Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kathy Bates has parties catered from the COMMISSARY in Memphis including AMERICA'S BEST COCONUT CREAM PIE. She makes reservations, movies and a difference in the lives of other women who have battled cancer.

The Commissary Coconut Pie
1/2 cup flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
4 ounces unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup grated coconut
Pie shell
Mix flour and sugar. Separate egg yolks from whites and save whites for meringue. Mix yolks with flour mixture; add milk; mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick. When thick, remove from heat add butter and vanilla. Mix well and add coconut; pour mixture into cooked pie shell.
6 egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons grated coconut
Add sugar to egg whites and beat until stiff. Spoon mixture over the top of pie with teaspoon in a swirling motion; sprinkle with coconut.  Brown in a 450 degree oven. Remove when top of meringue turns light brown; refrigerate for 2 hours.
Is the best thing Kathy Bates makes dinner reservations, movies, or the difference in the lives of other women who face the battles of cancer that she has championed?
Recently while enjoying some fried green tomatoes with a friend, I was reminded of another West Tennessee woman and her connection to this epic summer dish.

What you might not know about fried green tomatoes is that the comedy-drama film of the same name which was based on the novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, starred a Memphis native.

Kathy Bates, who played opposite Jessica Tandy in this picture that was nominated for two Academy Awards, graduated from White Station High School.

Bates sighs, “I love fried green tomatoes.”

Kathy took a part of Memphis with her when she left, and laughs that she always finds her accent when she gets within a hundred mile radius of the Delta. One thing she never found time to do was cook, so she simply relies on some good cooks in Memphis.

She is confident that FedEx can deliver the best barbecue with all the trimmings to her, ready to entertain her guests. She doesn’t even have chairs around her dining room table and loves to spend time-off in a motor home crisscrossing the country with a friend.

“The best thing I make is reservations,” Bates added.

She’s the youngest of three daughters of Bertye, a homemaker, and Langdon Bates, a mechanical engineer. You know we Southerners need a little family history, so just know that one of her great-great-grandfathers, who emigrated from Ireland to New Orleans, served as President Andrew Jackson's doctor.

Kathy Bates has battled both ovarian and breast cancer, and she underwent a double mastectomy in 2012. She is a survivor, an Academy Award winning actor, child of the sixties, director, a soulful woman, Alpha Delta Pi alum, 1969 Theatre graduate from SMU and a national spokesperson for lymphedema and Chairperson for the Lymphatic Education & Research Network's Honorary Board.

When Bates speaks about cancer it’s more powerful than her swing in the psychological thriller, Misery. This is the film that brought Bates stardom and an Oscar for Best Actress, and was followed by Fried Green Tomatoes.

Whistle Stop Cafe Fried Green Tomatoes
The movie introduced this delicacy to generations. To prepare them like the characters, Idgie and Ruth, would have in the movie, you want a hard, green tomato. In other words, you need to use it when it's dark green and hasn't begun to change to a whitish-green color.
3-4 green tomatoes
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 tsp salt & pepper
Vegetable oil

Mix together flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper. Add enough milk to create a thick batter. Heat 2 inches of oil in a large skillet. Batter each tomato slice, and wipe off excess. Carefully place in hot oil, browning on both sides. (may or may not need turning, depending on the amount of oil) To cool, drain in a colander to keep tomatoes from becoming soggy. Salt to taste. Sandi of Whistle Stop Cafe in Juliette GA, site of the filming of Fried Green Tomatoes

When Bates talks about her life on the silver screen, it seems inconsequential when you hear her talk about her life, her family, and her battle with cancer. Her words are from the heart and it was one of the toughest roles of her life.

At first the diagnosis and the illness were a very private and guarded secret. But she learned to send her strength and love to the millions of women who have fought the fight; and she spoke in remembrance of her mom, Bertye Kathleen Bates, who died of breast cancer.

Returning home early from the south of France where she was studying French, Kathy called her doctor because she wasn’t feeling right. Three days later she had surgery then nine chemo treatments.

As she put it, she wasn’t Kathy Bates who one of the patients recognized; she was down to her soul being. Afraid, but she had faith in her doctor who assured her that this wasn’t a death sentence. She went early, they caught it in time.

Earlier she had watched her parents in failing health, and had seen the pain and apprehension they lived with. Kathy was determined to focus on winning this battle one day, one step at a time. She saw strength and compassion in the blue eyes of her surgeon and wondered 'if he was married.'

She wanted to know the color of the tumor - beige - her least favorite color! She always hoped to get the “cute” technician in chemo so she could focus on him and not the needles. She continued to work and was thankful for the makeup people who made her look healthy.

Her dear friend, Lynn Redgrave, had insisted that she get back to work immediately – pretend you’re someone else, not a cancer patient. Acting had always been Kathy’s dream. It brought her stardom and fame, now it brought her the big prize – her life.

She reminisces about her parents and thanks to one of her movies, now better understands what they went through for her. Kathy was an unplanned pregnancy born to a 48 year old mother and a father just ten years shy of retirement. Born in 1948, she now realizes how much of her life her mother gave up just for her.

Her father, supported Kathy and her two sisters in pursuing their dreams, but theatre to him didn’t seem like a stable profession. Wouldn’t they both be proud of their baby girl and all that she has done to help others, countless others, most of whom she will never know.

Praise and awards are nothing new for Kathy Bates. Following starring roles in White Station High School productions, she was off to SMU, then to New York City, where she began to practice her profession. Broadway, television, and small roles led to her legendary portrayal of Annie Wilkes in Misery in 1990.

An Oscar for Best Actress, as well as, a Golden Globe established her star power. Fried Green Tomatoes the following year; a Tony nomination;  Academy nominations for Best Supporting Actress in Primary Colors and About Schmidt; numerous other movie and television roles including The Blind Side, and the portrayal of Molly Brown in Titanic meant Kathy Bates was among the Hollywood elite.

Co-stars include: James Caan, Leonardo DeCaprio, Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Tandy, Matthew McConaughey, Melanie Griffith, Jack Nicholson, Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw and Kate Winslet among others.

Some of these celebrity friends have been to Kathy’s for a party. Of course, they were treated to a sampling of regional  West Tennessee cooking –  BBQ, hickory smoked ribs, baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw  and other goodies overnighted from The Commissary Restaurant in Germantown, TN. This little girl from the Bluff City was in high cotton. She was living her dream.

Following a low time after the treatments, she later attributes the cancer for giving her life back to her. She knows who she is, what matters, and that we are all human beings so why keep secrets that could help others. Diagnosed in 2003 with ovarian cancer, she celebrated six years of remission in 2010.

In September 2012, she revealed via Twitter that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer two months earlier and had undergone a double mastectomy. This left her with lymphedema in both arms.

She has since started campaigning to raise awareness of lymphedema, a condition caused by the removal of lymph nodes during cancer treatment which leads to painful, swollen limbs.

Bates became a national spokesperson for lymphedema and Chairperson for the Lymphatic Education & Research Network's Honorary Board. Upwards of ten million Americans suffered with these often debilitating conditions -- more than AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Alzheimer’s disease — combined.

“This is the thing I wish I had known more about and that doctors don’t emphasize,” Bates stated.  After they remove your lymph nodes, you’re likely to have lymphedema. That’s the swelling of the arms. It’s something I would like to raise awareness about, because women can feel like that’s an ugly souvenir they’ve been left with.”

“I have to wear compression sleeves on the plane now, go to the doctor at least monthly and do physical therapy. It’s sometimes more difficult to find jackets or shirts that fit. I just need to take it easy. Driving sometimes is difficult, and I love to drive,” she added.

Kathy Bates stays busy and was recently named the Executive Committee Chair of the Actors Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors.

So is the best thing she makes dinner reservations, movies, or the difference in the lives of other women who face the battles that she has championed?

If you happen to look in Kathy Bates’ little black book next to caterer, you will see The Commissary (901) 754-5540. She calls to place orders regularly and sometimes just calls to say thank you for another delicious meal. You know – just can’t take that West Tennessee out of the girl, even if she’s living in Hollywood.

Commissaries throughout the South were small country stores where you could find anything from overalls to bologna. The Germantown Commissary had been in business for over ninety years, when Walker Taylor bought it in 1981. The name worked then and still does today.

Over the last twenty five years, The Commissary has been a favorite ‘pit house’ of those with a discriminating palate for barbecue; and was recently named in the 10 top US barbecue restaurants by Playboy Magazine. Their rustic décor is as seasoned and inviting as the aroma of the hickory-smoked, slow-cooked barbecue and ribs that they cook the old-timey way. Add to that homemade deviled eggs, slaw, beans, potato salad, and desserts.

Over the years many have found their way to this mecca of pits including: Robert Duvall, The Eagles, Aerosmith, Jack Nicklaus, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Johnny Cossette – the producer of the Grammy’s, and Jimmy Buffet to name a few.

When it comes to BBQ from The Commissary, as far as she’s concerned, it’s like she said about her co-star Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt, “You can't get any better than that!”


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Southern Summer Sauté of Snap Green Beans, Onions, New Potatoes and Bacon

1-/2 lbs. fresh green beans, cleaned and snapped
12 small new red potatoes, cleaned and if large cut in half
3 slices thick bacon
1 Vidalia onion, rough cut or slice
Sea salt and fresh grated pepper, to taste
½ tsp. onion powder
Cut bacon into pieces and place in a Dutch oven to cook; remove bacon when crisp and set aside. Depending on how much grease is left in pan, remove extra grease and add onions; sauté onions 4-5 minutes.  

Peel around the center of potatoes with vegetable peeler. Cook potatoes until done but not mushy in microwave or boil in chicken broth. Depends on size of potatoes, but about 6 – 7 minutes in microwave – test with fork and if hard, cook a little longer.

When onions are done; add green beans and stir to sauté. Cook to desired doneness. I like them crisp but not hard; add potatoes and stir with beans and onions; cook another 10 minutes on medium low; add onion powder and stir. When cooked to your preferred doneness; season to taste; add bacon pieces and serve.

Cuban Party Social Graces Style - Mojitos, Fresh Salsa Bar, Mini Key-Lime Pies and Empanadas

Ashley Teague and Suzanne Dement, the owners of Social Graces, a boutique event planning and design company based in Jackson, decided to have a party.

Have you ever wondered about the food a chef cooks at home, the clothes a designer wears or the car a dealer drives? Well what about a party a couple of event planners host?

They threw a mojito party with a Cuban flare to welcome the beginning of the summer party scene. Invitations were aqua, black and off-white, a pattern reproduced on the table linens Fedexed in for the event. Lush lipstick colored peonies were flown in from California. Nothing was left to chance.

A fresh fruit, cheese and salsa bar featuring both traditional and fruit salsas was set up on the back lawn. Rather than spend hours cooking, these two called on the La Cubanita food truck which backed into the yard with a stash of Cuban fare such as empanadas and Cuban pork sandwiches.
“La Cubanita was fabulous,” Ashley volunteered.

Suzanne and Ashley gathered buckets of fresh mint, dozens of limes, and made simple syrup for the makings of this popular Cuban cocktail. In addition to the traditional mojito, a blackberry version was also served.

The party was fun, it was chic and it was delicious down to the key lime mini pies served up for dessert. The beautiful invitations set the tone for the party and were a hint of what the hosts had planned for their hundred or so guests.

 Who would have expected anything any different? As with the corporate events, weddings, music awards and fashion shows they have coordinated, these two Southern women planned their own event with the same attention to detail. Flowers were ordered, the serving tables were stunning and the food truck was just plain fun!

No dinner plates, rather the Cuban sandwiches and empanadas were served in those inexpensive plastic baskets atop white service paper. It was a hit and the casualness just added to the festivities.

Of course there was music under the stars provided by Josh Smith, known as a member of The Grove. Even the weather was perfect and I guess just maybe they lucked out with that one, or was it planned?

It’s this same attention to detail that Suzanne and Ashley rely on when planning events for their clients. Both had experience in event planning and in 2012, they joined forces and founded Social Graces.

“We pair fresh ideas with complete management of personal and corporate celebrations from Memphis to Nashville, as well as destination weddings across the southeast and beyond,” Ashley noted. “We did a really fun wedding in Big Sandy Tennessee and we have one scheduled for next year in East Tennessee.”

"It’s really by word of mouth that clients find us,” Suzanne added. “One of our weddings in Leiper’s Fork, near Nashville, was a referral and we’ve heard that ‘the Martha’ heard about it and will be featuring it later this year. That’s pretty exciting!”

Social Graces is passionate about celebrating life’s most anticipated events!  From weddings to corporate events to fashion and music awards shows, they strive to tell their client’s story, making the party totally about them or their product.

“We believe that each event is as unique as the person it was designed for, and no detail is too small to be left undone. A profile is done on each event and client. It’s important to know what they like and what they don’t want. Lots of hours are spent gathering this information as everyone wants something different, but they all have different taste,” Ashley noted.

 “Ashley and I really enjoy seeing our clients happy and able to enjoy their special party or event. We’re lucky in that the only near catastrophe we had was when the linens for a wedding reception weren’t delivered, but we somehow found the nicest FedEx manager ever and he went to the office and we got everything on time,” laughed Suzanne.

Social Graces has rapidly built a reputation as a premier event planning and design company by creating extraordinary weddings and remarkable celebrations in Tennessee, as well as in destinations across the country from Napa, California to Watercolor, Florida.

Ice bars, major fireworks displays, food bars and dance floors built to order, special colored tents, carriage rides, or weekend transportation for guests 24 hours/day are but a few of the things they have arranged. When P&G needed a major appreciation dinner for clients and employees, Suzanne and Ashley got it done to rave reviews.

Currently they are working on a destination wedding at Notre Dame and the invitations are once again a sample of what to expect at the wedding of Drs. Keith and Laura Nord’s daughter.

They hired Natalie Chang, who does a lot of Kate Spade’s calligraphy and invitations to design the wedding invitations. They are the most stunning I have ever received. A watercolor of the cathedral is used as a liner for the invitation and the theme is incorporated on the RSVP and rehearsal dinner cards. The hand calligraphy is a work of art.

“We’ve worked with Natalie several times and she always does beautiful work,” Ashley was quick to add.

In addition to weddings, they are ready to plan an intimate evening for a select few to a grand gala affair. Their management services include venue location, design concepts for floral, fabrics and décor, procurement of original invitations, catering and entertainment selection, vendor coordination, and more, so their clients can focus on the most important part of the event – their guests.
These longtime friends who consider themselves kindred spirits each had several years of experience under their belts when they decided to partner and form Social Graces Events in 2012.

After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Ashley perfected her talents while working as sales manager at Nashville’s famous Wildhorse Saloon where she coordinated and organized details for events ranging in size from 20 to 4,000 people including major corporate functions, rehearsal dinners, commercial and video shoots, and political campaign rallies.

Suzanne got her start in the event industry as part of Sasha Souza’s Team I Do program and continued with this celebrity event planner to start Sasha Souza Events of Tennessee. A member of the Association of Bridal Consultants, Suzanne feels that inventive design and exceptional service are the keys to creating remarkable guest experiences. She especially loves being based between the two most influential music cities in the South.

Social graces are the manners, etiquette, deportment and fashion used to interact politely in social situations. These skills were once taught to young women at a finishing school or charm school. Now Ashley and Suzanne are just carrying on this Southern tradition with Social Graces.

“I’ve been to a lot of parties, but this one was so fun and beautiful. I had the best time,” a guest exclaimed as she left the mojito party. Isn’t that what everyone wants to hear at the end of the day?
1 cup simple syrup
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
2 cups white rum
2 cups club soda
Muddle the mint leaves with a splash of lime juice; combing with simply syrup, the remainder of the lime juice and the rum in a pitcher. Top off with club soda; mix well and serve over plenty of ice. Ashley Teague

 Mango Salsa
This colorful mango salsa is super easy to make! It's sweet, spicy and absolutely delicious. Serve with chips, on tacos or salads, or as a salad itself. It's that good.
3 ripe mangos, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 large lime, juiced (about ¼ cup lime juice)
⅛ - ¼ teaspoon salt, to taste
In a serving bowl, combine the prepared mango, bell pepper, onion, cilantro and jalapeño. Drizzle with the juice of one lime and mix well. Season to taste with salt. For best flavor, let the salsa rest for 10 minutes or longer. Recipe yields about 3 cups salsa. Ashley Teague

 Key Lime Pie
I put a dollop of whipped cream on top and usually make my own graham cracker crust.
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 5 limes)
1 tsp. grated lime zest
2 egg yolks
1 (9-inch) graham cracker crust
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Mix together the milk, lime juice, zest and egg yolks; beat until smooth.  Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 15 minutes. It should be firm to touch. Cool in the refrigerator for several hours before serving.
1 sleeve graham crackers, crushed
4-5 tbsp. melted butter
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup nuts (almonds, macadamia or pecans) optional
In a food processor, chip nuts, add graham crackers, brown sugar and butter. Mix until well blended. Press into pie pans or silicon muffin cups. For individual mini pies, press the crust mixture into 10-13 muffin cups (greased) add mixture. Place on a cookie sheet; bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees; cool, refrigerate and serve. Suzanne Dement

Cuban Empanadas
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons lard
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole egg PLUS 1 egg yolk
1/2 cups cold water (Plus or minus to bring dough to proper consistency)
Sift the flour with salt, baking powder and sugar. Place half of the flour in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center. Place the butter, lard, eggs, and water in the well. Mix together by hand to from a paste. Continue to add more flour until all of the flour is added. You may need to add water -- slowly and in small quantities until the dough reaches the right consistency. The dough needs to be soft and pliable, like pie dough. Place the dough in a bowl, cover with a clean, damp dish towel, and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Lightly flour your work surface. Divide the dough into four pieces and use a floured rolling pin to roll out the dough about 1/8 inch thick. Cut the dough into circles, with a cookie cutter or small bowl. Crimp edges (Size the circle according to how large you want your empanadas. 4-inch works well)
Chicken Filling
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 chicken thighs
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
Sauté the onion over medium heat in the olive oil for two to three minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and cook an additional one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place chicken, bay leaf, chicken broth, wine, salt, and pepper in a three-quart saucepan. Add enough water to just cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the chicken is cooked -- about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken, and allow it to cool. Strain and save the broth.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, skin and de-bone. Finely shred the meat. Stir in the flour, and the onion/garlic mixture you set aside (above). Stir in 1/4 cup of the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for five to 10 minutes.

Use the cornstarch (mixed with water) to thicken the filling. Add just enough to make the filling moist but not runny.

Put a small quantity of filling in the center of the circle and fold over to make a half circle. Don't over-fill! Seal the edges with a fork to make a scalloped edge.

Heat oil in a frying pan to 350 degrees or you can use a deep fat fryer. Fry the empanadas in the oil, turning occasionally until brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.
SOCIAL GRACES are ready to help with your next event and they are fabulous!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

River Chicken grilled with Lime and Honey

This is always a popular weekend supper at the river. Serve it with a cold broccoli salad and deviled eggs, or just a wonderful salad of your liking and enjoy the sunset!
2 teaspoons grated lime peel
1/3 cup lime juice
1/2 tsp. cayenne
¼ cup  oil
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
½ cup honey
1 tsp. salt
1 large banana pepper, finely chopped (or jalapeno if you like the spice)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 boneless skinless, chicken breasts

Make marinade, in shallow glass or plastic dish, or sealable food-storage plastic bag, mix all ingredients except chicken.

Between pieces of plastic wrap or waxed paper, place each chicken breast smooth side down; gently pound with flat side of meat mallet or rolling pin until about 1/4 inch thick. Add chicken to marinade; turn to coat. Cover dish or seal bag; refrigerate at least 30 minutes but no longer than 24 hours. NOTE: Sometimes I don’t flatten the meat – it’s up to you, but if they aren’t large pieces of meat, it’s fine either way.

Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Cover and grill chicken over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Grilled Vegetable Napoleon - one of Summer 2015's hottest side dishes

Not only is this gorgeous and delicious, but all the vegetables can be cut, grilled and assembled ahead of time, then warmed in the oven right before serving.

1 medium eggplant, peeled, cut into six 1/3-inch round pieces
2 zucchini, cut into twelve, 1/3-inch round slices or at an angle
2 yellow squash cut into twelve, 1/3-inch round slices or at an angle (use same but zucchini and squash)OR use six yellow squash and six red peppers
1 large sweet onion, cut into six, 1/3-inch circular slices (you can use a wooden skewer to pierce the onion slice horizontally so it doesn't fall apart on grill.  Remove skewer before stacking/serving)
Fresh goat cheese divided into six, 2 oz portions
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of basil puree (puree fresh basil leaves with enough olive oil to reach a consistency to drizzle.  Commercial or homemade pesto can be substituted)
Salt and pepper and granulated garlic to taste
6 fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)

Lightly brush the vegetables with oil and season to taste.  Grill the vegetables (on medium/high) until soft and you see the grill lines and turn. About 5 - 10 minutes or so on each side depending on the heat source.  Eggplant may need to grill longer than other vegetables.  If not serving soon after grilling and you plan to prepare this ahead and reheat later, grill the vegetable for only about 8 minutes so they won't overcook in oven during reheating. Use grill pan or thick foil dotted with thick punctures.

Place six pieces of grilled eggplant in bottom of oiled/sprayed baking tray or dish to start your stacks.  On top of each eggplant, stack a piece of zucchini, then squash.  Next add the onion slice; spread cheese atop the onion; repeat the squash layers.  Keep warm or reheat in 375 degree oven before serving.
Insert a skewer through center of each stack to make a hole from top to bottom. Trim rosemary sprigs to 1-inch taller than stacks and remove bottom leaves from each sprig, leaving about 1-inch of leaves around top. Insert 1 sprig into each napoleon.  Finish with a drizzle of basil puree or pesto and enjoy! This serves six.
NOTE: I also like to use a portabella mushroom instead of the eggplant for the bottom of the stack. USE WHATEVER FRESH VEGETABLES YOU LIKE and enjoy - potatoes and beets also work on the grill.
Speaking of Napoleon - this portrait by my friend and one of America's greatest artists, Leroy Neiman.
Add chicken, pork, fish, beef - whatever suits your fancy to your Napoleon.