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 which I make Asian Potstickers!

It seems to me that everyone loves Asian dumplings…especially pot stickers.  I don’t believe that I have ever managed to make too many.  I offer up the recipe all the time but rarely get any takers.  Most people say that they wouldn’t have the nerve to try to make something like this. But they are actually very easy and  quite fun to make!  So I have photo-documented the process for making two types of pot stickers just to prove my point.

Crab Pot Stickers with Sesame Ginger Dipping Sauce
This recipe from Gourmet Magazine is the easiest dumpling recipe I’ve ever tried.  It’s a great place to start if you’ve never worked with the wrappers before.  These wonderful little serving spoons are from CB2 .
For the dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root
2 1/2 teaspoons water
For the filling:
1 scallion
6 ounces jumbo lump crab meat
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root
12 gyoza wrappers, thawed
cornstarch for dusting
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Make the dipping sauce.
In a small bowl, whisk together all dipping sauce ingredients.
Chop scallion and pick over crab meat to remove any bits of shell and cartilage.  Break up any larger pieces of crab.
In a dry small skillet toast sesame seeds with a pinch of salt over moderate heat, stirring frequently until golden, about 2 minutes,  Transfer seeds to a medium bowl and cool slightly,  Add egg white and ginger root to seeds and lightly beat.  Gently stir in crab and scallion and season with salt and pepper.
These are the thin, round wrappers to use for pot stickers. (There are several good brands available) They can be found in the freezer section of any Asian market. Keep them in the package while defrosting so that they don't dry out.
These are the thin, round wrappers to use for pot stickers. (There are several good brands available) They can be found in the freezer section of any Asian market. Keep them in the package while defrosting so that they don’t dry out.



Defrosted wrappers, ready to be filled.
Place one wrapper on a flat surface.  Dip a finger in water and moisten the edges.
Place 1 tablespoon of the crab filling in the center of the wrapper. Then, using both hands, bring up the sides of the wrapper and gently pinch them towards each other. Let the filling show through at the top creating a shape like a draw string purse.
Place the filled pot stickers in a single layer on a baking tray dusted with corn starch. (If you are not going to cook them right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)
Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Place pot stickers in pan, giving them enough room so that they do not touch.  Let cook until bottoms are starting to turn golden (about one minute) then…
add 1/4 cup water and cover the pan immediately to allow the pot stickers to steam until cooked through, about 2 minutes.
Remove lid and cook until any remaining water is evaporated and the bottoms of the pot stickers are golden brown.
Serve with dipping sauce.  Makes 12. Recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc.

Family Favorite Pot Stickers

These are the dumplings that my kids have grown up on. Once you get the hang of the folding and pleating, they don’t take long at all to assemble.  And they freeze beautifully so go ahead and make a huge batch.  Then the next time you are in the mood for pot stickers, you can cook them straight from the freezer (just increase the steaming time by a minute or two).  Of course you can use almost any ground meat or chopped seafood in these.  We most often turn to the convenience and light healthy taste of freshly ground turkey breast meat and I often add other veggies such as minced water chestnuts or scallions.
For the dipping sauce:
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
1 teaspoon minced scallion
1 teaspoon minced red jalapeno, or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons water
In a small bowl, whisk all dipping sauce ingredients together and set aside.
For the filling:
1/2 pound ground turkey breast
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry or sake
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger root
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 cup coarsely grated carrot
2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper
In a small bowl, mix all filling ingredients together, gently but thoroughly.
36 gyoza wrappers
a couple of tablespoon of vegetable oil
low sodium chicken broth for steaming
To fill the dumplings, moisten the edge of a wrapper with water and put a scant tablespoon of filling in the center.  Fold wrapper in half to create a half moon shape and seal the dumpling by making little folds in the top edge.  The bottom of the pot sticker will be flat as seen below left.  And the top will be pleated as in photo below right.
Place filled pot stickers on cornstarch dusted baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not using immediately. Or to freeze, place whole baking sheet in the freezer until the dumplings are frozen solid then transfer to a zip lock freezer bag.
These pot stickers are cooked just like the crab pot stickers in the previous recipe but I like to use reduced sodium chicken broth for the steaming liquid instead of water.  So heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet and fry the dumplings (one layer, well spaced) until they begin to brown on the bottom.  Add about 1/4 cup chicken broth and cover immediately to steam for 2-3 minutes. Remove the cover and let any remaining broth evaporate.  The pot stickers are ready when they are well browned on the bottom and “stuck” to the pan. (not too stuck since you are using a non stick pan) Serve with dipping sauce.

In the mood for a Tea Party, Southern Style!

  Although you never need an excuse to have a tea party, this one has a special purpose.  The folks at Foodbuzz have joined forces with Kelly Confidential  to raise money for The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and are donating $50 for every tea party posted today.  And on Friday, these tea parties will be the subject of a Foodbuzz “Top 9 Takeover”!  Fun stuff… and all for a very important cause.  You too can help raise money by going to Kelly Confidential and simply voting for an outfit for Kelly to wear to her “virtual tea party”.
So welcome to my tea party….southern style!
 A southern style tea party needs iced sweet tea, of course!

Pimento Cheese, Tomato and Chive Finger Sandwiches

Two of the South’s favorite sandwiches in one.  How can something so simple be so sublime?  When I was little, I used to pick the slivers of red pimento out of my pimento cheese sandwich so I appreciated the version that my Aunt Caroline made in a blender. My version uses mild yellow cheddar and those wonderful sweet fire roasted red peppers that you find in a jar.  And although I no longer have an aversion to colorful specks in my food, I still like to blend my pimento cheese.  It just seems to take that lovely pimento flavor all throughout the spread.
For the pimento cheese:
1/3 pound mild cheddar
2 tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
several strips of roasted sweet red bell peppers (I use the equivalent of 1/2 of a med. red pepper)
Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding more mayo if needed to get to a nice consistency for spreading.
For the sandwiches:
Very Thin White Sandwich Bread (I use Pepperidge Farm)
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced very thinly
1 bunch fresh chives, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Stack the bread and trim it so that each piece is approximately 3×3 inches.  To construct a sandwich, spread one slice of bread with mayonnaise and top with one or two slices of tomato.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spread pimento cheese on second slice of bread and set that on top of the tomato.  Top with a third slice of bread and press slightly.  Wrap sandwich in plastic wrap until all sandwiches are assembled and you are ready to set your tray.
To serve:  Cut each sandwich twice on the diagonal to create 4 equal triangles.  Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise onto the long end, the “uncut” side, of the triangle and gently press this side into your minced fresh chives.  Repeat with remaining sandwiches and arrange on a platter.

Brown Sugar Shortbreads with Smashed Blackberries and Sweet Cream

Slightly sweet flaky biscuits slathered with smashed fresh blackberries and whipped cream…a southern take on the traditional British scones with jam and clotted cream. You can read our new article on baking classes.
For the shortbread:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1 cup heavy cream, plus 2 tablespoons for brushing tops of biscuits
coarse brown sugar for sprinkling (such as Sugar in the Raw or Demerara Sugar)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder sugar and salt.  Cut cold butter into small pieces and toss into the flour.  Then, with a pastry knife, two table knives, or your fingers, blend butter into flour mixture until it is the consistency of coarse crumbs.  Add the cream and stir quickly with a fork until flour is just moistened (do not over work the dough) then turn it onto a lightly floured surface and pat it gently to a thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Use a 2 inch round cookie cutter to cut out shortbreads and place them 1 inch apart onto baking sheet. Brush with additional heavy cream and sprinkle generously with coarse brown sugar.  Bake 12-14 minutes or until puffed and just lightly brown.  Remove from oven and cool.
For the berries and cream:
1 pint fresh blackberries
3/4 cup heavy cream
sugar to taste
Wash the blackberries (don’t dry) then toss them with a tablespoon of sugar (or more, to taste).  Using a table fork, smash berries, leaving some whole until you get a nice chunky jam-like consistency.
Whip cream with a couple of teaspoons of sugar (once again, you can use more if you like).  With this amount of cream, I prefer to whip it by hand with a whisk.  It only takes a few minutes and is good exercise…at least for one arm!
Serve and shortbreads with the smashed berries and cream.

 Hush Puppy and Deviled Crab Bites

 There is nothing dainty about the flavor of this little treat.  Crispy hush puppies, hollowed out slightly and filled with a cool and creamy crab salad.
1 package frozen hush puppies  (I use Savannah Classics original recipe)
8 ounces jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for shell fragments
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon coarse grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley leaves for garnish
Prepare hush puppies according to directions on package.  Let cool slightly then cut top 1/3 off of each hush puppy and remove some of the interior to make room for a nice portion of crab meat.  You may also want to take a tiny sliver from the bottom of each hush puppy so that the finished product will stay level on a serving tray instead of rolling about.
In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and horseradish.  Gently stir in crab until it is well coated then taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, fill hush puppies with crab salad and top each with a fresh parsley leaf.

In the mood for Cheese Straws!

Ten years ago I moved to the land of cheese straws.  Actually, it is the land of chicken pot pie, sugar cake, pulled pork barbecue, country ham biscuits, caramel cake, AND cheese straws.  Every person I know has either a favorite recipe or a favorite source for each of these wonderful foods.

The arrival of November got me thinking about entertaining so I thought that I would share some ideas for pre-dinner party nibbles.  I like to save the heavy hors-d’oeuvres for cocktail parties and simply serve a couple of light savory bites before a sit-down party.  We call that having “just a little something” before dinner.



White Cheddar Cheese Straws

  On top of being light, crispy, and spicy, these are also extremely quick and easy to make.  This recipe is based on one published in Southern Living in 2007.
6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper ( I use 1/2 tsp. for spicy straws)
1 tablespoon half and half
Combine the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add red pepper flakes and half and half and process until dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
On a well floured surface, roll into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a pizza wheel or a big knife, trim the edges a bit to even them up and then cut the dough into straws about 1/4 inch wide.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet (I like to use parchment paper).
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until ends are just slightly browned.  Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack.
Makes about 2 dozen





Olive Straws

Just realized that these don’t really fit the category of Cheese Straws as they contain no cheese… just olives and puff pastry.  But, I’ll call it culinary license and carry on.  I tried the recipe on a whim just because it looked fun…and I happen to love olives.   If you are an olive lover too, what could be better than wrapping them up in a crispy shell?  This is adapted from Michel Roux Pastry, Savory and Sweet.  The “adaptation” is that I use Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry instead of making it from scratch!
1 sheet Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry, defrosted
about 15 large green olives, stuffed with pimentos
egg wash (1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk)
ruler or tape measure
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry sheet to measure 9 1/2 x 13 inches.  Cut this rectangle into two pieces, one measuring 9 1/2 x 5 1/2 and the other measuring 7 1/2 by 9 1/2.  Don’t stress over the exact measurements…these are the ones that worked for me.  The idea is that you need two pieces of puff pastry, both the same length but with one a couple on inches wider than the other so that you can have extra room to cover and go between the olives.  Now place these two sheets of pastry on a baking sheet in the frig. for 10 minutes to chill.
Take the smaller piece of pastry and starting about 1/2 inch from the short side, lay olives end to end.  Create three rows like this, with about 1/2 inch in between.  (see photos below…kind of blurry but maybe helpful)  Now brush all of the exposed pastry between the olives with the egg wash.  Cover with the larger piece of pastry and press the whole surface of the pastry between the olives firmly with your fingertips.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  With a very sharp knife, trim and neaten the edges of the pastry and cut it crosswise into 1/4 inch slices.  The olives may slip around a bit but you can trim and reposition them on the baking tray.  Lay the straws flat on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly and serve.

Pepperoni Pinwheels

Another easy nibble using frozen puff pastry.  I like to get these all ready to pop in the oven and keep them in the frig until the guests start to arrive.  They are quite irresistible when hot out of the oven and still awfully decent at room temp.  ( From Cocktail Food, by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford)
1/2 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
3/4 teaspoon dried sage
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
2 tablespoons honey mustard
2 ounces packaged sliced pepperoni (I like to use the extra thin sliced pepperoni)
1 egg, slightly beaten
     Mix the Gruyere, sage, oregano, and pepper together in a small bowl.  Lay the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface with a short side closest to you.  Cut in half crosswise.  Now with a long side facing you, spread half of the honey mustard onto each half, leaving a 1 inch border at the tops.  Divide the pepperoni and arrange in a single layer over the mustard.  Top each with 1/2 of the Gruyere mixture.  Brush the farthest edges with the egg.  Roll each puff pastry piece tightly from the closest edge to the egg coated edge to make 2 logs.  Lay them seam side down on a baking sheet and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare 2  parchment lined (or foil lined) baking sheets.
note:  The puff pastry can be filled and rolled up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated, or frozen up to 2 weeks in advance,  Thaw, cut, and bake as directed





In the mood for Cucumbers!


Summer Margarita

(Remember this, Eliz.?)
A couple of summers ago, I had the good fortune of being invited to tour the home garden of RickBayless, (famous chef, cookbook author, restaurateur and television personality) and then to lunch in his wonderful Chicago restaurant, Frontera Grill.  Lest I make myself sound like someone important, I should add that Chef Bayless donated the outing to a school auction and the winner invited me to go along.  Lucky me!  Anyway, his city home has an amazing outdoor kitchen and a beautiful garden in which they grow vegetables for his dishes…I especially remember the tiny rows of micro-greens.  I also especially, and fondly, remember the outstanding Cucumber Margarita that we had with our lunch.  It was bright and fresh, prepared right at the table, and so perfect for a hot summer day.  I checked to see if the recipe was published that summer and it was not, and I never checked again until I started thinking about cucumbers for this post.  And there it was…right on his website…I’ll bet he got lots of requests for the recipe!
First make some simple syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups  water and 1 tablespoon lime juice.  Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Remove form the heat and cool completely.  Store in frig. if not using right away.
For the margarita:
1/2 of a medium (6 inch) cucumber, peeled and cut into thin slices
3/4 cup good quality blanco tequila (They use Milagro Blanco, as did I)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup simple syrup
Cucumber slices for garnish
Combine the cucumber, tequila, lime juice and simple syrup in a blender. Blend until mixture is as smooth as you can get it.  In a cocktail shaker, combine half of the mixture with 8 to 10 ice cubes, cover and shake for a full 15 seconds.  Strain through the shaker’s top into 2 glasses (they use martini glasses at the restaurant) Garnish with cucumber slices.  Repeat with the remaining margarita mix.  Makes 4 drinks.

Goat -Teas


Hands down the best cucumber sandwich I’ve ever had.  No need to throw a ladies tea to have an excuse to make these as they would also be a great hors d’oeuvre for a summer evening.  This platter did not make it to the cocktail hour however.  It was empty within minutes of these photos. Recipe by MaryCorpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford, in their book, Cocktail Food.
3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar.
2 cups very thinly sliced red onion
2/3 cup goat cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
12 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into 3 inch squares (They suggest buttermilk bread.  I usedPepperidge Farms Original White.)
1 English cucumber, cut into 1/16 inch slices, cut in half
Pour the vinegar over the onions and let marinate in a small bowl until the onions are soft and malleable, at least 30 minutes.  Strain and refrigerate until chilled.
Mix the goat cheese and cream cheese together in a small bowl.  Season with white pepper.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture on each piece of bread.  Cut each piece into 4 triangles. Arrange 2-3 slices of the cucumber on each triangle.  Top with 1 or two slices of red onion.
Makes 48 sandwiches.

Greek Chopped Salad

I love chopped salads and the classic Greek salad lends itself well to this style.  Each bite can have the perfect balance of flavor…the boldness of the feta and olives with the mild freshness of the cucumber, lettuce and tomato.  To make this a whole meal just add a side of grilled chicken, salmon, or shrimp. This recipe was inspired by one published in Food and Wine magazine in September 2003.
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 of a small shallot
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups mixed greens, I used red leaf lettuce and arugula, coarsely chopped
1 English cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and diced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, diced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
In a blender, combine vinegar, shallot, sugar and olive oil and puree.  Taste and season with salt and pepper. (Since these ingredients can vary so much, always taste a vinaigrette and be prepared to add a touch more oil or vinegar as necessary)
In a large bowl, toss together the chopped mixed greens, cucumber, tomatoes, dill and olives.  Add half of the dressing and taste for seasonings.  Then add the remaining dressing as needed.  Sprinkle with feta before serving.  Serve 4-5.