The Naked chef morphs into Mr. green jeans
Jamie Oliver's new cookbook, Jamie at Home (Hyperion, $37.50), landed on our desk last week with a pleasant thud. The 400-plus page love letter to the chef's country garden is a manual on "cooking your way to the good life." Or at least that's what it says on the cover.
The recipes and photos exemplify Oliver's philosophy about cooking and life. He gets his hands dirty, and the food is always about ingredients, not fussy presentation. The introduction is titled "A Nice Little Chat," and that's what the book feels like. This book is more fodder for a nation (ours) deep in discussion about how to eat locally.
Instead of the usual cookbook chapters, Jamie at Home is defined by the seasons and what Oliver can grow in his garden at those times. (He gets the "furred game" from local farmers in autumn.) We love this book and can't wait to make Rhubarb and Custard Kinda Souffle — next spring, when fresh rhubarb is in season.
Tampa restaurants in charitable mood
• The Palm (205 WestShore Plaza, Tampa; (813) 849-7256) has launched a new menu program designed to raise money for Dress for Success Worldwide, an organization devoted to promoting the economic independence of women by providing professional attire, a support network and career development skills to help them succeed in work and in life. The Palm has created a lunch and dinner menu for the cause, complete with wines made by women. Until Oct. 31, 10 percent of the proceeds from the Fall for Success Menu will benefit the organization.
• NoHo Bistro (1714 N Armenia Ave., Tampa; (813) 514-0691) is hosting a special event, to mark National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday. Some of the proceeds from food sales that evening will benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
• Toasted Pheasant (14445 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 265-6700) is partnering with Carrollwood Cultural Center on Friday with a special dinner and a show. Seatings for this four-course Italian dinner, which costs $25.75, begin at 5 p.m., after which guests can attend a two-hour concert with Jim Burge and Jazz Direction at the Carrollwood Cultural Center (4537 Lowell Road; (813) 269-1310). The cultural center is holding a block of $7 tickets for guests of Toasted Pheasant Bistro, available only with advance reservations.
Commander's Palace comes to Destin
New Orleans' fabled Commander's Palace Family of Restaurants (run by Lally Brennan, Ti Martin and Alex Brennan-Martin) had a massive $6-million rebuilding of its flagship Commander's Palace to get it back up and running after Katrina.
But recently Commander's Palace has opened another outpost in Destin. Danny Trace is the chef overseeing this ambitious new waterfront property. It opened in July with a haute Creole menu that showcases locally sourced Southern and Floribbean ingredients. The location has more to do with the Brennans' vacation predilections than the desire to NOLAize Florida.
"Our family has vacationed on Destin's beautiful beaches for more than 30 years — it's where we go to play. We invite Destin locals and visitors to join us for some eating, drinking and carryin' on," says Ti Adelaide Martin.
The restaurant is at 34 Harbor Blvd. in Destin. Call (850) 337-8555.
Savory and sweet: new trend in spices
Here's a trend worth tasting: the marrying of sweet and savory seasonings.
It's part of overall growing interest in the flavorings of the Middle East and North Africa, which blend spices many Americans consider sweet with ingredients they are more accustomed to using in savory preparations.
For example, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and other similar ingredients frequently appear in rice, meat and vegetable dishes.
This blend is wonderful over couscous and rice dishes, as well as chicken and lamb.
Calling all Christmas cookie recipes
To heck with the heat and humidity, it's time to start testing Christmas cookie recipes. And we need yours.
We want all kinds of cookie recipes: bars, drops or cutouts; with nuts and without; iced, plain and sprinkled; gingerbread, peppermint and chocolate.
The St. Petersburg Times Taste section's seventh annual Christmas cookie issue, which publishes Dec. 3, will include two dozen of the most enticing reader recipes, all Times-tested. Photos will accompany each.
Send as many recipes as you'd like by Sept. 19 to Christmas Cookies, Taste, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.
Please include your name, city of residence and daytime phone number. Recipes also may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put COOKIES in the subject line. Please don't send recipe cards; because of the volume of submissions we can't return them.
Compiled from Times staff, wires