Friday, December 23, 2011

Easy holiday 'Talk About Good' recipe, Lafayette in Southern Living 'Tastiest Towns' contest

My mom is stressed from holiday shopping and the usual day-to-day events that happen in December that can interrupt the best-made plans. Knowing I had a vast library of Louisiana cookbooks, she implored me for an easy recipe to make for Christmas dinner on Sunday. She had seen one regarding artichokes and spinach — not a dip, but a casserole for a side dish — but in all the hassle of the holidays lost it.
Here's a quick and easy recipe I found from "Talk About Good!" by the Junior League of Lafayette (Louisiana), one of the best-selling cookbooks of the non-profit world and winner of the Tabasco Community Cookbook Award Hall of Fame. The League has sold more than 750,000 copies of this amazing cookbook to date!
So, don't stress in your last-minute shopping-getting things ready for Sunday. Here's a fabulous gift idea that's inexpensive and easy to obtain (at most Louisiana bookstores and gift shops), plus a recipe to throw together quickly.
And let me add that we eat and cook REALLY well here in Lafayette. That’s why Lafayette was named “Best for Food” in the Rand McNally nationwide Best of the Road contest this year. And now, Lafayette is in the 10 “Tastiest Towns” in the South by Southern Living magazine. In the latter, we want to be chosen No. 1, so please vote daily in the Southern Living poll here. Voting ends Jan. 31, 2012.
Spinach-Artichoke Casserole
From "Talk About Good" by Lafayette Junior League
1 stick butter
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach
1 large can artichokes
1 pint sour cream
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Directions: Cook spinach as directed on box. Drain. Saute onions in butter. Mix all ingredients together and place in casserole. Stir Parmesan cheese into casserole and also sprinkle some on top. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 or 30 minutes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Lost Restaurants of New Orleans,' heathy ways to cook Cajun

New Orleans TV personality and author Peggy Scott Laborde and foodie Tom Fitzmorris performed exhaustive research for “Lost Restaurants of New Orleans and the recipes that made them famous,” a homage to those establishments lost to Hurricane Katrina, as well as before and after. Restaurants are listed in alphabetical order with photos, ads, menus and other memoriabilia, not to mention actual recipes.
            Retired nurse Dana Hotard of Opelousas was always searching for healthy ways to cook Cajun. After experimenting and collecting a variety of nutritious, low-calorie recipes, she published them into “AdJUSTed For You: Recipes to fit your lifestyle” and “AdJUST for You II.” Each cookbook is divided into party/appetizers, breads, desserts, main dishes and sides and all include information on calories, fat and fiber, plus some show ways to reduce all three.
            Here’s a great recipe from “AdJUSTed” for some holiday fun, only 51.3 calories per turnover:

Crawfish Turnovers
1 1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 pound crawfish tails
1 1/2 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon red pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup chopped celery
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 (10-ounce) can low-salt, low-fat cream of mushroom soup
16 sheets phyllo pastry, thawed
Butter flavor non-stick cooking spray
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat large non-stick skillet, sprayed with butter-flavored spray over med-high heat until hot. Saute onions, bell pepper, celery, mushrooms, green onions and garlic until tender. Reduce heat to low. Stir in soup, crawfish, parsley, basil, oregano, red pepper and thyme. Simmer for 4-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Arrange 1 sheet of pastry on damp towel, keeping rest covered with damp towel. Lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray. Layer with another sheet of phyllo and spray. Cut the stack crosswire into 4 strips with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
Working with one strip at a time, keeping the remaining strips covered with damp towel, spoon approximately 2 teaspoons of crawfish mixture at the base of the strip. Fold the right bottom corner over to form a triangle and continue folding the triangle back and forth to the end of the strip Arrange the turnover seam side down on a baking sheet sprayed with PAM. Repeat the procedure with the remaining strips and crawfish mixture.
Spray the tops of the turnovers with PAM and bake 35 minutes or until golden brown, Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Metairie Library hosts 5 St Landry Parish Authors

The East Bank Regional Library in Metairie will host an event featuring five authors from St. Landry Parish at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, at the library, 4747 W. Napoleon Blvd. in Metairie. The program is free of charge and open to the public.
Authors are: 
James Booksh, “My Life with Rita”
Booksh takes readers into his 58-year marriage, from love at first sight after WWII to her eight-year struggle with Alzheimer's. A recourse for those caring for loved-ones with the disease, the true story is a testament of the power of love that may restore reader's faith in the institute of marriage.
John La Fleur, “A Cultural Legacy: Creole Gourmet Secrets of Louisiana”
Chef John La Fleur will discuss and sign his book but he’ll also provide some kind of snack for the event. La Fleur teaches fine art, studio art, print, language and culture at Ville Platte High School.
Mel LeCompte, “Sharpened Iron”
“Sharpened Iron” focuses on a football game between Sacred Heart High School and Ville Platte High, two schools that could not be further apart racially or socially. However, LeCompte covers far more than a single annual game. What started out as a nice idea and a trophy is now a week-long celebration complete with Zydeco and Cajun concerts, all-day tailgating, and an intense prayer banquet for both teams.
John Mayeux, “The Avogel Tribe of Louisiana: Volume 1”
Mayeux has been Chief of the Avogel since the death of his mother in 1975. He wrote this book to let people know about this local tribe and that it still exists.
Don Stanford, “Southern Kingdom” and others
“Southern Kingdom” is the opening novel in the Blythington Family Saga.  
Members of the Friends of the Jefferson Public Library will be sell copies of books with a portion of book sales benefiting the Jefferson Parish Library.
For more information, call Chris Smith, manager of adult programming for the library, at 504-889-8143 or

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chef Rosenthal's book one of many events for week of Dec. 11, 2011

Chef Donald Link will host a special tasting and booksigning for Chef Mitchell Rosenthal from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Link’s restaurant, Butcher, in New Orleans. Rosenthal has published “Cooking My Way Back Home: Recipes from San Francisco’s Town Hall, Anchor and Hope, and Salt House” and the book features recipes from those establishments, with clear evidence of Rosenthal’s influences, much of which is from Louisiana.

The chef started out in a New Jersey deli, impressed with the heady flavors of Chef Paul Prudhomme, which he incorporated into the menu.

“The disconnect is apparent now, but at the time, nothing seemed strange about putting kishke, kniches, and corned beef sandwiches alongside jambalaya, blackened chicken and gumbo,” he writes in the introduction.

Rosenthal later worked with Chef Paul and received invaluable experience, he writes, then headed back to Manhattan where he worked at the Four Seasons and later San Francisco. But readers “need only look at the contents of this book to see how Prudhomme’s influence carried me forward,” Rosenthal writes.

Indeed, readers will find the “Peacemaker” or fried oyster poboy, Bienville stuffed mushrooms, corn macque choux and other local favorites, but a wide variety of interesting dishes that make me want to grab the next flight to San Francisco.

On Friday in New Orleans, Rosenthal will serve three tastes from his cookbook along with locally brewed beers. The cookbook will be available for purchase for $35, and a sample recipe is below. RSVP by Dec. 16 to Elizabeth Goliwas Bodet,

More book events this week are:
Kelli Foret signs “The Acadiana Art Trail” at 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at The Depot in Abbeville. Foret, a Lafayette artist, has compiled “trails” where readers can spend time in Acadiana hoping from one great artistic experience to another. If you haven’t traveled to Lafayette and environs, you’re missing out on great art, and Foret’s book will clearly show you why.

Warren Perrin will sign copies of his historic book, “Images of America: Vermilion Parish” Monday in Abbeville as well. The book explains the history of the settlement of Vermilion Parish, its culture, music and people told through photographs.

Speaking of great artists from Lafayette! George Rodrigue will sign copies of his books from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, at Blue Dog Café in Lafayette, a restaurant choked full of his artwork. The Cafe will sell all of his books in stock, from children’s books to coffee table books, and Rodrigue will sign books already purchased that are brought to the café by patrons.

Casa Azul Gifts in Grand Coteau will host a poetry reading by Nellie Harrington and a musical performance by Byron Knott at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15. An open mic follows. This free event is appropriate for teens and adults. For more information contact Patrice Melnick at (337) 662-1032 or

Chef John Folse signs copies of his cookbooks at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, at Barnes and Noble Corporate Woods in Baton Rouge and with Rick Tramonto (“Scars of a Chef” and “Steak with Friends”) at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. at Barnes and Noble Mandeville, 1 p.m. Saturday at Barnes and Noble Metairie and 4 p.m. Saturday at Barnes and Noble Harvey.

Iron Chef champion and James Beard award-winner John Besh signs copies of his cookbooks at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at Barnes and& Noble Lafayette and visits The Accidental Chef at 1:30 p.m. to sign his new book, “My Family Table,” and to demonstrate a dish for guests. The Accidental Chef is located at 
608 Garfield St. in downtown Lafayette.

I (your humble blogger Cheré Coen) will be selling copies of my books, including “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at Acadian Village’s Noel Acadien du Village. It’s a great holiday event with thousand of lights, live music, Santa and much more. And did I mention my book makes a great Christmas gift?

Peanut and Tasso Crusted Pork Chop with Hot Mustard
From “Cooking My Way Back Home”
2/3 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup peppercorns
1/2 bunch thyme
4 quarts water

4 pork chops
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces tasso or ham, finely diced (about 1/2 cup), mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons Town Hall Spice Mixture (from the book)
1 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon maple syrup
4 tablespoons whole grain mustard

Directions: To make the brine, in a container mix together all of the ingredients and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the pork chops to the brine, cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to three days. When you are ready to cook the pork chops prepare a hot fire for direct-heat grilling in a charcoal or gas grill.In a heavy bottom frying pan melt one tablespoon of the butter over medium high heat. Add the tasso and sauté until crispy. Remove from the heat and let cool. In a food processor combine the cool tasso, peanuts, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup and the remaining one tablespoon butter. Pulse a few times to blend. Set aside. Take the pork chops out of the brine and rinse them off under cold running water. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Place the chops on a grill rack directly over the fire and grill, turning once for 5-6 minutes on each side or until pale pink in the center when tested with a knife. The timing will depend on the thickness. Two minutes before the chops are ready to come off the fire, smear one tablespoon of the mustard on each chop, then cover each chop with 1/4 of the tasso mixture and continue to grill just until the tasso topping is warm. Serve at once.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New Orleans Saints to Cajun Country, Louisiana kids books run gamut

Looking for some gift ideas for the younger set? Here are a few children’s titles penned by Louisiana authors or concerning Louisiana stories.
Lovers of the New Orleans Saints and the city itself will enjoy Todd-Michael St. Pierre’s fun “Who Dat Night Before Christmas,” illustrated by Keith Douglas and published as a bilingual book in both English and French by Piggy Press Books. Santa arrives dressed in gold and black, his sleigh pulled by pelicans with names such as Momus, Zulu and Flambeaux. He comes down the chimney in K&B purple boots and a fleur-de-lis on his breast, enjoying a poboy and Barq’s before laying out gifts. St. Pierre has penned a delightful new Christmas tale with a Who Dat twist.
Lynda Deniger of Louisiana, along with illustrator Paulette Ferguson, have published a children’s book to explain the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Titled “Patti Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill,” the book uses the disaster to explain the importance of taking care of the environment.
Michelle Carley Loup of Baton Rouge and 10-year-old daughter Chloe Loup has teamed up for a book that focuses on bullying. Titled “Nate the Naughty Gnat,” the book follows Nate who is always in trouble at home and at school.  Mr. Crusty, an old cockroach who is the school janitor, tries to help Nate learn how to be kind to others and that bullying hurts.
Monsiur Durand was a wealthy plantation owner in St. Martinville who spared no expense on his daughter’s wedding. The extravagant affair he created is the basis for Rose Anne St. Romain’s latest children’s book, “Monsieur Durand's Grosse Affaire,” published by Pelican Publishing. I won’t spoil the ending and reveal to what extent Durand goes to make the wedding over the top, but it’s a wonderful read that pays off well in the end. St. Romain is a professional storyteller and director of the 4-H Museum in Marksville. The book is illustrated by Joan C. Waites, who also worked with St. Romain on “Moon’s Cloud Blanket.”
Other children’s books out now by Pelican Publishing include:
“Six Foolish Fishermen” by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Doug Kennedy, involving six foolish friends in a pirogue who make a host of silly decisions. Louisiana residents may recognize many of these fun folktales, and will enjoy a good laugh.
Johnette Downing of New Orleans explains the origin of pearls in “Why the Oyster has the Pearl,” illustrated by Bethanne Hill. In Downing’s story, the oyster is the keeper of the world’s jewels until sly snake comes along, a good lesson in greed and the virtues of generosity.
The poor mosquito doesn’t have many friends in Virginia Kroll’s “Mosquito,” illustrated by Betsy LaPlatt. As he flies around, all the animals are not happy to see him — and rightly so. The book also includes a list of mosquito facts.
New Orleans storyteller Dianne de Las Casas explains with Aztec and Mayan folklore how chocolate came to Earth from the heavens in “Blue Frog: the Legend of Chocolate,” illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker. The book was inspired by Blue Frog Chocolates of New Orleans, which is also named after South American legends. In the back is a recipe for Mexican hot cocoa.
Carole Gerber explains the story of an American woman who developed a system of classifying stars in “Annie Jump Cannon, Astronomer,” with illustrations by Christina Wald. Cannon still holds the record for identifying more stars than anyone else in the world.
Replacing rats with alligators and nutrias is “The Cajun Nutcracker” by Chara Dillon Mock, illustrated by Jean Cassels. The star of the show is still a nutcracker, but the locale is South Louisiana with its swamps, fireflies, Sugarcane Fairy, cayenne peppers from Avery Island and the waltz of the magnolias.

New releases
            Kody Chamberlain, a native of Thibodaux now living in Lafayette, has published a new comic titled “Sweets: A New Orleans Crime Story.” The tale follows Detective Curt Delatte, who has just buried his only daughter and is forced to chase a spree killer days before Hurricane Katrina makes landfall. Newsarama said of Chamberlain’s work: “This kind of care and craftsmanship isn’t just art it’s magic.”
UL Press has released “Louisiana Folktales: Lupin, Bouki, and Other Creole Stories in French Dialect and English Translation,” the first complete anthology of the folktales collected by linguist/historian Alceé Fortier. The book includes facsimiles of the original 1985 edition of “Louisiana Folktales,” and each selection is rendered in Creole French and English translation and includes Fortier’s original notes.
Tulane University professor Melissa V. Harris-Perry, where she is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South, has written an examination of race and gender in “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.” Readers may also recognize Harris-Perry from her regular appearances on MSNBC. “She assays the political implications and consequences of these archetypes in the lives of contemporary black women — and for how they influences black women’s participation in American public life, finding that they enjoy a less than complete citizenship…” wrote Publisher’s Weekly of the book.
And now a plug for my cousin who’s an outstanding scholar. Waights Taylor Jr., who grew up in Birmingham and experienced the extreme social change brought about by the Civil Rights Movement, has published “Our Southern Home: Scottsboro to Montgomery to Birmingham — The Transformation of the South in the Twentieth Century.” The book is available at or through and websites.

Book news
Derek Mosley, archivist and assistant director of the UL Ernest J. Gaines Center, has been named a 2012 Emerging Leader by the American Library Association (ALA). Mosley is one of 77 librarians selected for this six-month leadership development program and will attend the ALA Midwinter Meeting and the Annual Conference. Mosley’s goal is to be a mentor and role model for young African American men and to bring attention to librarianship as a career path.

Book events
            Cornell Landry reads “Le Petit Bonhomme Janvier” at 11 a.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble, 5707 Johnston St.
            I will be presenting a workshop titled “Get Your Mojo Working” in connection with my book “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets” at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Greenwell Springs Library in Baton Rouge.
James Nolan will read from and sign his novel “Higher Ground” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Arts Council of New Orleans and at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Gold Mine Saloon in New Orleans.
The Historic New Orleans Collection will host authors from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at PhotoNOLA 2011 photography festival at the Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. in New Orleans. The event is free and open to the public. Featured photographers and their titles are Shannon Brinkman, “Preservation Hall;” Deborah Luster, “Tooth For an Eye;” Ashley Gilbertson, “Whisky Tango Foxtrot;” James A. Reeves, “The Road to Somewhere;” Joséphine Sacabo, “Pedro Páramo;” Jennifer Shaw, “Hurricane Story” and Mary Virginia Swanson, “Publish Your Photography Book.” Sacabo will also present an overview of her work from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Chef John Folse will sign copies of his cookbooks at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Barnes & Noble Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge.
Carol Stubbs and Nancy Rust sign their cookbook “A Louisiana Christmas: Heritage Recipes and Hometown Celebrations” at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Lafayette.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

Friday, December 2, 2011

Rodgers' love of meatballs shared in new cookbook

Who knew meatballs come in so many shapes and styles? “I Love Meatballs” by Rick Rodgers explains the full range of this culinary sphere, from Swedish and Mom’s to Vietnamese, Moroccan and Greek, among many others. Recipes range from Persian meatballs in pomegranate and walnut sauce to lemongrass-chicken meatballs on rice vermicelli. There are meatballs in soups, meatballs between bread, meatballs on the grill and the old standard, meatballs and pasta. There’s also a handy introduction to the styles and cooking techniques involved.
            Here’s a recipe that can be used in holiday dining:

Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki

2 standard cucumbers
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Greek Meatballs
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 pounds ground round (85 percent lean) or use half ground round and half ground lamb
1 medium yellow onion, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
4 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon3 freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Wooden toothpicks, for serving

Directions: To make the tzatziki, peel the cucumbers. Cut each in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Shred on the large holes of a box grater. Transfer to a wire sieve and toss with the salt. Let drain in the sink for 30 minutes to 1 hour. A handful at a time, squeeze the shredded cucumbers to extract more liquid, then transfer to a medium bowl. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, mint, garlic and pepper and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

To make the meatballs, combine the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl. Let stand until the breadcrumbs are thoroughly moistened, about 3 minutes. Add the ground meat, onion, garlic, eggs, mint, oregano, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Use your hands to mix the meat mixture well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Using your wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape the meat mixture into 18 equal meatballs, Transfer the meatballs to a plate. Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium heat. In batches, add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining meatballs.

Spoon the tzatziki into individual ramekins or small serving bowls. Drain the meatballs briefly on paper towels. Serve the meatballs hot, with toothpicks for spearing and the tzatziki as a dip.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at

Thursday, December 1, 2011

'Roadfood' authors compile 'Lexicon' of American food

Jane and Michael Stern are food writers who travel the country. Three-time James Beard Foundation Awards winners, the Sterns are best known for their “Roadfood” books and appearances on the “The Splendid Table” radio show and in Saveur magazine.
            Gathering up their years of travels and food exploration, the Sterns have published the highly informative, “The Lexicon of Real American Food.” Written like an encyclopedia, the book’s ingredients travel from American Chop Suey and Andouille to Wonder Bread and Ya-Ka-Mein.
            I have to admit, I started out reviewing this tome with the idea of skimming its pages, examining the Louisiana entries and touching on subjects of interest. Instead, I couldn’t put it down, fascinated by the history of America’s foods, the unusual stories behind many dishes and pleased to find a handy guide to the different styles of clam chowder, barbecue sauces and the like.
            Louisiana is well represented here, and outside of a tiny error (beignets are not pronounced “bean-yay”), the Sterns are right on, showcasing the Bayou State with cochon de lait, red beans and rice and the New Orleans restauranteurs Anthony and Gail Uglesich, among many others.
There are several recipes scattered throughout, as well, plus fascinating stories on individuals dotting the national culinary landscape, accented by loads of photos. Here is a recipe to warm you on a chilly day, and if you can’t find fresh clams, I’m assuming canned clams might do:

Southern New England Clear Broth Clam Chowder
8 slices thick bacon (about ½ pound)
2 cups chopped onion
2 1/2 cups diced redskin potatoes, skin on
3 cups clam broth
18-20 large, hard-shell clams, shucked and drained and their liquor
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Directions: Cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces. Fry in a large pot until crisp. Remove the bacon pieces and save them to put in omelets the next morning. Add onion to the rendered bacon fat and sauté until soft. Add pototes, clam brother, and enough water to fully cover the potatoes (at least 1 cup). Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 12 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Coarsely cut the clams (do not mince or use a food processor). You should have about 3 cups of clam meat. Strain the clam liquor through a double-layer of cheesecloths to remove impurities, or boil it and skim off the foam that rises to the top. Add the clams and clam liquor to the chowder pot. Bring it back to a boil. Simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add pepper to taste. Sprinkle on basil; serve with crackers.
Learn more about the Sterns at

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at