Culinary Fight Club Redfish Showdown

I have the pleasure of introducing Colleen Simmons, the author of this fabulous guest post, mastermind of the forthcoming Midcity Porch Crawl Best Group Costume Contest winners-to-be, and fellow hostess and secretary of the Midcity Dinner Club. Thank you Colleen and Mike for being Bake This Day ambassadors to the local Culinary Fight Club last week!

Last night we attended the third and final installment of Culinary Fight Club in New Orleans. It was a beautiful September night at Central City BBQ. The air was thick with the smell of seafood and bbq sauce for the Redfish Showdown!

As the chefs lined up to race to the pantry we placed our imaginary bets on who would win the night. I had to go with the only female chef. Mike voted for the oldest chef, “because he is the most confident.”

The pantry consisted of staples like butter and garlic, but also had some strange items like heavy whipping cream and pineapples. I was curious to see what the chefs would do with them. The chefs grabbed only what they could carry in their arms and aprons and started cooking. They would only have sixty minutes to make a winning redfish dish.

As the sixty minutes ticked by we explored the ground of Central City BBQ. It was a picturesque evening.

From 6:37 to 7:37 the sky got darker and the free NOLA Blonde flowed. Everyone was having a great time when they rang the bell for the finish. Each of the five chefs plated their dish and brought them up to the Judges table.

The Judges were kind to all the chefs, which made us that much more excited to taste the dishes for ourselves. No criticism? Please, well give them some criticism!

We lined up to taste all five dishes, but only got to taste four, because Chef Robert Vasquez ran out of his sheepshead fish dish with redfish ceviche. We were disappointed, and also gave him some criticism because redfish was not the main protein of his dish.

All of the four dishes we tasted were delicious.

Chef Diana Hicks made a blackened redfish with sweet pepper hash. The fish was crispy and cooked perfectly, but we didn’t get any of the sauce it was supposed to be topped with, so marks off for that. Chef Michael Brewer made a spicy and sweet redfish dish with spinach and miso and siracha. This one was the front runner for a minute. Next up, we tasted Chef Wayne Cooper’s redfish with cabbage slaw. This one got points off because the fish had tiny bones in it.

Finally we tasted the sweet heaven of the winning dish. Chef Nick Puletti made redfish with bbq butter and fried garlic on a bed of polenta. It was oh so unctuous and the taste of fried garlic stayed with us for the rest of the night. Perfect!

Mike’s face says it all. We turned in our ballots for the garlicy goodness, and waited for the final results. We were happy the Judges and audience agreed with us and Chef Nick took home the gold!

Potato Focaccia with Gaea Oil and Okra Tofu Curry

If I could have a substance other than blood running through my veins, I would wish for olive oil. The smell, the green fruit essence in liquid gold. Gaea recently sent me a little love package of oil estate grown in Crete, Sitia Olive Oil, and I drizzled it like a giddy drunk all over this potato focaccia (or shall we just call it what it is—a pizza with potato chips and thyme on top).

In my opinion, bread dipped in olive oil remains near a sacrament. And this oil is some of the best I’ve ever had.

Tartine Potato Focaccia

Adapted from the Tartine Bread Book

Make the Tartine Country Bread dough

2-3 pounds waxy potatoes

1 ½ tsp salt

½ cup olive oil

1 bunch of fresh thyme

3 ounces pecorino cheese

Shape the dough as directed in the tartine country bread recipe. Section in half, and then one at a time, allow each half to rest on a work surface for 30 minutes. Then cut the potatoes into thin, translucent slices. Place in a colander and toss with salt. Let stand for 20 or so minutes, and the potatoes will leech out copious amounts of water. Sponge it up, let it drip through the colander, and then toss the potato slices with pepper, olive oil, and thyme.

Preheat the oven to 500. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Transfer the dough to the pan and stretch into a rectangular shape—do not rip the dough. If it resists stretching, just wait. It will relax in a few minutes, and then you can try again.

Distribute the potatoes over the surface of the dough. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan so it can bake evenly. Continue until the potatoes are golden brown, 20-25 minutes total. Remove from the oven and top with shaved cheese. Cut and serve warm. Yum.

On the subject of good oils, I’ve made another dish with palm oil that I find fabulous. I love curry anything, but this curry made with backyard okra, tofu and red palm oil hits a nice savory chord.

Okra Tofu Curry Rice

Adapted from Palm Done Right campaign

4 cups cauliflower florets

3 TB organic red palm oil

1 TB palm oil (stir fry liquid type)

5 cloves garlic, minced

3 scallions, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, cut into long pieces

8 okra, chopped

1 lb tofu, chopped into one inch cubes

1 ½ TB curry paste, I used green

1 tsp Penzeys curry spice

1 TB minced ginger

1 ½ cups brown rice, cooked

1 cup vegetable or chicken stock

½ cup heavy cream

1 tsp coconut oil

Sea salt

Red pepper flakes

Black pepper


Cauliflower should be steamed in advance. I used frozen cauliflower that I blanched from fresh stuff I bought at a mega sale. Stir together the red palm oil and regular liquid palm oil in a small dish. Heat 1 TB oil blend in a skillet over medium and saute garlic, scallions and cauliflower for 5 minutes until starting to carmelize. Transfer to a bowl. Add another TB of the oil blend into the skillet and cook the onions, okra, and bell pepper for 7 minutes. In a separate skillet, add 1 TB oil and cook the tofu until browned on the edges.


Into the onion skillet, add 2 more TB of oil (or whatever is left) and stir in curry paste, curry and ginger. Let cook until fragrant and then add rice and saute. Add ½ cup chicken stock and scrape up the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the other ½ cup chicken stock, the tofu, the heavy cream and coconut oil. Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Finally, add back the cauliflower and garlic and heat until cauliflower is warmed up. Serve. YUM.

Blueberry Walnut Brownies and Treats for Recovery -Popcorn Giveaway!

Restorative time has been the course of the last week. After surgery, I’ve been making the slow march back to the world of the upright. The kindness and care from neighbors and friends has been the strongest medicine and the warmest rehabilitation. Used to tending to patients from the bedside, I think it has been good for me to spend a short season in the bed myself. Helplessness is an important master of ceremonies to entertain from time to time—a reminder that the show goes on without you. And it’s a good show, worth not missing.

Sometimes it’s your job to munch on popcorn and take a seat in the audience of things. I was sent the most delicious flavored popcorn from GH Cretors which I enjoyed on the sickbed couch with mugsful of Saints Coffee from CC’s Coffee. I love dark coffee and the Saints blend is a delicious dark roast, just my style. Looking forward to more Monday night couch time in the football season to come with both of these tasty delights! Comment below to win a Popcorn Giveaway from GH Cretors! Deadline is Sept 16th, midnight.

For now, I have gratitude brownies to bake for the cast of my recovery. Decided to take one of favorite cookbooks off the shelf and use some Stoneridge orchards blueberries to bake some delicious brownies.


Blueberry Walnut Brownies

Adapted from Farm to Table Desserts

4 ounces dried Stoneridge blueberries

4 oz unsalted butter

2 cups dark chocolate, roughly chopped

2 eggs

1 cup dark brown sugar

½ tsp vanilla

1 cup all purpose flour

½ cup chopped walnuts

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10 inch square pan. Melt butter in a pot over medium heat. When completely melted, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate, stir until smooth. Add the dried blueberries to the chocolate. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla, then blend in the melted chocolate mixture. Add the flour, the walnuts, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix until just incorporated. Spread the brownie batter in the pan, you can top with more blueberries, I suggest the chocolate covered ones. Bake for 30-35 minutes.


Cherry Gazpacho a la Stoneridge Orchards

Gazpacho is the ideal late summer cuisine—a chilled soup that is spicy, hearty and just the shade of autumn leaves. This was my first gazpacho attempt, and I wanted to find a recipe for gazpacho that would allow me to use Stoneridge dried cherries because Stoneridge Orchards also makes a chocolate dipped cherry that I thought would tie in as a delicious dessert. That recipe did not exist, until now….

I highly recommend allowing the gazpacho to rest in the fridge for up to a day before eating—if you try sooner, the acerbic flavor of the red onion and garlic won’t have tempered into the other flavors and it will have too much bite. But, what you will.

Cherry Gazpacho

Adapted from Food and Wine

2 lb tomatoes, cored and chopped

½ lb dried Stoneridge cherries

1 small poblano pepper, chopped

1 cup panko bread crumbs

½ cup chopped red onion

¼ cup red wine vinegar (with a splash of real red wine)

4 garlic cloves, chopped

½ cup plus 1/3 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

1 cup basil leaves

2 sliver anchovy fillets, chopped pistachios and goat cheese for the topping

Toss the tomatoes with the cherries, pepper, bread crumbs, onion, vinegar, garlic and ½ cup of olive oil. Give a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature, covered, for 2 hours. Then add anchovies and puree the stuff in batches, transfer to the fridge, covered, and let rest overnight.

Now you make the tasty basil oil garnish. Blanch the basil in a simmering bath of hot water for 1 minute. Drain and squeeze out the extra water. Puree the basil with 1/3 cup olive oil, and strain into a separate container. Serve the soup cold with the garnishes, a bit of oil, and I think it is delicious with buckwheat toast.






Rosmarino e Lamponi Torta — Rosemary Raspberry Cake

There is little else I would rather do on a luxurious day off than bake a cake to match the occasion. I find no better source for decadent but savory cakes than in my Italian Baker cookbook. They are challenging, but worth the effort. Not too sweet and full of good fats. This cake has no oil at all, all the fat is egg yolk in the sponge, and then of course in the heavy whipping cream frosting. I brought this to our Midcity dinner club last night to compliment a rosemary and peach roast pork dish.


Torta al Limone, Lamponi e Rosmarino

Adapted from the Italian Baker


1 cup caster sugar

¾ cup water

125 g rosemary sprigs

Sponge cake

8 eggs

¾ cup (160 g exactly) caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 ¼ cup (160 g exactly) flour, sifted

1 tsp baking powder

Zest of one lemon (finely grated)—I used Penzey’s lemon powder with a touch of real zest


12 oz rasperries

1 tsp cornstarch

2 TB fresh lemon juice

60 g caster sugar (about 1/3 cup)


1 cup heavy cream

9 oz mascarpone cheese

¾ cup confectioners sugar


Make the syrup first. Put sugar and water in a pan and heat to a simmer for 15-20 minutes until a little syrupy. Add the rosemary (and it’s going to seem like a ton. I actually only used one ounce because I didn’t have enough on my little rosemary bush and I didn’t want to leave it denuded. I think 40 grams was plenty to confer the proper flavor). Cover and remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then move to chill in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease two 8-inch pans (I did three because I like my cakes a little taller.) Put the eggs, sugar and vanilla together and whisk in a kitchenaid until at least doubled in volume, like 6 minutes. Then blend the dry ingredients and fold in by hand after sifting over the egg fluff. Divide the batter into two tins. (I just made one more ½ batch of the sponge and filled a third tin.) Bake for 25-30 minutes—cakes should be springy to touch. Pull them out too soon and they will collapse. Let cool completely on a rack. Go out and thank your chickens for their dozen eggs that made this sponge.

Combine all the filling ingredients in a small pan and bring to a boil. Stir constantly. After the fruit has softened, put the stuff through a strainer and press until all the juice is returned to a new saucepan (without those nasty seeds). Stir constantly over the medium heat while the juice thickens, then let cool completely.

I know, there are so many parts to this. You can lay down for a second. Izzy did.

Now whip the cream until medium-stiff. Set aside. Put the sugar and mascarpone in a stand mixer and whip together for 3 minutes with a paddle mixer. Then add the whipped cream and mix on high with a whisk for 3 minutes.

Finally, level the cakes. Brush rosemary syrup over each cake and let soak in. Pipe a ring of frosting around the middle layer to create a ridge and fill with spoonfuls of the raspberry fill. Repeat with a second layer if you are doing a triple layer cake. Then frost and top with little pretty raspberries and rosemary and sifted confectioner’s sugar. Do a couple of ballerina moves, plie, arabesque, pirouette, splits! Because that is what you have done dessert-wise.

Seriously one of the most beautiful cakes I’ve ever made. Just gorgeous.

Redfish on the Half Shell with Chermoula and Corn Puree– with Props to Compere Lapin

Not long ago I pulled one of these treasured fish from shallow Gulf waters and brought it home for dinner. I remember we made redfish court bouillon and I showed the picture of my fish catching to near-strangers, so proud was I.

There are so many delicious southern recipes featuring redfish—this one with chermoula and corn puree is a healthy and flavorful pairing.

I also just have to say, we went to Compere Lapin for KP’s birthday dinner on Monday night and it was hands down the best food I’ve ever had that I (or my mom) did not make at home. One of the best things about learning to cook is realizing that almost always you can make it better and cheaper yourself. This cannot be said to be true about Compere Lapin—absolute Caribbean French culinary perfection. An absolute treat. Pepper pot, Stracciatella with mango and hazelnuts, Jerk Black Drum and Scialatielli…vanilla chicory whisky cocktail—this restaurant makes me feel proud to be a New Orleanian. Thanks Nina Compton et al for the best dinner out we’ve ever had!

Probably will have to wait until next year to catch another big redfish, but when I do, this will be the first dinner I cook up! Leave that skin and scale on!

Redfish on the Half Shell with Chermoula and Corn Puree

Adapted from New Orleans Natural Awakenings Magazine


2 cups cilantro

1 cup parsley

8 garlic cloves

½ tsp lemon zest

2/3 cup lemon juice

1 ½ tsp ground coriander

2 tsp paprika

1 ½ tsp cumin

1 tsp cayenne

¼ tsp saffron

1 pinch salt

½ tsp red pepper flakes

1 cup olive oil


Corn Puree

1 pound corn kernels

1 cup cream

2 oz cane vinegar

1 pinch salt



½ pound squash

2 tsp olive oil, divided

4 redfish fillets with skin and scales

1/8 tsp salt and pepper

1 tsp butter

2 oz andouille sausage

½ pound swiss chard

2 garlic cloves

1 shallot

1 tsp cane vinegar


Chermoula is easy. Just put all the ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor and puree. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Voila.

For the corn puree, combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes until the corn is soft. Then also blend in a processor for 45 seconds, not until smooth, but until the texture of the stuff is kind of like corn grits.

Preheat oven to 400. Cut squash up into little inch cube sort of pieces. Drizzle squash with olive oil and place on a baking sheet covered in foil, bake for 10-15 minutes, until tender. Heat up a castiron skillet on high heat and rub with olive oil. Place the fish fillets with skin and scales side down and cook for 4 minutes. Season the top of the fillets with butter, salt, pepper and place in the oven for 5 minutes. Dice up the andouille and saute in olive oil on low heat until the sausage is crispy. Drain on a paper towel, reserving a little andouille oil in the skillet.

Remove the stems and julienne the Swiss chard. Add garlic cloves and minced shallot to hot pan of andouille oil, cook for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Then put in the chard with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add cane vinegar and cook until the greens are wilted. Remove from heat, and place chard on the plate. Heap the corn on top or artfully near by, a little squash, and then place the fish and andouille on top, dot the plate with your chermoula and drizzle a little on top of the fish.

Delicious. You also can use the corn puree like butter on a wheat toast the next day, topped with chermoula. My fave.

Genoise Cake for a Special Birthday

Late summer citrus cravings were answered by this lovely meringue from the Italian Baker. KP took another lap around the sun and we celebrate this with a cake that took 16 eggs to perfect. This cake suffered from structural integrity flaws due to my impatience with regard to levelling and also because the filling was a bit on the runny side (or the humidity was 2 million percent and the kitchen temp lingered in the 80s). In the end the meringue was a worthy spackle, and the taste was decadent. I believe strongly in homemade cake on a birthday. This one pairs well with mimosas and fabulous friends.


Genoise Meringata E Arancia

Adapted from the Italian Baker


250g caster sugar

1 ½ cornflour

¼ tsp salt

3 tsp finely grated orange zest

2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, strained

2 TB lemon juice

1 whole egg

4 egg yolks

4 TB butter, cut into small pieces

Genoise (I doubled this and made 4 layers of 8-inch rounds)

100g (1/3 cup plus 2 TB) butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing

1 ¼ cup plain flour, plus extra for dusting

4 eggs, at room temperature

½ cup caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

The Meringue

4 egg whites

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

½ cup caster sugar

For the filling, put the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a pan and whisk together. Stir in the orange zest and juice, and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring frequently, and boil for 1 minute. The mixture should thicken slightly and turn translucent. Remove from the heat. I don’t think I let mine get thick enough—it was pretty runny.

Whisk the whole egg and yolks in a bowl, until blended. Slowly pour 60ml of the hot orange juice mixture over the eggs and stir until well mixed. Stirring, slowly pour the egg mixture into the pan with the remaining orange mixture. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking vigorously with a small balloon whisk, until thickened, about 4 minutes. Again—mine was runny and I did four minutes, so make sure yours is thick thick. Remove from the heat, add the butter and stir until combined. Pour into a bowl, lay saran directly on the surface, and chill for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter the bases and sides of two 8-inch cake tins and dust with flour. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a mixing bowl (set over a pan of hot water) and using hand-held electric beaters, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together for about 5 minutes, until tripled in volume. Sift the flour twice and fold it very gently into the egg mixture. Pour the cooled melted butter into the mixture and fold again. Immediately divide the batter between the prepared tins and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before inverting on to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the meringue frosting, put the egg whites and sugar into a very clean heatproof bowl and set it over a pan of barely simmering water. Stirring constantly, heat until there are stiff peaks, about 3–5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan, add the cream of tartar and whisk the mixture in an electric stand mixer (or with an electric handheld whisk) until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 7–9 minutes. I made two batches of this because I wanted plenty of meringue to cover my four layers, and the filling was a little oozy and so I kind of used the meringue like spackle. Or sheetrock?

To assemble, spread half of the chilled orange filling over one cake, leaving a clean border, about 5mm. Place the second cake on top, followed by the remaining orange filling. Spread the meringue over the entire cake. Using a kitchen blowtorch, flame the meringue all over until lightly golden. Serve immediately or store, covered, in the fridge, and bring to room temperature before serving.

I’m super impressed with how fluffy this cake was without any baking powder or soda. All egg leavening. Very rich, moist crumb.

Mmmmm. the leaning tower of Arancia.

Again, this is likely my favorite cookbook of all time. Full of winners.