In the mood for a Dip!

I’ll be heading to Mississippi for a family reunion this week…three days of visitin’, playin’ and eatin’.  I see “catfish n’ fixins” on the itinerary as well as picnics and barbecues so I think I’d better step away from this computer and get in some serious exercise in preparation. Today I offer three great chip and dip combinations that should cover the bases for any type of 4th of July celebration that you may be hosting this year.

Barbecue Potato Chips with Peppered Feta Dip

I find this combination of flavors positively addictive! The dip is best at room temperature and I think that Cape Cod brand BBQ potato chips work really well as they are nice and sturdy and won’t crumble into the dip. I cut this recipe out of a magazine several years ago and didn’t note the source.  My apologies to the creator.
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise, or plain yogurt
1/2 cup pickled peppers (pepperoncini and/or Sweet red cherry peppers) sliced (see note)
1/4 cup scallions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Coarse ground black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
BBQ potato chips
Blend feta, cream cheese, and mayonnaise in a food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl periodically.  Transfer to a mixing bowl,
Fold in peppers, scallions, lemon zest, and pepper.  Transfer to a serving dish and chill at least 1 hour to let flavors develop.  Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.  Drizzle dip with oil and garnish with additional pepper.  Serve with BBQ potato chips.
note: I’ve used both types of pickled peppers in the recipe and while both are good, I prefer the red.  In the photo I used Peppadew Mild whole sweet Piquante peppers.

Marie’s Herbed Cottage Cheese Dip

Sometimes it is nice to have a healthy, no guilt, option.  Especially on a weekend that is sure to be full of hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue and all those “fixins”.  This dip is light, clean tasting, and chock full of vegetables and fresh herbs.  I’ve served it here with carrots and pretzel chips but it is also good with others vegetable crudities or pita bread. This recipe is from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table.

2 cups cottage cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and cup into tiny dice
2 small cucumbers, peeled and cut into tiny dice
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into tiny dice (optional)

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Serve.


Tuna Ceviche with Avocado and Cilantro


This lovely little dip is elegant in its simplicity yet casual enough for any barbecue.  It is from the July 2001 issue of Food and Wine magazine and is offered as an example of what one might find around the southern tip of Baja.  In the photos here, I have minced the red onion instead of slicing it and I also doubled the amount of avocado.
1 pound Sushi grade tuna
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 5 limes)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large Hass avocado, cut into 1/3 inch dice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
tortilla chips for serving
Cut the tuna into slices, 1/4 inch thick.  Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap.  Arrange the tuna slices in a single layer on the baking sheet and freeze until fairly firm, about 15 minutes.
Stack the slices of tie using a very sharp chef’s knife, cut the tuna into meat 1/4 inch cubes.  Transfer the cubed tuna to a medium glass or ceramic bowl and stir in the red onion, lime juice and black pepper.  Cover the tuna with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, stirring gently with a plastic spatula every 15 to 20 minutes (the diced tuna will change color slightly as the lime juice “cooks” it)
Just before serving, gently fold in the diced avocado and chopped cilantro and season with salt.  Transfer the ceviche to a bowl , garnish with cilantro and serve with tortilla chips.

In the mood for Shrimp…hot off the grill!

It’s 95 degrees here in North Carolina today…seems more like August than June…. so I thought that I would share some favorite grilled shrimp recipes. Shrimp is the perfect protein for a hot summer supper.  The kitchen will stay cool and you will only have to stand over the hot grill for 5 minutes or so.

I prefer to buy shrimp at the fish market, and mine will peel and devein them for me if I call them and order in advance.  They charge an extra dollar per pound but it’s worth it.  If I buy shrimp a grocery store, I always peel and devein it myself.  Most shrimp has been frozen at some point and the shell protects the meat. Other general guidelines:

Shrimp should be firm and have a full shell with white meat.  (Don’t hesitate to ask for a smell.  It is annoying to get home and open a package of shrimp and get that strong “shrimpy” smell.)  If there is the smell of ammonia then the shrimp is way past it’s prime.

Go ahead and buy frozen shrimp and defrost it yourself if the “fresh” shrimp at the market looks or smells tired.

Never buy shrimp with black spots or rings on the shell. (Unless it is Black Tiger Shrimp)

I actually have quite a few shrimp recipes for the grill, but these three are the best of the best.  Enjoy!


Spicy Grilled Jalapeno and Lime Shrimp

This recipe is from Cooks Country (June, 2007). You can adjust the amount of jalapeno according to your taste for heat.  Either way, these shrimp have a big burst of flavor that I love.
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
5 tablespoons lime juice
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1.  For the marinade: Process all ingredients in food processor until smooth.  Reserve 2 tablespoons marinade; transfer remaining marinade to medium bowl.
2.  For the shrimp:  Pat shrimp dry with paper towels and add to bowl with the marinade.  Toss to coat and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but not more than an hour. (after that, the lime juice will begin to “cook” the shrimp.)
3.  Heat grill on high.  Thread shrimp onto metal skewers and sprinkle one side of shrimp with sugar.  Grill shrimp sugar side down on the hot grill until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Flip skewers and cook another 1-2 minutes until just no longer translucent.  Using tongs, slide shrimp from the skewers into a medium bowl and toss with reserved marinade.  Sprinkle with minced cilantro and serve.
Serves 4.

Grilled Herb Shrimp

This has been my go-to shrimp recipe for years.  It comes from the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook and she mentions that it is a slight variation of the recipe in the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne. Kudos all around for such a winning recipe.  The Contessa serves it with a mango salsa which is very good.  I have tossed it with pasta, skewered it for appetizers, served it over grits, and mixed it into salads.  One of my favorite things about this dish is that it can marinate for as little as one hour and up to two days!  I have marinated pounds of shrimp, filled up big zip lock bags, set them on ice in a cooler and  travelled to the beach for a cookout.  The easiest way to cook them is to use long metal skewers.  But they can be grilled individually as well…it just takes a bit longer to get them all turned. I do use wooden skewers from time to time but they really can be a bother catching fire, etc.
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, small diced
1/4 minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried mustard
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup good olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
Combine the garlic, onion, parsley, basil, the mustards, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice.  Add the shrimp and allow them to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Prepare a charcoal grill with hot coals or preheat gas grill to high.  Clean the grill rack well and brush with oil to prevent sticking. Skewer the shrimp and grill for 1-2 minutes per side.  Serves 6

Crusty Grilled Shrimp with Soy-Sesame Sauce

When I first tried this recipe, I couldn’t quite see how it would work to grill breaded shrimp.  I thought that I might be in for a huge mess on the grill.  Well, it does leave a bit more mess than the other shrimp recipes I’m giving you but I promise that it is worth it.  I have never, ever, had one shrimp left over when serving this dish.   (These shrimp can also be broiled in the oven.  I suggest that you do a trial with one or two shrimp to determine the timing and the rack placement that works best with your oven.  I found that putting the rack in the middle of the oven and turning the shrimp once after 2 minutes worked best for having the breading crispy and brown and the shrimp cooked through all at the same time.) The recipe is from At Blanchard’s Table, by Bob and Melinda Blanchard.
1 pound large shrimp
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Prepare the grill.  Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on.  Using a small knife, butterfly the shrimp by slicing down the length of the inside of each. Be careful not to cut all the way through.  Spread and flatten the butterflied shrimp.
In a medium bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.  Put the bread crumb mixture in a pile on a cutting board.  Coat both side of the shrimp with the bread crumbs.
In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil together and set aside.
  Grill the shrimp on both sides until just done, about 4 minutes.  Drizzle with the soy-sesame sauce.  Serve immediately. Serves 5-6