Monday, January 24, 2011

Sage Green Apple and Aged Cheddar Tart

.....An excerpt from "Tart Love"

Apples sit firmly atop my favorite fall/winter food heap. Winesap, Honeycrisp, McIntosh and oodles of other heirloom varieties tempt me with their tart, sweet and crisp goodness. Eaten raw, out of the palm or nestled into a tart, apples offer infinite variety and goodness.

In this tart, the play is on the perennial pairing of apples and cheese. The edgy tartness of Granny Smith apples is idyllic with a best-quality aged, extra sharp cheddar cheese. Sage seals the deal with its effortlessly earthy touch.

Compile it just before your cocktail guests arrive and bake while they wait. The house is filled with wonderful aromas and the tart bakes in just 20 - 25 minutes. Serve it warm while the cheese is still gooey and gently oozing from the edges of the tart wedges. This tart makes a perfect appetizer or pair it with a salad for a complete meal.

(Makes 9 appetizer portions or 4 entree portions)

Equipment Needed: parchment paper

1 sheet Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, thawed according to package directions

1 egg wash - yolk, pinch salt, splash water, blended together

2 medium Granny Smith apples, halved, cored and sliced very thinly

2 tablespoons unsalted, sweet butter

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pinch kosher or sea salt

1 tablespoon dried sage leaves

3 cups grated extra sharp, best-quality yellow cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange the thawed pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill the pastry in the refrigerator while prepping the filling. Prepare the egg wash and briefly set aside.

Cut the apples, skin-on, very thinly. They should be so thin that you can practically see through them. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the sliced apples, pepper, salt and sage. Toss the seasoned apples to coat, and cook for five minutes, or until the apples have just begun to soften and lightly brown. Remove from the heat, place in a bowl, and refrigerate until they are cool (about 15 - 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, grate the cheese with a box grater for a medium-sized grate. When the apples are cool, toss half of the cheese with the apples. Arrange this mixture in the center of the puff pastry sheet, spreading gently and evenly to the edges, leaving an 1/2" border of naked pastry. Top the apples evenly with the remaining cheese, taking care not to drizzle over the clean pastry border. Brush the naked pastry border lightly with the egg wash using a pastry brush. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the pastry is fully puffed, a rich golden brown, and the cheese is melted and bubbling. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve immediately while still warm.

For appetizer portions, cut through the tart in three even bars, both vertically and horizontally. For entree portions, cut the tart into four even squares. Garnish with a final pass of ground black pepper and a light drizzle of dried sage leaves if desired.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tart Love Cover Is Born

So excited to finally have a look for my next book, all about wonderful tarts, both sweet and savory.

This is the finalized cover which features the Pear and Chocolate Tartlets from the book, to be released September 1, 2011 (Gibbs Smith). Bravo to Helene DuJardin for her smashing styling and photography and to the talented design team at Gibbs Smith.

Look for upcoming posts featuring recipes from the book to whet your appetite for a fall full of tart love.

Fondly, Holly

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hotmail/Facebook Hacker on the Prowl

Hello friends,

I want to make you aware of a situation I am dealing with. No, I am not stranded in Scotland, as some sick hacker would have any of my email contacts, personal or professional believe.

I want to make all of you aware of a few things. Aside from being extremely frustrated, I am fine! Also, please do not be concerned for any safety compromise on your end. Just delete the message. They've managed to access my password, not yours! Please accept my sincere apologies for this. Also, take a note of warning. Be extremely wary of any email, no matter HOW VALID it looks, asking you for anything suspect. Trust your gut!

I'm currently working on convincing Hotmail and Facebook that I am who I am - crazy! Once it's resolved, I should be back on track with a valid password and hotmail account and more tasty food news.

Best, Holly

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Super Sundays in Charleston

Ahh, Sunday mornings. The stuff of reading The New York Times and lazily sipping coffee in bed.

In Charleston, it's all that and more. The day begins with a haunting bout of old church bells pealing, usually peaking at about 10 a.m. and finishing about noon. I almost always use this time to walk and build up my appetite for the day for all of the juicy Sunday offerings to be found here.

One of the juiciest, and perhaps with the largest underground following, is Sticky Bun Sunday at WildFlour Pastry. Talented chef/owner Lauren Mitterer opens her doors at 8 a.m. to a fervent crowd of Sticky Bun worshipers who have followed their noses down this unsuspecting stretch of Spring Street to find the golden, caramelized goods. The sticky bun party lasts until 1 p.m. where revelers get their fill of said buns (either slathered with frosting or with pecans as pictured) for a scant couple of bucks, which go down oh-so-well with a steaming cup of hot milk, chai tea, coffee or mocha, all in the sincere and doting presence of always hands-on chef Lauren. If buns aren't your thing, fuel up on savory or sweet tarts, myriad cookies and gorgeous cupcakes.

If you're like me, you'll save half the bun for later, and after a few hours, head on downtown to Tristan, in my mind one of the best brunch spots in town. Unlike those clunky, heavy buffet brunches that rattle the memories of my youth, Tristan has a fabulously light and diverse a la carte offering, complete with a trio of live musicians and seamless service. It's the kind of experience that invites lingering and solitude for the right price, to boot. You can be happy there alone (as I was this morning) or in a group of multi-generational families, friends and even young lovers. All were present to take in Chef Nate Whiting's sophisticated yet never over-dressed and always delicious fare.

Warm, assorted buns and creamery butter and endless mimosas and chunky Bloody Mary's ($10) start the show rolling on linen-lined tables on a stage of refreshingly minimalist decor that invites without suppressing formality. Benedicts, waffles, burgers and the unusually well done usual brunch suspects are all offered, but, so too, are a plethora of extra special gems worthy of note. In particular, the Bergamo Breakfast, which features super creamy, fluffy (almost souffle-like) polenta over a bed of gooey, fragrant Taleggio cheese topped with a tiny quail egg fresh from Sumpter, SC and dressed with delicious dots of truffle butter ($13). Or, try the sophisticated shrimp and grits in a sweet/spicy tomato gravy enhanced with pungent local shrimp and perfect seasoning ($14).

One leaves Tristan feeling super satisfied and sated, but not weighed down. The perfect prelude to a Sunday afternoon nap.

WildFlour Pastry
735 Spring Street, downtown Charleston
(843) 327-2621

10 Linguard Street, downtown Charleston
(843) 534-2155

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hampton Roads Picks Charleston Chef's Table

Charleston Chef's Table Cookbook was selected as one of the top six cookbooks for Hampton Roads annual selection. Thank you and go Charleston!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Five Must-Try Southern Restaurants in Charleston

The Daily Meal has posted a story of mine about what makes Charleston special from a culinary perspective and features five delicious recipes from The Charleston Chef's Table. Here's the link:

Give them a try. I especially love the oyster and mushroom recipe from The Fat Hen. It's the perfect dish for this time of year and the ingredients are so seasonal right now.

Happy Cooking!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Vegan & Vegetarian Sprout on Spring Street

At least two or three times this past summer and fall, I spied an exuberant Ellis Grossman in his chef's whites chatting with the good folks of Thackery Farms at their booth at the Charleston Farmers Market. Like me, he was shopping for the very best fresh and organic goods that can be found there.

It always makes me happy to see young chefs excited about beautiful food, something he puts to deliciously crunchy good use at his new restaurant, Black Bean Co., which opened in September. It joins a small but growing army of vegan/vegetarian/organic dining options popping up in this section of town near Upper King (Dell'z Deli) and along Spring Street.

It seems a bit lost amidst the melee of fast and soul food restaurants in this neck of the woods, but its presence is welcome, at least based upon my recent visit. Grossman chatted amicably with guests even as he answered incoming delivery calls with a cheery allusion to the restaurant's "energy food" motto. The space is bright and light and full of happy colors and assorted attractive art, all by local artists. My favorite of these were the adorable, glossy and fragrant pie candles by Rachel Pitts of Pitts Wicks ( They literally looked good enough to eat and briefly fooled even my very practiced pie (and tart) eye.

Settle into a long list of energizing breakfast, lunch, and super beautiful vegan dessert options here from soup to wraps to gyros to salads. Meat-eaters won't despair with hearty offerings like the Honey Turkey Bacon Club ($9) or the Gouda Baby ($8) wrapped fat and round and plum full of chicken or turkey, gouda cheese, sweet peppers, arugula, sprouts, basil oil and Dijon mustard. Grossman tastily flexes his Culinary Institute of Charleston trained skills and palate across the board here, including in the meaty-though-vegan Portobella Wrap ($10, pictured) and Fresh Spring Rolls (2 for $4) I sampled. The mushroom was marinated in a pungent blend of vinegar, oil and herbs and woven into a garden-full of spinach, red peppers, and onions all wrapped in a pliant, fresh and delicious spinach wrap. Meanwhile, the slivers of red cabbage, carrots and more shone like gems through the translucent rice wrapper, all ready for dipping in a fresh ginger marmalade.

Grossman and our local farmers (Thackery Farms provides 80% of the produce here) deserve our support for all the goodness they provide. Black Bean Co. is just the place to do it.

Black Bean Co.
116 Spring Street (near Rutledge), downtown Charleston
(843) 277-0990
Carry-out, free delivery and catering

Culinary Cost-Cutting 101

Coupon Crazy

When I was a little girl, I marveled while watching my Great Aunt Frances sitting at her linoleum-topped kitchen table, cutting coupons from the daily newspaper in the tiny Kansas town she lived in until she was nearly 100 years old.

It seemed like such a waste of energy in order to save a few pennies on, what I thought, were probably things she wouldn't normally buy anyway. But, I was naive. She, a thrifty survivor of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, had her coupon system down pat and it's probably one of the reasons she made it through a long life of hard times, many of them spent alone.

The latest bout of monetary unpleasantness, however, has created a market for New Age couponing systems. The internet now has a number of hot coupon sites (I like which provide free, brand-name coupons and more if you select to register as a member. They're just a click, a printer, and five minutes away. In addition, many grocery stores' websites offer lists of daily specials. And, here's the kicker. Many provide selections from the kind of items you usually purchase, anyway. That was it for me. The last straw supporting my long-standing anti-coupon mindset finally broke its resistant back.

Harris Teeter's online specials shopping list became this list-hater's new best friend. I dipped into it with reckless abandon. With a little practice and increasing knowledge, I'm slowly forming my own semi-profitable coupon system. By combining the free manufacturer's coupons from sites like with a daily special shopping list constructed from Harris Teeter's web site ( , my handy VIC card, and an extra dose of concentration at the grocery store, I have scored some serious savings.

The best yet happened last week. Granted, it was a big sales day at the downtown Teeter. The store was offering buy one get one, two or even three, all over the place on big ticket items like beef, coffee and wine. Since I'm expecting company in a couple weeks, I decided to stock up on these and other staples. The net result was a whopping $67 total savings. In essence, I bought three weeks-worth of groceries for less than I usually spend in one week!

My heart raced with anticipation as I watched the basket cave with the weight of my cache and the numbers creeping slowly higher on the cash register. Then, as the cashier started calculating in the selected coupons, the numbers amazingly started going down. It was like getting on the scale after a week of gorging Haagen-Dazs only to find you'd lost five pounds. I was beaming. She was beaming and said, "You did good today!"

Admittedly, a follow-up trip to replenish the fresh vegetable drawer just one week later only yielded $10 in savings, but next time I'll do better. I'm on a coupon-crazed mission. Intelligent use of coupons and smart shopping add up to saving a lot more than pennies. And, I'm not in Kansas anymore.

One Plucky Chicken, Four Marvelous Meals

With grocery costs rocketing to the stratosphere, it’s imperative to save wherever you can at the supermarket without eliminating taste. In addition to reaching for reduced daily specials, what you buy and how you put it to use in your kitchen can happily translate to huge savings with bodacious bite.

In this era of grocery gouging, chicken can become your new best friend for just pennies per four ounce serving when paired with practical pantry staples like pasta and veggies. Low in fat, high in protein and exceptionally versatile, chicken marries equally well with the exotic (think truffles or saffron) to the humble (think roasted potatoes and rosemary).

For these reasons, it’s a regular menu guest at my house, where I pride myself on transforming a single, four pound chicken (preferably organic and purchased at a reduced rate) into four fabulous feasts for a group of four. That’s sixteen meals, folks! A four pound chicken runs anywhere from $6-$10 (depending on where and how you shop), throw in a little change for ingredients to flesh it out into a meal (4X), and you’re looking at less than $20. A night out for a family of four at any fast food favorite will set you back the same amount or more faster than you can say “heart attack”.

Gotcha? Let me tell you how it’s done!

Meal #1: This is the launching pad for the meal plan event(s) – a whole roasted chicken. Since it’s going to be transformed several times, keep the seasoning simple – ground pepper, a nice crust of coarse salt and a rub down with olive oil. Roast at 425 until done (about 20 minutes per pound) and top it with a few love pats of butter to sink deeply into the bird. Allow the roasted chicken to rest and re-absorb its juices. Cut the both legs and thighs away from the chicken (reserving warm). Cut the breasts away from the rib cage, cool and store in your refrigerator for later use. Serve both legs and both thighs with steamed vegetables and roasted potatoes for a satisfying, nutritional meal. Go ahead and prepare a pan gravy with a little roux, white wine, chicken stock, Dijon mustard and fresh tarragon to dress things up, but hold on to the carcass!

Meal #2: Start this after the roast chicken dinner to prepare for tomorrow’s old-fashioned and DELICIOUS chicken noodle soup. With a sturdy chef’s knife, cut up the reserved carcass remnants – the rib cage and spine – into four or five coarse chunks and put them in a two quart soup pot with a quartered onion, carrot, celery stalk and a clove or two of garlic to make an impromptu stock. Add a few peppercorns, a bay leaf and fresh thyme for added flavor. Bring it up to a boil, reduce to a slow simmer over low heat and forget about it for three to four hours. Allow to cool and refrigerate, covered, overnight.
About thirty minutes before you’re slotted to serve dinner, skim off any accumulated fat off the top of the stock, strain it, discarding all solids except any bits of chicken flesh. Finely chop an onion, carrot and celery stalk and sauté them in the same pot with a tablespoon of olive oil until softened. Season, return the strained stock to the pan and bring up to a boil. Add reserved chicken and about ¼ pound of dried pasta (flat noodles, spaghetti, linguini – your choice) and cook until tender. Serve with a drizzle of fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, or thyme will do) and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. A small, fresh salad and warm baguette make this a meal.

Meal #3: Chicken Salad Deluxe! This is where you can really have fun with chicken’s flavor/texture marriage versatility. Cut one of the reserved breasts into chunky, ½” cubes and toss in a bowl with coarsely chopped dried cranberries (or another dried fruit like figs or currants), coarsely chopped roasted almonds, fresh herbs, a dollop of Dijon, a dash of mayo and vinegar, salt and pepper and you’ve got a meal in minutes over a bed of greens. Other flavors that work in tandem with chicken include curry, paprika, cinnamon and almost any fresh herb imaginable. Make this your own!

Meal #4: Chicken Sandwiches Supreme! Again, versatility and imagination set the stage for show-stopping chicken sandwiches prepared with freshly roasted chicken breast. Go for the best quality bread you can find, from baguette to whole grain, and fill it with thinly cut slices of the remaining breast and toppings. One sliced breast will handily complete four sandwiches. Zip up mayo with fresh basil and Dijon mustard for a fresh, personalized sauce, top with a slice of red onion and crisp romaine. Go whole hog and add a few pieces of browned bacon and a slice of avocado if the mood moves.

Chicken never tasted so good for so little.