Sunday, July 20, 2014

Scenes from my Pantry: Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima beans, and Onions

We have been trying to eat down the refrigerator and pantry this past week.  Made a delicious summer succotash with lima beans, corn, onion, garlic, and garden tomatoes.  I am reminded how much better my body would feel if I ate simple, healthy dishes like this one more often.

Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima Beans, Tomatoes and Onions
Makes 6 Servings
Recipe from Epicurious

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onions
Coarse kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups chopped red tomatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds)
2-1/4 cups corn kernels cut from 4 ears of corn ( preferabley 2 ears of white corn, 2 ears of yellow corn)
2 cups fresh lima beans or 10-11 ounces of frozen lima beans or baby butter beans, thawed
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Saute until  soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, corn, and lima beans.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover,  and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve.  

Note: Can be done 1 day ahead.  Cover and chill. Rewarm and serve.


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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Savoring the Season: Summer Berry Bread Puddings

This is a summer bread pudding that is dressed to impress.  There is nothing complicated here.  The season's berries are peaking and they steal the show here in this easy to prepare bread pudding.

You may want to skip the main entree and go right to dessert

Berry Bread Puddings
Serves 8
Recipe from Epicurious

8 cups of bread, cubed or torn into 1-1/2-inch pieces
4 cups mixed berries, such as blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, or blueberry (in any combination)
8 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 cups half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Prepare eight invidiual soufflé  ups ( 1-cup capacity) with cooking spray.  In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the berries to distribute evenly.  In another bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk or electric mixer on low speed until frothy.  Add the sugar and beat until well blended.  Add the half and half, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg and continue beating on low speed until well blended.  Fill soufflé cups with bread and berry mixture, mounding it a bit on top.  Pour egg mixture over the bread and berries, filling evenly to the rim.

Place the soufflé cups in a large ovenproof baking dish and pour boiling water into the dish until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the soufflé cups.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick placed in the center of the puddings comes out clean.  remove from oven and allow to cool.  These can be made one day ahead; simply refrigerate overnight and serve at room temperature.  Just before serving, dust each top with powdered sugar.

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sunday Supper: Good Old Fashioned Fried Chicken

There is no rhyme or reason, why southern comfort foods have recently taken up residence in my head, it started with peach cobbler and now….well, it has drifted off to fried chicken.  

Maybe it is the sizzling sound, the crispy skin or maybe it is the comfort of the flavorful fat.

I needed a good old fashioned basic recipe-nothing complicated.  My sister said, to check with dad, he has a good fried chicken recipe that he makes in his cast-iron skillet, and finishes it off in the oven.

The finished dish has taken aspects of what I have been told is my dad's recipe and added a twist and a turn of my own.  A twist, soaking the chicken in buttermilk really adds to the level of moisture.  The turn, skipped the finishing off in the oven, mostly, because I am lazy.

The result. Easy and uncomplicated. My dad if he tasted it,  I think he would say it was pretty good.

Old Fashioned Fried Chicken
Serves 4-6

8-10 pieces chicken
1 cup self rising flour
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. ground black pepper
1-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
2 cups buttermilk
Oil for frying (peanut, vegetable or canola works fine)

1.  Place chicken pieces in a plastic container and cover with buttermilk.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2.  Drain chicken in a colander.

3.  Place first six ingredients in a ziploc or other plastic bag (flour through paprika).  Shake to blend.

4.  Dredge chicken in seasoned flour and shake off excess.  Place floured chicken pieces on a cookie sheet.

5.  Add enough oil to create about 1/2-inch in a large skillet (cast iron works best).  Heat oil to 325 degrees.

6.  Place chicken skin side down into pan.  Cook chicken untl golden brown about 10-12 minutes per side. 

7.  Drain chicken on a sheet pan with a rack.  Season with salt while hot.  

Serve and enjoy!

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Savoring the Season: Roasting and Preserving Paste Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a funny thing.  If you enjoy tomatoes then you are easily lured into growing them.  It can be a rewarding experience, or not.  You will surely learn to share your bounty with Mother Nature and all her friends (BUGS and WORMS).  Last season I was on a kick to preserve my tomato bounty without any regard to the varieties being grown in my garden. What is a "duh" moment now alluded me last season.  Are you ready?  Paste tomato varieties are meaty and flavorful.  More importantly they really stand up to roasting.

Fast forward to this season.  I decide to select a variety of tomatoes that include a small paste tomato called Gilberte and the famous Italian variety San Marzano which is considered to be one of the world's best sauce tomatoes.  A glass of wine in hand, it is time to jump online and head over to my favorite seed company High-Mowing and order up my first ever tomato seeds. For the first time I have grown my own tomato seedlings and have close to 40 seedlings that need to be transplanted.  This where my husband rolls his eyes…..I am the only one in the family who enjoys tomatoes.  Go figure!

The first harvest is the small and hearty Gilberte paste tomatoes with a couple Tequila Sunrise peppers thrown in for show.

Halved, with fresh garden onions, garlic and a couple of garden peppers.  Seasoned with basil, oregano, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper and then tossed with olive oil.  Roasted in a pan at 450 degrees for about 30-40 minutes.

Yields pure heaven 

Ready to be processed in a blender.  Served hot wth good pasta or put into freezer bags to be enjoyed long after the season is over.  Can you guess which one I did?

My San Marzano tomatoes are just ripening.  I will let you know how they work out.
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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Easy Southern Peach Cobbler

Cobblers hands down are one my favorite desserts.   On any given occasion that calls for baking or dessert making,  I leave the task to my husband who can without a doubt work his magic in the kitchen.  This time was different I needed a peach cobbler recipe to call my own.  The journey began with exchanging ideas with friends and co-workers, then there was the endless streams of You Tube Videos, recipe sites and blog posts.  Did I mention the numerous recipe attempts in my kitchen that were failures? Oh, those too.  What was clear, is there are a MILLION delicious ways to prepare a peach cobbler.  

After several attempts with no success, I came across a basic recipe for peach cobbler and with a little improvising (buttermilk for milk, the addition of cinnamon and vanilla) turned out to be a delicious version that I can proudly call my own with "Easy to prepare"  being the key phrase.

Southern Peach Cobbler
Serves 6-8
Recipe adapted from

1/2 cup butter (1 stick) 
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup self-rising flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (29 ounce) can sliced peaches in light syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F ( 175 degrees C).  Place butter in a deep 2 quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.

In a medium bowl, mix sugar and flour.  Stir in buttermilk, a little at a tme, until mixed well.  Add vanilla and cinnamon. Stir again until just mixed.  Pour carefully over melted butter in dish. DO NOT STIR.  Spoon peaches and syrup over batter.

Bake in oven 40 to 45 minutes, or until crust is puffed and golden.


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Monday, May 26, 2014

Chili Rubbed Shrimp Tacos with Pico De Gallo and Cilantro-Lime Crema

Let's Get This Party Started!

Friends open up the windows, invite your family and friends, turn the music up loud, fill the ice chest with cold beer, locate a good porch wine, or better yet shake up a cocktail, it is officially BBQ season (or inside grill pan season). 

This is an easy to put together three-part recipe which includes a fresh pico de gallo, fresh shrimp marinated in a spice rub (ancho chile, garlic salt, coriander, oregano, cumin, and fresh ground black pepper) and a cilantro-lime crema sauce.  You can use flour tortillas or more authenic corn tortillas for a top notch warm weather meal.


Easily prepared on top of the stove in a grill pan

Chili Rubbed Shrimp Tacos with Pico De Gallo and Cilantro-Lime Crema
Serves 4
Recipe from Publix Aprons Cooking School

1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

16 jumbo shrimp (about 1-1/2 pounds), peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 soft corn or flour tortillas

Add first 6 ingredients to a medium bowl, and toss to combine.  Cover and chill until ready to serve.  Can be made 4 hours ahead.

Rinse shrimp under cold running water, then blot them dry with paper towels.

Place chile powder, garlic salt, coriander, oregano, cumin, and pepper in a mixing bowl and whisk to mix.  Add shrimp and toss to coat.  Stir in olive oil.  Let shrimp marinate in refrigerator, covered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat a grill pan to high on medium-high heat.  When ready to cook, lightly oil ridges of grill pan.  Place marinated shrimp on hot grill pan and cook 2-3 minutes per side.  When done, shrimp will turn pinkish white and will feel firm to the touch.

Preheat oven to 300F.  Wrap tortillas in foil, about 15 minutes before serving, place tortillas in oven to warm.

On each plate, place one warm tortilla and top with 4 shrimp and desired amount of Pico De Gallo and cilantro lime creme (recipe follows).

Cilantro-Lime Crema

1/4 cup green onions, rough chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, rough chopped
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Blueberry Cobbler with Brown Sugar-Whipped Cream

 One of my very favorite things in the world to eat is fruit cobblers.

Did you know that cobblers are a distinctly American deep-dish dessert ?  Early American settlers did not consider fruit cobblers dessert? Cobblers were often served for breakfast, and it was not uncommon to serve them as a main course.  It was not until the late 19th century that they became primairly desserts.  What happened to the good old days?

A couple of pounds of blueberries, a little sugar, lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of flour and you got a rock n roll filling to lay under those fresh made biscuit tops.

Blueberry Cobbler with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream
Serves 8
Recipe from Bobby Flay


For the Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
3/4 cup light cream, plus 2 tablespoons to brush on top of biscuits
1 large egg
2 tablespoons turbinado or raw sugar or 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

For the Cobbler

3 pints fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream, very cold
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the Biscuits

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheetw ith parchment paper or non-stick baking mats, or use a non-stick cookie sheet.

2.  Sift together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Cut the butter into the flour mixture, rubbing them together with your fingers or pastry cutter, until the mixture is crumbly and sandy.  Whisk the 3/4 cup cream and egg together; add to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together.

3.  Roll or pat dough out 1/2-inch thick on  alightly floured surface.  using a biscuit or cookie cutter, cut into eight 2-inch circles.  Transfer to the prepared cookie sheet.  Brush the tops with cream, sprinkle with turbinado sugar, bake until barely colden brown and still undercooked, 10 to 12 minutes. ( The biscuits can be made up to this point a day in advance.  Let cool and store in airtight container.)

For the Cobbler

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter a 9-inch square baking dish.

2.  Mix together the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and flour in a large bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

3.  Pour the mixture into he prepared dish, arrange the biscuits on top, and place the baking dish in the oven (put a rimmed baking sheet on a lower rack to catch any overflow.)  Bake until the mixture begins to bubble and the biscuits are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

4.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

For the Whipped Cream

1.  Whip up all he ingredients together until soft peaks form.  Spoon the cobbler into bowls and top with whipped cream.

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