fabulous recipes that offer great alternatives to traditional spring fare.  See the sneak peek below for a recipe you can try right now!  Thanks to my pal, Allison Malec at Clarkson Potter for the book to review and the recipe.


Cauliflower Pudding and Crisp Brussels Sprouts-1

Cauliflower Pudding and Crisp Brussels Sprouts with Sea Urchin, Raisins, and Capers

Serves 4 to 6


1 bunch red seedless grapes


Cauliflower pudding

Nonstick cooking spray

2 small heads cauliflower

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 quart heavy cream

7 large egg yolks

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Brussels Sprouts

6 to 8 Brussels sprouts

3 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed

and drained

¼ cup raw pine nuts

Extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

12 pieces fresh sea urchin (uni)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1 tablespoon fresh chervil leaves

2 to 3 teaspoons smoked extra-virgin olive oil

Flaky sea salt

Prepare the raisins. Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Remove the grapes from the stems and spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for 4 hours, or until shrunken and dehydrated. Cool and set aside.

Prepare the cauliflower. Increase the oven temperature to 325ºF and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Grease a deep 3-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Break the cauliflower heads into bite-size florets. Blanch the cauliflower for 3 to 4 minutes, until tender. Drain well. Make the cauliflower pudding. Place half of the blanched cauliflower in a food processor and add the butter, cream, and egg yolks. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and a touch of pepper, then puree once more. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Set the baking dish inside a roasting pan and fill the larger pan with water to reach three-quarters up the side of the dish. Bake the pudding for 30 to 35 minutes, until set. Cool to room temperature, then chill overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Roast the Brussels sprouts. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Separate the sprouts into individual leaves. Scatter the remaining cauliflower florets on a baking sheet along with the Brussels sprout leaves, capers, and pine nuts. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables are lightly browned around the edges.

Serve spoonfuls of the cauliflower pudding garnished with pieces of sea urchin. Scatter roasted cauliflower florets, Brussels sprout leaves, pine nuts, and capers around each portion, and add the raisins, chives, and chervil. Drizzle with a little smoked olive oil and season with flaky sea salt.

Holiday Books — Add Panache to Your Home!

Well, dear readers, you know how I love decorating, reading and writing.  These three books combine all three.  Rejoice!

Thom Filica, who shot to fame on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, has restored a home in New York’s Finger Lakes district.  American Beauty:  Renovating and Decorating a Beloved Retreat highlights the result with over 300 photographs spotlighting luscious lake views and cozy, rustic comfort.  How to keep your own home in ship-shape?  The Butler’s Guide To Running The Home and Other Graces will help you!  Written by Stanley Ager, trusted butler of St. Michael’s Mount, off the shores of Cornwell, England.  If you are a Downton Abbey fan, you will delight in this interesting romp through proper housekeeping.

And, Christmas is about making certain every thing is perfect, right?  Ina Garten’s new cookbook, Barefoot Contessa – Foolproof, offers recipes that  guarantee the culinary success of your holiday meals.  Think lobster corn fritters and mustard-marinated flank steak.  Your guests will be impressed, and only you will know the secret.

Thanks to my pal, Carly, for sending me these fabulous books!  Christmas is coming…




Southern Comfort Food in Beverly Hills!

Irresistible southern comfort food from a noted Beverly Hills chef.  I’m in.

Atlanta native Alex Hitz is the toast of Hollywood Hills with his southern fare, hospitality and casual entertaining style.  Hitz suggests perfect menus for every season and will show you how to make every day a special occasion. He shares his secrets about entertaining, ingredients, and cookware that guarantee the best results and will make a difference as you become a great chef and host on your own.

Baked “confetti” cheese grits.  Crab salad with Bloody Mary Aspic (paging my mother!).  Heirloom Tomato Pie.  Sound good?  I am already planning to make a dish from this book for my election night party.  My Beverly Hills Kitchen is so much more than just a cookbook.  It is really an entertainment guide, with lots of “how tos” to steer the reader.  Classic southern cooking with a French twist nestled in a stylish setting.  Perfection.

How does Hitz describe southern?  “Southern for me is family silver and monogrammed linen napkins. Because of these things, every time I sit down for dinner, my mother, my grandmother and often times my great grandmother are still with me.”

Enjoy!  And, thanks to my friends at Knopf for sending me this book to review.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

Today I received an early “birthday treat box” from my darling friend Sharyn Rosenblum at William Morrow.  Wow!  She knows how to spoil a girl, and Ree Drummond’s “The Pioneer Woman Cooks”  was included in the bounty.  I have long been a fan of Ree’s cooking and lifestyle blog.  Ree is a writer, photographer, ranch wife and mother of four. Her blog,, attracts more than 20 million page views per month, and her Food Network television show, The Pioneer Woman,  is already a hit.

What I find so inspiring about her is that she seems to always be discovering new ways to express her creativity.  Her blog includes her passion for photography, which, given the setting of her life, makes it really fascinating.  Please check out this cookbook — my friend Sally Wolfe loves Mango Margaritas and now I have the perfect recipe.  I am crazy about Eggs Benedict, but was always too timid to make it.  Ree shows me exactly how!

Thank you Sharyn, my love.

Step by step instructions such as these below, make the reader feel empowered to actually make these delicious meals.

A Tiffany Christmas

Ok, it’s time to get serious about those table settings — Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day, Boxing Day — you get the picture.  Some years ago I went with a group of friends to New York from Virginia the weekend before Christmas.  We took the train and arrived in time to see the star being illuminated on Fifth Avenue.  To commemorate the occasion, my mother gave me John  Loring’s beautiful book, A Tiffany Christmas. 

Mr. Loring was the long-time design director at Tiffany and he collaborated on many design titles with Jacqueline Kennedy (including this one!).  Who had better taste than Mrs. Kennedy?  Good news is you don’t have to have expensive china to get the look.  How about a last-minute dash to Target or Kmart  — both have great white china you could pair with greens cut from your backyard.  One of my favorite Virginia haunts is the Dollar Tree (and, in New York — Dollar Jacks).  Look for simple stemmed wine glasses and white mugs.   You could pack candy canes and a few holly berries in the mug and use it for an accent piece.  If you don’t want to serve wine, fill the glasses with colorful candies and give them away as favors (a take off on the British Christmas cracker concept).  You are more creative than you know.  Promise.

Enjoy these ideas as the weekend of celebrating approaches…  

Cooking up (after) a Storm

Must say that the past ten days have been hair-raising. Dismal Swamp fires.  Earthquake. Hurricane.  I speak for everyone down south when I say, “Mother Nature, we’re good.”

I am cleaning out my refrigerator and starting over (a city-wide past time right now).  A holiday weekend is coming up, so I will grocery shop, and cook.  Don’t you find that making something delicious is creative and restorative?   Martha Hall Foose has a new book out, and it’s got just the right inspiration for putting together a sumptuous meal to wash away the memories of Hurricane Irene’s stormy swath across Virginia.  

Ms. Noose is a 2009 winner of the James Beard Award for American Cooking, and it shows.  Her recipes are inventive but use ingredients you’ll recognize, and she weaves in stories that let you know right away she’s a southern girl.   For example, don’t bacon crackers sound divine?  The recipe is basically just butter crackers wrapped with bacon and cooked for over an hour.  I have had them, and they are really good.  Wouldn’t you get up early in the morning for a crab and artichoke omelet?  Forget the morning, this delicious dish can be made on an Indian Summer evening around 9ish when the sun has completely slipped away. Maybe paired with iced coffee and  fresh bread.  I am going to really have fun sampling these interesting dishes.

Even if you don’t live on the East Coast with all the crazy weather, you deserve a treat.  Start your fall off with A Southerly Course, full of recipes that are a new take on old favorites.  Thanks to my pal Carly for sending me this book to review.

And, if you are looking for a safe and reliable way to help storm victims up and down the Eastern Seaboard, here’s a link to the Red Cross:

Throw it Down This Fall!

When popular Food Network host Bobby Flay asks are you ready, you know that fun and food and laughs are about to appear on-screen.  Flay’s engaging manner and high stakes game of going head-to-head with masters of an iconic dish, give the show a dramatic tension as he offers his signature style of down-home cooking.  His latest cookbook, Bobby Flay’s Throwdown, has over 100 recipes which highlight the best of the ultimate cooking challenge.  This cookbook appeals to the cook and the storyteller in me.  The recipes and events are accompanied by well-written and carefully drawn stories. Putting a recipe in context makes it even more meaningful and fun!  I now have a long list of restaurants to visit, as well.

It’s Fall, and time to start cooking.  I can imagine preparing the book’s Hot wings with Blue Cheese Yogurt Sauce  and Ed Mitchell’s Carolina-style baked beans and Caramel Apple Cheesecake for an after trick-or-treat family dinner.  And, the mid-term elections are in a couple of weeks, so why not have a buffet dinner party and watch MSNBC?  Entertaining is always a good time to try out new recipes and a new cookbook.

Thanks to Nicole at Clarkson Potter for this fabulous cookbook (and culinary guide!).