Cooking with Love: Carla Hall's Rustic Mushroom Tart

Hey, guess what? I got an opportunity to review Carla Hall”s brand new cookbook, Cooking with Love: Comfort Food that Hugs You.  I was obviously very excited.  Thanks, ES!

I have been a fan of Carla Hall since her first season on Top Chef, Season 5.  When she came back for All-Stars, I also enjoyed rooting her on.  She has a southern style of cooking that focuses on comfort food and fine dining spins on classics.  Plus, she has a super perky and positive personality, but not in an annoying sort of way.  Like in a contagiously sunny kind of way.

This book has so many great recipes that I”ve bookmarked to try, like goat cheese grits and buffalo wing burgers (yum!)  It also has some little anecdotes and tips from Carla.  Carla was a caterer before she made it big and has some great tips about serving large groups, if you are into that kind of thing.  If I had to give a constructive criticism about the book, it would be that I would like a picture for every recipe.  That”s probably not doable to have so many photographs, but that”s what I like.  Although the pictures that are already in the book are quite stunning.

All in all, I”d say everyone should definitely have this cookbook on their shelves.  It”s pretty rockin”.

So, I decided to make the mushroom nbso tart recipe and it was pretty boss.  Super easy and oh so tasty.  I didn”t use a paddle attachment on a food processor , so my dough was a little more crumbly than hers appears.  It was still really good, though.

You should make this and pop over to Amazon to preorder her book, which comes out November 6th.

Rustic Mushroom Tart from Cooking with Love

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Top 10 New Foods at the 2012 State Fairs

Well, in regards to ridiculous overloads of novelty foods, it’s all downhill from here—state fair season is over for the year. We’ll have to wait for months before a stream of deep-fried, chocolate-covered, bacon-wrapped indulgences can once again make their appearance in our diets. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the most shocking new creations that made their debut onto the state fair food scene in 2012. Steel your arteries…

10. BIG Beef Rib – California State Fair

You’d think that a normal beef rib would contain enough animal flesh, but you would be wrong, and the California State Fair is here to prove it. They’ve jammed a giant 24-oz. steak ONTO a 17-inch beef rib bone. Why?! Because they can. (Photo: Cavegrrl.com)

9. Deep Fried Cotton Candy – Texas State Fair

We saw deep fried Kool-Aid and deep fried salsa at last year’s state fairs, so we should have known that cotton candy couldn’t be that far off. Pretty crazy, because it seems like the spun sugar would melt in the deep fryer. Life is full of mysteries. Not enough sweets for you? Don’t worry, this treat is served by a frozen yogurt purveyor, so feel free to use these giant balls of fried sugar as a topping on your froyo. (Photo: Cassie’s Frozen Yogurt)

8. Outlaw Stacker – Eastern Idaho State Fair

We all know that french fries are a great base for all kinds of toppings, and the Eastern Idaho State Fair really took that idea and ran with it. The Outlaw Stacker is a huge pile of fries smothered in gravy, bacon, and a fried egg. The name rings true—health and nutrition are truly outlawed in this dish. And we’re okay with that. (Photo: Eastern Idaho State Fair)

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Pom Pom Party

I don’t know about ya’ll, but I am abostlutely incapable of spying something like this in the grocery store and not taking it home. I saw these fuzzy little guys at the food co-op and had to have ’em. What the hell is a pom pom mushroom, anyway? I had no idea, but that was completely beside the point. “$4 each — I hope they’re worth it,” the check-out girl said skeptically.

According to the Internet, these fluffy little buns have a hearty, slightly sweet taste and an almost meaty texture that makes them of good use as a veggie replacement for veal or lobster. They’re fragile and shouldn’t be washed or handled much; just sliced up and sautéed in butter for about five minutes.

Not wanting to get too crazy in my first go-around with pom poms, I followed directions and just cooked them up in butter for a few minutes, then added them to some leftover udon as such:

They are actually quite delicious, and certainly hearty, although a replacement for lobster is a pit of a stretch. I’d call the texture less meaty and more spongey — kind of like a tastier fried tofu, with a sweet, somewhat nutty flavor.

I’m curious — anyone else played with pom poms? What do you do with ’em?

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Throw This Party: Progressive Dinner Caravan

Ugh, I am so sick of dinner parties!

Actually, that is a complete lie, I will never be sick of dinner parties. BUT I am always looking for a way to make the traditional dinner party even more exciting. My friend Dayna was inspired by an episode of Top Chef in which the cheftestants were challenged to throw a progressive dinner party; basically, they each had to host and serve one course before moving on to a different location, where a different chef would host and cook. Well, if they can do it, why can’t we? And so the posse of progressive dinner party friends was formed.

We suggested our idea to friends who live in our neighborhood. The rules were simple: pick a dish and a drink to go with it, and prepare most of it at home ahead of time, with decor, music, etc…selected to enhance the dining experience. We would caravan from apartment to apartment, spending an hour in each kitchen while we took turns hosting and serving our creations. At first our friends were a bit hesitant about the complicated nature of this party, but we promised it would be a worthy endeavor, and it was.

How it worked, plus my dinner party veggie recipe, after the jump.

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Killer Crowd-Pleaser Pasta

Lots of wine, lots of friends, lots of food… what can be better than a big dinner party? Being the convivial hostess that I am, I’m constantly gathering friends together for festive meals. I love experimenting with new dishes and ingredients, but sometimes I’m looking for a reliable go-to recipe — especially when I’ve gotten a bit ambitious with my guest count. In scenarios like this, I have an easy pasta recipe I’ve perfected over the years that guarantees dinner party success. Every time I make this I receive nothing but rave reviews. Not trying to brag, y’all, I’m just being honest.

If you’re having a load of guests over for the holiday season, give yourself a break and make a gigantic pot of this rigatoni with gorgonzola and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s simple and quick to put together, but the flavor is richly layered, and the vibrant colors of the tomatoes and basil lend a lively aesthetic to the dish.

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