Phillips makes splash on Food Network

By Kay Harrod Published:

In case you missed it, Louisville native Damaris Phillips, 32, captured the title of Next Food Network Star and earned the right to a regular cooking show as part of the popular network’s line-up.

I loved her and thought she had all the right stuff to be a food personality — even though in the first couple of episodes I was with the judges who thought perhaps she needed to rein it in on her shimmying and somewhat off-putting try at sex appeal. But over time she evolved into a winner.

In an after-show interview, even Alton Brown, who intimidated Phillips the most and whose respect meant the most to her, had high praise for the winner.

“She’s a teacher, a great cook, a good communicator, lovely and charming,” Brown said.

Bobby Flay, another of the three judges along with Giada De Laurentis, said he loved that Phillips was from the south.

“She’ll bring that great Kentucky flavor to the network, and of course, that includes bourbon,” Flay said. “She’s got all the right pieces.”

Flay even told Phillips after the show that he had already used one of her tips for adding pimento cheese to make cheeseburgers on the grill.

Phillips uses cream cheese instead of mayonnaise in the recipe when she is topping a hot burger.

The other fact that makes me happy is that Phillips is a graduate of one of our technical school programs — Jefferson Community Technical College — with a degree in culinary arts. She now teaches there.

I think Kentucky has some of the finest technical schools in the nation and I am glad to see these programs get some recognition.

Phillips’ “Eat, Date, Love” show will begin airing in the fall on the Food Network channel.

Watch that lettuce
While tainted lettuce was shipped to several states other than Kentucky several weeks ago, I am always leery of those loose-leaf lettuces in the bag.

I know many of them say “washed, no preservatives,” but I still wash them and recommend you do as well.

A friend of mine’s aunt says preservatives on lettuce give her “intestinal issues” and I agree.

Therefore, that’s why I always wash lettuce and in most cases steer clear of it in restaurants.

While iceberg lettuce does not contain the mineral and vitamin benefits of greens such as spinach, oak leaf, Bibb, and curly endive as well as others, I tend to stick with it when I dine out especially the wedge of iceberg. Many restaurants today get their salad greens packaged in bags as well.

At home, I immediately remove lettuces from the bag and rinse them well in a colander. Either damp dry them on paper towels or put them in a salad spinner. Then put the lettuce in a clean plastic bag and add a paper towel to absorb any extra moisture. I think you’ll find once in the fridge these lettuces will even last longer.

Do the same with the fresh lettuces like romaine, leafy and even those you purchase at the Farmers Market.

And while you are at it, clean other salad vegetables as well: radishes, green onions, cherry or grape tomatoes, carrots, etc. Follow the same process as with the lettuce and you’ll have fresh veggies that last longer.

Fall cleaning
When summer begins to draw to a close, I always find myself shopping sales and stocking up with foods I may need to make dishes over the winter. Never mind that my local grocery is less than a mile away. I hate to leave the house to buy an ingredient, especially those that I know I use a lot like pimentos, chicken and beef stock, tomatoes — the list goes on.

But before I start shopping, last week I busied myself with cleaning out my pantry and spice shelves. I’m embarrassed to tell you how much I threw out declaring anything before 2012 a must get rid of like cake mixes, canned soups and packets of things like taco seasoning — 2009.

Yes, it was a waste and I have vowed to do better, but over time items like cake mixes lose the ability to produce a quality result and canned goods from the grocery can go bad as well or lose their flavors.

In a phone discussion with my friend Brenda Sue Warren, she bemoaned having to throw away spices citing both cost and how little she might use one having bought it to try a recipe — think cardamom, all spice, mace, turmeric and a myriad of others.

“You mean I have to throw away all those spices I took from mama’s when she died?” Brenda’s mother has been dead about eight years.

It bothers me as well, but spices lose their potency and I throw away anything beyond two or three years old.

Plastic spice containers do not keep the product well. Cans and glass spice jars are better, but the seal on them, especially the cans is iffy.

I always go back to how important ingredients are to make a dish. Perhaps if it’s an eighth or quarter teaspoon called for in a recipe, it may be OK to use an older spice, but that is up to you.

Brenda Sue and I decided it might be nice to have a spice sharing among friends, particularly around those times when making and baking are at the beginning of the holidays. Just a thought.

And don’t forget baking soda and baking powder. These two products definitely lose their potency over time and what a shame to go to the trouble to make biscuits or a cake and use old products that don’t do the job. I really recommend getting rid of both of these after six months.

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