Two-Minute Salmon Scallopini

 

salmon scallopini“Dinner will be ready in two minutes!!!”  How many times have I shouted this warning to family passing through my kitchen, foraging in the snack drawer or headed out the door?  Of course, I rarely mean literally two minutes….but this time I do!  These thin slices of marinated fresh salmon cook right on your dinner plate in two minutes flat.  Delicate and meltingly delicious, serve with crusty bread and a big salad of field greens for the quickest entree you will ever encounter.  A brilliant technique and recipe adapted from Abby Mandel in her excellent cookbook, More Taste Than Time.  The late Abby Mandel was a food columnist for the Chicago Tribune and was the founder of the fabulous Lincoln Park Green City Market. (a must-visit for foodies in Chicago May-October)

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3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dry vermouth

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon orange (or lemon) zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

10-12 ounces salmon fillets, skinned, cut on the bias as thin as possible, about 1/16 inch (see note below)

minced fresh chives or parsley to garnish

freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees 15 minutes before baking.

2.  Mix the orange juice, oil vermouth, lemon juice, soy sauce, orange or lemon zest and salt in a large plastic ziplock bag.  Add the salmon and seal the bag, squeezing out excess air and turning bag to insure that salmon is well coated with the marinade.  Let marinate for 10 minutes.

3.  Arrange the salmon on 2 china dinner plates, covering the entire surface of the plate, except the rim ,, overlapping the fish as little as possible.  Brush lightly with a small amount of the remaining marinade.

4.  Bake just until the surface of the fish lightens in color, about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with chives or parsley, fresh ground pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 2

note:  Put the raw salmon in the freezer for about 30 minutes until firm but not frozen solid….this will make thin-slicing a breeze (sharp knife necessary too)

note: Most china and ceramic plates can withstand the oven heat for this amount of time, but very fine bone china should be avoided.

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Saucy Beef and Lamb Meatballs

 

MeatballsFamiliar enough to qualify as comfort food, yet just different enough to be new and interesting.  I love the 50/50 combination of the beef and  lamb, and the sauce is perfectly spiced with the warmth of cumin, ginger and cinnamon. Serve these with toasted pita bread for an excellent make-ahead dinner.

 

Saucy Beef and Lamb Meatballs

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons onion (finely minced)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh garlic (finely minced)
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint (minced)
  • 1/2lb ground sirloin
  • 1/2lb ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (divided)
  • 1 Large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1/2 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 15oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons onion and garlic to the pan; cook 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool slightly. Combine onion mixture, breadcrumbs and mint, add lamb, beef, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and egg. Stir gently. Shape into 30 1-inch meatballs. If you have time, put them in the refrigerator of ran hour or so to firm up…this will make them easier to brown.
2. Heat pan to medium high with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and add meatballs. Cook 4 minutes or so to brown them on all sides. Remove meatballs from pan. Add 1/2 cup onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add ginger, cumin, cinnamon and crushed tomatoes and simmer of t5 minutes. Stir in the water, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Return meatballs to pan and simmer for 20 minutes or until done. Garnish with additional chopped fresh mint if desired.

 

Spice-Roasted Chick Peas with Collard Greens

Spice Roasted Chick Peas with Collards

Leafy greens are getting their due respect these days, don’t you think?  I grew up eating turnip greens and spinach in Mississippi, but not collards or kale,  swiss chard or broccoli rabe. I love them all, but I’m finding collards so versatile that they are becoming my go-to healthy, leafy green veggie these days.  This version combines collards with hearty, spicy-roasted chick peas for a wonderful vegetarian main course  (if you sub water for the chicken broth) or an excellent side dish to go along with roasted meat or fish.  Healthy for sure, but super tasty as well…the way it should be.

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1 bunch collard greens, washed and chopped

1/2 large red onion, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

1 cup low sodium chicken broth or water

1 15 ounce can chick peas, drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon Garam Masala

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon mustard seeds (optional)

salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat and add onions, sauté gently for 3 minutes.  Add collards and toss until they begin to wilt.  Season with salt and pepper then add the chicken broth and reduce heat a bit.  Simmer collards until tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. (add a little water if pan becomes dry before greens are tender)

Meanwhile, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss together the chick peas, olive oil, cumin, garam masala, red pepper flakes, and mustard seed. Add salt to taste ( amount will depend upon the saltiness of the brand of chick peas that you use)  Spread out into a single layer and roast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until fragrant and lightly brown.  Scrape chick peas into collards and toss, check for seasonings.  Serves 4-6.  Can be made ahead and reheated stovetop or microwave.

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Southern “Paté” with Pickled Red Onions and Cucumbers

 

Southern Pate 1Liver-haters stay put.  This is paté southern-style, full of black-eyed peas and country ham.  Remember Underwood Deviled Ham? The spread in the tiny paper-wrapped can with the feisty red devil on the label?  Well, this is slightly reminiscent of that… but light and fresh with the flavors of salty ham, mushrooms sautéed in dry sherry, fresh parsley and thyme and crunchy toasted pecans.  It is all held together by creamy black-eyed peas cooked with fresh jalapeno. Make it the day before for a new and different hors d’oeuvre with crusty bread and pickled veggies.  Inspired by and adapted from Southern Living Magazine.

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For the Paté:

1 1/2 cups frozen black-eyed peas

1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded

3/4 cup chopped country ham

4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1/4 cup dry sherry

1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

For the Pickled Vegetables:

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 english cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced

1 cups seasoned rice vinegar

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Cover frozen black-eyed peas with water, add the fresh jalapeño, bring to a boil then simmer 15-20 minutes until tender.  Drain and put peas and jalapeño into the bowl of a food processor.  Sauté ham, mushrooms and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, stirring frequently until liquid from mushrooms has evaporated and the mixture if beginning to brown. Stir in dry sherry and cook one to two minutes more.  Scrape this mixture into the food processor with the peas.  Add the remaining oliver oil, about 5 tablespoons, and process until  smooth.  Stir in the pecans, parsley and thyme and season with black pepper.  Taste to see if salt is needed (most likely not because the country ham is quite salty).  Cover and chill for 8-24 hours.

Stir together the red onion, cucumber, rice wine vinegar, water, sugar and salt and cover and chill for 2 hours and up to 2 days.

To serve:

Spread paté onto toasted crostini or crackers and  top with a bit of the pickled vegetables.

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Little Leebos (bacon wrapped potato bites w/BBQ sauce)

bacon potato bitesBy popular demand, I offer you the treats of the tailgate, the most quickly disappearing nibble of our holiday buffet and soon to be, the must-have recipe for your Super Bowl Party. Those of you who are personally acquainted with me will know exactly who went on a one-man campaign to name these little gems.  Such devotion deserves recognition and reward.  I’ve yet to be able to make enough of these to satisfy my guests…a testament to their tastiness, not to their difficulty.   The truth is, they are very simple to throw together.

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1 pound very small potatoes (1-2 inches)

drizzle of olive oil

lemon pepper

1 pound thin sliced center cut bacon

your favorite barbecue sauce for dipping

Preheat oven to 350.  Scrub potatoes and cut each in half.  In a small bowl, toss the potatoes with just a bit of olive oil and generously season with lemon pepper.  Cut bacon slices into halves or thirds (figure out the right size for your potatoes…the bacon must wrap around the potato piece and can just meet, or slightly overlap, on the bottom).  Wrap each potato with a piece of bacon, and place them flat size down, bacon ends tucked under, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and bacon is golden.  Remove immediately from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack or paper towels. (note: if you leave the potatoes to cool on the baking sheet, they will adsorb every bit of the fat that has been rendered from the bacon.)  Serve hot or warm with barbecue sauce for dipping.

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Flash Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Onion and Lemon Pepper

Flash Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts go from raw to crispy/tender in about 8 minutes in a hot oven.  So there is really no need to ever cook them any other way!  Here, I’ve given the onion a bit of a head start so that it could achieve a sweet silky flavor and texture.  The added benefit is that the sprouts get a chance to caramelize on the sizzling hot pan long before they make that unfortunate transition to mush, as they are apt to do when overcooked.  The lemon pepper brightens this vegetable dish up and the pine nuts add a rich little crunch.  Easy enough for everyday….special enough for your holiday feast.

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1 large red onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups trimmed, halved brussels sprouts

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1/4 cup pine nuts

salt and lemon pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Toss red onion and olive oil in a large roasting pan (or baking sheet with sides) spread it out, and roast until it is just starting to caramelize, 5-10 minutes.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan and stir in the lemon pepper.  Rinse the cut sprouts in water then put them in a medium sized bowl and pour the butter mixture oven them.  Toss well to coat. Take the roasting pan out of the oven, add the brussels sprouts mixture, toss together with the onions then spread everything out into a single layer.  Return to oven for 8-10 minutes until sprouts are just tender and turning golden brown.  Do a taste test after 6-7 minutes to see where you are… sprouts come in different sizes and you do not want to overcook them. They should be tender on the outside with a bit of a crunch in the middle. (and they will continue to cook for a minute or two after they come out of the oven so err on the side of undercooking here) Remove from oven, add pine nuts and toss to warm through.  Season with salt and a generous sprinkle of Lemon Pepper to taste.  Serve 5-6

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Once-A-Year Sourdough Cornbread Dressing

 

Thanksgiving DressingWhy “once a year”?  Well, sourdough bread and cornbread doused in butter, broth and cream just can’t be an everyday side dish.  And, there is something to be said for keeping a recipe special by only serving it once a year.  This dressing is moist on the inside from the cornbread, with crispy bits on the top from the sourdough bread.  The seasonings are subtle and the whole dish is melt-in-your-mouth rich; the perfect complement to your Thanksgiving Day turkey.  You can make this a day or two in advance, refrigerate it uncooked, and just pop it in the oven on the big day.  My recipe is adapted from one published in the New York Times a few years back.

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3/4 cup butter   (plus extra for buttering baking dish)

6 cups crumbled cornbread (see note below)

6 cups crusty sourdough bread, torn into bite sized pieces

2 cups chopped onion

2 cups chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon dried ground sage (see note below)

2 teaspoons salt

black pepper

6 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 cups chicken broth

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter 9×13 inch baking dish.  Melt the 3/4 cup butter and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine corn bead, sourdough bread, onion, celery, sage, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss until well mixed.   Add melted butter, eggs, cream and 1 1/2 cups broth. Mix lightly but well.  Mixture should be moist.  Pour into prepared baking dish, do not pack it down…you want the top to have some texture.  If mixture seems dry around edges, drizzle with remaining broth.  Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour until firm and golden brown on top.  Serves 12.

For cornbread:  You don’t want to use a sweet cornbread in this recipe.  Here is an easy, quick recipe.  

Preheat oven to 475.  Put 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a small cast iron skillet and place in the hot oven to preheat.  In a medium bowl, stir together 2 cups self-rising white cornmeal mix,  2 cups buttermilk , 1 beaten egg and 1/4 cup vegetable oil.  Just mix it quickly…ok if there are lumps.  Carefully pour batter into hot skillet and bake until golden brown.

Concerning dried sage:  Check the expiration date and smell for freshness.  Some of us find that our dried sage was left over from Thanksgivings past and is nothing more than a flavorless dust!

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Cast Iron Spicy Salmon with Parmesan Grits

 

creole salmon with parmesan grits 2Did you know that grits go with everything?  Really, they do.  Grits and Shrimp…no brainer.  Grits and Chicken…yum!  I’ve even had Grits ‘n Mussels at a restaurant in Augusta, GA.  Name any protein or vegetable. Now imagine it with grits.   See what I mean?  Grits make everything just a little bit better and this spicy salmon dish is no exception.

I’m using regular Quaker Grits in this recipe so that the whole dish can come together in about 20 minutes for an easy weeknight supper.  And you will have lots of the spice mix left over ready to add tons of flavor to most any seafood, poultry or meat. (This is a nice, well-balanced spicy rub.  Add more cayenne if you like it hot hot!)

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4 pieces of fresh salmon

spice mix (see below)

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup Quaker Old Fashioned White Grits

1 cup milk

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 small slivers of butter for garnish

1 green onion, thinly sliced for garnish

Check salmon for pin bones and remove if necessary.  Sprinkle salmon generously on both sides with spice rub.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.

In a medium sauce pan, bring the water and salt to a boil.  Add grits and stir well.  Lower heat to a simmer.  After 5 minutes, add milk and continue to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until grits and tender, 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the Parmesan cheese.  Stir well and let rest in the saucepan while you cook the salmon.

Heat a well seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat.  Coat the surface with the olive oil.  Sear salmon steaks until dark golden  brown on each side then lower heat to medium high and cook until just barely translucent in the center, or to your liking.  Timing will depend on the thickness of your salmon but it shouldn’t take more than 5-6 minutes.

Spoon grits into individual serving plates or bowls and top with salmon.  Garnish with a small sliver of butter and a sprinkle of green onions and serve.  Makes 4 servings.  (with extra spice rub that you will be happy to have around!)

For the Spice Mix

1 tablespoon white pepper

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon black pepper

5 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tablespoon dried thyme

3 tablespoons sea salt

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Store extra in a small jar.

 

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Chocolate Fudge Pie with Salted Caramel Pecans

 

Chocolate Pecan Pie 1When a friend showed me this pie on the cover of Southern Living recently, I knew that we had to try it and the results were quite spectacular.   We made a couple of minor changes (improvements, dare I say).

First of all, the name…this is actually a chocolate pie with pecans on top. The original name “Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie” leaves one expecting a more traditional pecan pie filling.

Secondly, we didn’t care for the lemon juice in the caramel of the original recipe .… gave  it a curious taste,  so we tossed it and made it again without.  (very quick process, don’t be afraid of the caramel!)

Thirdly, the recipe calls for a deep dish pie crust. But please don’t use the frozen ones in the disposable tins.  It is almost as easy to use the Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts and set it in your own pie plate and crimp the edged for a more homemade look.

One more note…if you want to make sure to have gorgeous pecans for your pie, order these  Natural Extra Fancy Mammoth Pecan Halves from Sunnyland Farms.  They are amazing!  We ordered the large economical box and split it up so we will both have fresh pecans in the freezer year round.

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Chocolate Filling

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 large eggs

1 cup toasted chopped pecans

1 Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust

Salted Caramel topping

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups toasted pecan halves

flakey salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Unroll pie crust and set into a deep pie dish and crimp the edges decoratively.  In a large bowl, stir together the first 6 ingredients of the filling.  Add the eggs and stir until well blended.  Fold in the chopped pecans and pour the filling mixture into the pie shell.

Bake for 35 minutes.  The filling may still seem a bit loose just in the center but will continue to set as it cools.

For the caramel, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over hight heat.  Do not stir.  Boil until sugar begins to change color and then swirl the pot to “stir”.  Do not walk away from the pot at this point because the sugar can go from just right to burnt very quickly.  The whole process will take about 6-8 minutes.  When it is a dark amber color, remover from heat and immediately stir in the cream and butter and salt. Set aside to cool slightly.

Arrange the toasted pecan halves on top of the cooled pie then drizzle all over with the caramel sauce.  Sprinkle with the flakey salt and let cool before serving. (serves 8)

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Main Course Spinach Salad with Prosciutto, Cannellini, and a Maple Vinaigrette

 

Spinach Salad with Cannellini and a Maple Vinaigrette

Spinach Salad with Cannellini and a Maple Vinaigrette

I love the way proscuitto changes when it is slightly warmed.  It loses the waxy texture and it’s salty flavor is intensified.  Try it in this excellent main course salad; one that can easily come together in 10-15 minutes if you have the pantry ingredients on hand.  A warm fire, a glass of Chianti and this salad are a heavenly combination!

Main Course Spinach Salad with Prosciutto, Cannellini, and a Maple Vinaigrette

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 1 bunch baby spinach (about 6 cups, stemmed)
  • 1 can cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 Small red onion (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4oz thinly sliced prosciutto (cut into ribbons)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

Note

If you are a Costco shopper, that is where you should get your prosciutto and pine nuts….good quality and best value around for these pricey ingredients.

Directions

1. In a small bowl, whisk vinaigrette ingredients together until blended. Place spinach, cannellini beans and red onion in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette and toss.
2. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and stir until fragrant, about a minute, then add the prosciutto and stir constantly, separating the ribbons, until it is warmed through, about 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let this mixture cool slightly before adding it to the salad and tossing to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

 

 

Banana Scones with Spiced Pecan Glaze

 

banana scones with pecan spice glaze 3Here’s the thing about scones.  You can’t just go throwing in extra ingredients willy-nilly to create different flavors.  You’ll throw off the proportions and end up with a dry and cakey mess.  So in creating this new version of my favorite tea-time treat, I’ve carefully pureed a couple of very ripe bananas into the cream before mixing the dough, and then added extra layers of flavor by spicing up the glaze with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.  And to top it off, the pecans have been toasted in a bit of butter, salt and brown sugar for amazing taste and texture.

Banana Scones with Spiced Pecan Glaze

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (cut into pieces)
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • a couple of teaspoons milk or cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
For the scones
2. In a Pyrex measuring cup, thoroughly mash the bananas then add cream and vanilla and stir well.  This mixture should total 1 1/2 cups.  Set aside.  Whisk dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and sugar) together in a medium bowl.  Add the butter to the flour mixture and cut it in, either with a pastry fork, two table knives, or your fingers, until the butter is in small pieces (about the size of a pea) and the mixture is crumbly.  Make a well in the center of the flour/butter mixture and pour in the cream/bananas.  Using a fork, gradually work the wet and dry ingredients together to form a dough.  This will not be a wet dough so resist the temptation to add more cream.  As soon as the dough starts to come together, dump it out on a clean surface and begin to pat it out into a rectangle, about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Be careful not to overwork the dough.  Cut the rectangle in half width-wise, then cut each of those pieces into 4 squares, then cut each square into 2 triangles.  Transfer triangles to the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until puffed and just lightly brown around the edges.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Toast the pecans
3. Toast the pecans:  In a small skillet, melt the butter and add the pecan, salt and brown sugar.  Stir constantly for several minutes until pecans are warmed through and sugar is melted.  Remove from skillet and let cool.
Make the glaze
4. Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl and add the milk or cream one teaspoon at a time until you get a thick glaze.  Stir in spices and set aside until scones are completely cooled.

When scones have cooled completely, use a table fork to drizzle glaze over each one and sprinkle generously with the pecans.  Let glaze dry before serving.  Makes 32 small scones.

 

 

End-of-the-Summer Tomato Bread Salad with Peppers and Black Olives

 

Tomato Bread Salad 2-2This salad is a combination of inspiration from the excellent dinner party thrown by Outstanding in the Field and a recipe in the founder’s book, Outstanding in the field, a farm to table cookbook, by Jim Deneven and Marah Stets.  I love the sweet roasted yellow peppers and fresh juicy tomatoes with the salty cured black olives and capers.  And the bread soaks in all the flavors of the simple vinaigrette to make this a hearty salad that you can make a meal out of. Adjust the amounts of the different ingredients to suit your taste…mine has a bit less bread and a bit more of everything else!

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1 Loaf Italian country bread, crusts removed and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 yellow bell peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled and cut into 1 inch squares (see note below)

1 pound ripe, juicy tomatoes

1 medium cucumber (I used watermelon gherkins)

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup dry cured black olives, halved and pitted

2 handfuls baby arugula

2 teaspoons anchovy paste

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Toast the bread cubes until they are dried out all over, about 10 minutes. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the cores and seeds.  Cut them into 1/2 inch cubes.  Peel, half, and seed the cucumber.  Cut into 1/4 inch slices

In a large bowl, combine the bread, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, capers, and olives.  Toss together until well combined,  In a small bowl, whisk together the anchovy pastes, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and toss well (you may not need all the dressing) .  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Let the salad sit for 15 minutes or so to let the bread soak in the vinaigrette.  (the chef suggests 3 hours, which is probably more traditional, but I like this best when the bread has soaked in the flavors yet still retains a bit of crunch around the edges).  Tear the basil leaves and add them to the salad just before serving.   Serves 6-8

NOTE:  To roast peppers:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees, roast whole peppers on a baking sheet until black and blistered all over.  Remove to a paper bag, close and let rest 15 minutes to steam themselves.  At this point you will be able to peel, core and seed them quite easily.

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Outstanding in the Field…and an End-of-the-Summer Tomato Bread Salad

IMG_3695If you want to spend an evening celebrating local farm to table cuisine, there is no better way than to attend  an Outstanding in the Field dinner party.  Sign up early….some of the venues sell out fast!  Get on the email list and be ready when they announce the new season.  Founder and Chef Jim Deneven and his trusted crew travel the country with the mission of reconnecting diners to the land and to the origins of their food.  Please enjoy some photos from last nights dinner at the beautiful and impressive Free Union Grass Farm just outside of Charlottesville, VA and then scroll down for a lovely recipe inspired by the event.

Thank you to Erica Hellen and Joel Siezak of Free Union Grass Farm, Ian Boden of Glass Haus Kitchen and the OITF crew for a memorable evening out in the field.

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Accommodations for the traveling crew

First a Tour of the Farm

First a Tour of the Farm

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“Sweet Face” a White British/Angus Mix

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The guests make their way back to the table

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Duck Breasts on the grill

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Finding a seat at the table

OITF 6

Getting to know our table-mates

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Duck Mole Bolognaise with Grits and Toasted Peanuts

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Local wines and fresh brewed beers paired with each course

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The talented chefs tour the table after dinner to enthusiastic applause

Tomato Bread Salad 2-2

End of the Summer Tomato Bread Salad with Peppers and Olives
(Please click on photo for recipe)

Brussels Sprout Barbecue Chips

sprouts

Looking for a new nibble to serve at cocktail hour? Separating the leaves is a bit tedious, I’ll admit, but it can be done well in advance.  A quick flash fry and you’ll have an irresistible treat that will be the talk of the party.
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Vegetable oil for frying

1 pound Brussels sprouts

Your favorite barbecue seasoning, to taste (I use 2 Brothers Original Seasoning)

Trim the base of each sprout and gently pull away the leaves, stopping when they become too small and tight…discard the very interior bits.  Dry the leaves with a paper towel.

Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet or saucepan over high heat. (my wok works well) Test the oil temperature with a sprout leaf…it should sizzle immediately.  Fry the leaves, in batches, for 2 minutes, or until golden and crunchy.  Drain on paper towels and season with barbecue seasoning to taste while still hot.   Let cool slightly before serving.

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Watermelon Salad with Lemon and Mint

Watermelon with Lemon and Mint

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  (Leonardo Da Vinci)  Thanks to my good friend Liz Morten at Dovecote Decor for tipping me off to the magical combination of  watermelon, lemon and mint.  Go heavy on the lemon…juice and zest.  Add mint according to your own tastes…gobs of whole  leaves or tiny slivers throughout, and watch a simple bowl of watermelon become positively addictive.

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4-6 cups fresh, chilled watermelon, cubed

1 large, juicy lemon…zest and juice

fresh mint to taste

Toss all ingredients together and keep chilled until ready to serve…garnish with lemon and mint.

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Magnolia’s Charleston Crabcakes

Magnolia's Grill CrabcakesAs this is the 4th crab cake recipe I have posted to The Right Recipe, I should offer a quick run-down.  If you need to make crab cakes for a crowd, try the Oven Baked Crab Cakes with Two Dipping Sauces.  For an Asian twist, you can’t beat Spicy Asian Crab Cakes.  For an elegant and impressive sandwich, turn to Daniel Bouloud’s Crab Cake Sandwich.

Now to the crab cakes at hand.  These are from Magnolia’s, a fixture on Old Bay Street in Charleston, SC.  The recipe was published in Magnolia’s Authentic Southern Cuisine by Donald Barickman. They have a lovely balance of flavors and are simply chock-full of crab…the way all crab cakes should be.  I especially love the preparation technique (see photo below) because you can put them together hours in advance and you’ll  have slice-and-bake crab cakes at a moments notice.

Magnolia’s Charleston Crabcakes

Serves 4
By author Margaret @ The Right Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup minced red onions
  • 1/3 cup minced red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
  • 1/3 cup mayonaise
  • 1lb lump or jumbo lump crabmeat (picked over for shells and drained of any liquid)
  • 3/4 cups panko (You can cut this back to 1/2 cup, as I do, if you are willing to be very gentle turning the cakes as they will be fragile…I think that it is worth it.)
  • 2 teaspoons salt or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

1. Place onions, bell pepper, tarragon and mayonnaise in a mixing bowl and combine. Gently fold in the crabmeat. Add the panko and season with salt, white pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes. The panko will absorb some of the moisture and the mixture will stay together.
2. Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap on a clean counter surface. Place half of the crab mixture on it and use a spatula or a spoon to form it into a tube about 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Bring the wrap up over the crab and roll the crab mixture up. Twist the ends to close. Pierce any air pockets with a toothpick or skewer. Twist the ends even tighter to compress the crab mixture. Tuck under the ends of the wrap and place the tube on a plate. Repeat with the second half of the crab cake mixture. Place the tubes in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
When ready to cook:
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the tubes of crabmeat into 1 1/4-inch-thick cakes. Gently remove the plastic wrap, leaving the cakes in nice cylinders.
4. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan (non-stick works well here) over medium-high heat until very hot, but not smoking. Gently place 4 of the crab cakes in the pan and sear for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Gently turn the cakes over and sear the other side until golden brown. Place them on a baking sheet and into the oven to keep warm. Wipe the pan, add the remaining olive oil and repeat this process for the other 4 crab cakes. (If you have a big enough pan, you can cook 6 or 8 of them at the same time and skip the warming oven, but the cakes need room to sear properly and be turned so be careful not to crowd the pan)

 

crabcake rolls

 

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Black Peppercorns and Rosemary

 

 

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Black Peppercorn Rosemary MarinadeUse this quick and easy marinade and you will almost feel like you are eating a luxurious beef filet instead of a simple pork tenderloin.  If you love the warm, gentle spice of black peppercorns as I do, you will turn to this recipe for casual week-night suppers and elegant dinner parties alike. Adapted from Grilling, Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor by Eric Treuille and Birgit Erath.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Black Peppercorns and Rosemary

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 pork tenderloins
  • salt
  • 4 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

1. Trim the pork tenderloins, taking care to remove all silver skin, then sprinkle lightly with salt on all sides. Place the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse to a coarse paste. Rub the paste over the tenderloins, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or more. Preheat grill to medium high and grill for 15-20 minutes (depending on the size) or until just barely pink in the center. Let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

 

Leaping Frog Chicken

Leaping Frog Chicken“Every so often a recipe comes along that will change your life”  These are the words from Jane Daniels Lear that convinced me to try this recipe from Gourmet magazine (June 2009). The combination of garlic, lemon and smoked paprika make a killer marinade and the method of opening up and flattening a whole chicken is much easier than the traditional spatchcocking, or cutting out the backbone.  Give it a try over Labor Day Weekend and you will not be sorry!  Here is a link to the chicken prep procedure with detailed photos.  How to flatten a chicken for the grill.

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  • 2 chickens (about 3 1/2 lb each)
  • 16 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 tablespoons Argentinean ají molido or hot smoked paprika (pimentón picante)
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 lemons, each cut into 6 rounds

CUT CHICKENS:

  • Discard any visible fat from chickens. Rinse chickens and pat dry. Put 1 chicken, breast up, on a cutting board. Pull 1 leg away from body and with a sharp knife cut through skin between leg and breast until you hit joint (do not cut through joint). With your fingers behind joint, bend leg back until joint pops. Repeat with other leg. With kitchen shears, cut through rib bones (starting from thigh) on both sides of breast up to, but not through, shoulder joints. Open chicken, skin side up. Press on breastbone to crack and flatten with heel of your hand. Repeat with second chicken.

MARINATE CHICKENS:

  • Purée garlic with 1/4 cup oil, paprika, oregano, cumin, allspice, 2 Tbsp salt (preferably fine sea salt), and 2 tsp pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  • Stir together 1 Tbsp marinade and remaining 2 Tbsp oil in a small bowl and reserve, chilled, for basting.
  • Put chickens in a large 4-sided sheet pan. Using a few lemon slices as spreaders, rub some of marinade all over chickens, then stuff lemon slices with remaining marinade under skin of breasts and thighs. Marinate, chilled, at least 8 hours (and up to 12).

GRILL CHICKENS:

  • Prepare grill for indirect-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas)
  • Oil grill rack, then grill chickens directly over coals, turning once (more if flare-ups occur), until browned, about 5 minutes total. Move chickens to area of grill with no coals underneath (for gas, turn off 2 burners if necessary and turn remaining burner on high) and grill, covered, turning occasionally and basting with reserved marinade mixture, until chickens are cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes (do not baste during last 5 minutes; discard any leftover basting sauce). Add more charcoal as necessary. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.

Leaping Frog Chicken (on grill)

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“Real South” Salted Caramel Cupcakes

 

 

Real South Salted Caramel Cupcakes-2For years, I’ve wanted to master the perfect Southern Caramel Cake.  Betty Irving, who makes the best caramel cake in West Point, Mississippi, won’t give me her recipe.  She just tells me that the secret is the heavy cream.  And the decade that we spent in the Chicago area was virtually caramel cake-less due to the fact that it just didn’t exist in that part of the country.  What fun it was to discover, upon arrival in Winston-Salem, NC, that  I could order a delicious three-tiered caramel cake from Cherries Cafe in Lewisville any time we wanted.  So that’s what we did for birthdays and special occasions until 2006 when Cherries Cafe published a book of recipes that included Ollie’s Caramel Cake.  Hurrah!  Problem solved, right?  Not so fast… Here is what it says at the bottom of the page, “Note: This is a great old-fashioned cake but a bit difficult to make.”  My attempts were tasty enough…. but sloppy and lopsided, real “cake wrecks” if you will.

The recipe below is my solution for satisfying the caramel cake lovers in our family and it has been a huge success.  I use a tried and true yellow cupcake recipe formula from noted pastry chef Gail Gand, the caramel icing recipe from Cherries Cafe Secrets, and a healthy pinch of flakey sea salt which takes this desert to a whole new level.  Cupcakes, being infinitely easier to frost with the warm, candy-like icing, were the answer.  Now we have a family argument over how many cupcakes constitute a serving.  I say one, and I’m confident that I am correct.  Others insist that 2 cupcakes equal one slice of a traditional layered cake.  You be the judge.

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Serves 24
By author Margaret @ The Right Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (softened)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk (room temperature)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a mixer fitter with the whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add the sugar and continue to whip. Add the vanilla and gradually mix in the eggs, one by one, until well combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk and ending with the dry ingredients.
3. Pour the batter in to the prepared pan, filling each slot three-quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cupcakes are puffed, firm in the center , and light golden brown on top. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack.

Icing for Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Serves 24
By author Margaret @ The Right Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 16 ounce package brown sugar
  • 1 16 ounce package confectioners sugar
  • flakey sea salt, such as Maldon

Directions

Make the icing
1. Bring the butter, cream and brown sugar to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes or until thickened and the sugar is dissolved, stirring often. Add vanilla. Pour carefull into a large bowl and add the sifted confectioners’ sugar immediately. Beat until creamy and smooth. Let the icing cool slightly.
To frost the cupcakes
2. Remove the cupcakes from the pan.The icing should still be warm but firm enough to just barely drip over the edges. Do a test on one cupcake and when it is the right consistency, go ahead and frost all the cupcakes fairly quickly before the icing hardens. (a small off-set spatula works well here) Sprinkle each with a healthy pinch of the flakey sea salt as you go so it will adhere to the wet icing. Let icing set before serving.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Tomato Salad and Coconut Sauce

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Coconut Sauce and Tomato Salad

Last week, with sweet summer tomatoes lining my kitchen windowsill, I rediscovered a favorite dish from a few summers ago.  Tyler Florence introduced me to this amazing flavor combination and I’ve just tweeked it a bit to accommodate my pantry staples and simplify the steps.  The original recipe can be found in Tyler’s Ultimate, a very reliable recipe source.  Here’s a link… check it out  if you have fresh lemongrass and fresh coconut on hand. Original Recipe.

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For the Pork:

2 pork tenderloins, trimmed

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1/2 lime

 

For the Chile-Coconut Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

zest of one lemon

1 hot red chile, cut into rounds (or sub crushed red chile flakes, about 1/4 teaspoon)

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1 can unsweetened coconut milk (not “lite”)

1 teaspoon sugar

juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon asian fish sauce

salt and pepper to taste

 

For the Salad:

2 pounds fresh heirloom tomatoes, cut into big chunks

1/2 small red onion, slivered

leaves from 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro

handful of fresh mint leaves

salt and pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil

2 scallions, trimmed and chopped

 

1.  Marinate the pork:  Put the pork on a platter and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Add the olive oil and lime juice and turn to coat the pork. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator.

2.  Make the sauce:  Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the ginger, garlic, lemon zest, chile and chopped cilantro and cook to soften, about 3 minutes.  Add the coconut milk and sugar and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Squeeze in lime juice and season with the fish sauce, salt and pepper.  Cool to room temperature.

3.  Make the salad:  In a big bowl, toss together the tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, mint, and salt and pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil and fold in the scallions.

4.  Grill the pork:  Grill the pork over high heat until crusty brown on all sides and just cooked through, 10-15 minutes.

5.  To serve:  Slice the pork and add it to the bowl with the tomato salad.  Pour over the chile-coconut sauce and toss it all together.  Serves 4-6