In the mood for Pork Tenderloin!

Don’t pack up your grill just because Labor Day Weekend has passed!  I think that the next few months are the best for cooking and eating out of doors.  The crisp evening air of September and October make grilling a pleasure, instead of a hot, sticky chore. The first two pork tenderloin recipes are right at the top of my list when I want to grill.  But if you are already in the mood for some warm Fall flavors, scroll down and check out the pork tenderloin salad with roasted butternut squash.

Speaking of pork, this past weekend I had a wonderful lunch with some of my dearest friends at The Purple Pig, in Chicago, IL.  “Cheese, Swine & Wine”!  Of course, the swine was divine.  But we also loved the Roasted Corn with Mushrooms and Walnuts, the Salt Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Pistachio Vinaigrette, and the Whipped Feta “Smear” with Cucumbers.  Their website posts recipes so I will most definitely be trying some of them out here at home.



Grilled Garlic Lime Pork Tenderloin with Jalapeno Onion Marmalade

I have served this dish at so many dinner parties that I had to retire it from my entertaining repertoire.  But   I will still have to make it for the family as it is such a favorite.  The recipe is straight out of Gourmet Magazine, September 1995.  By the way, don’t you miss Gourmet Magazine??
Serves 6-8
For the marinade:
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
cayenne to taste
4 pork tenderloins, about 3/4 pound each, trimmed
For the marmalade:
1 1/4 pounds red onions, chopped fine (about 4 cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 fresh jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons honey or sugar
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
To make the marinade:
In a blender or small food processor, blend marinade ingredients with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large sealable plastic bag, combine pork with marinade.
Seal bag, pressing out air, and put in a shallow baking dish
Marinate pork, chilled, turning occasionally, at least 1 day and up to 2 days.
Prepare grill.
Let pork stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before grilling.
Remove pork from marinade, letting excess drip off, and grill on an oiled rack turning every 5 minutes until a meat thermometer registers 150-160.  (15-20 minutes)
Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Serve with onion marmalade.
To make the Jalapeno Onion Marmalade:
In a large heavy skillet, cook onions in oil with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring until softened.
Add jalapenos and cook, stirring one minute,  Add honey or sugar and cook, stirring one minute,  Add vinegar and simmer , stirring until almost all liquid is evaporated.  Add water and simmer, stirring until mixture is slightly thickened and onions are very tender, (the recipe says about 10 minutes but I find that it takes quite a bit longer to get them very tender, about 25 minutes, and I tend to need to add a bit more water as the marmalade cooks down.)  Season with salt and pepper.  Marmalade may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered,  Reheat before serving.

Pork Tenderloin Crusted with Green Onion, Jalapeno, and Ginger

This is a Bobby Flay recipe from his book, Grilling for Life.

6 green onions, light and dark parts, halved crosswise
2 jalapeno chilies, stemmed and halved
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed

Combine the green onions, jalapenos, and ginger in a food processor and process until coarsely ground.  Scrape the mixture into a bowl and sir in all of the remaining ingredients except the pork.

Place the pork tenderloins in a baking dish, add half of the marinade, and turn to coat the pork.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes ad up to 4 hours.  Cover and reserve the remaining marinade at room temperature.

Heat the grill to high.

Remove the pork from the marinade,  Grill until crusty and charred on both side and cooked to medium well.  Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Cut the pork into slices and drizzle with the reserved marinade before serving.


Mixed Greens with Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Butternut Squash and Port Reduction

This spicy main course salad is from Mixt Salads, by Andrew Swallow.  It has several steps but it is a whole meal on one plate so it’s not too time consuming when you think of it that way. I’ve made a couple of very minor changes to the original.  Chef Swallow calls this salad, “Porky”.   Serves 4-6
Spice Rub:
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon red chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 cups Port wine
3/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
8 strips thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into medium dice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste
3 pounds pork tenderloin
3/4 pound mixed greens, (I used red leaf lettuce)
4 ounces shelled pistachios, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine all spice rub ingredients in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
For the dressing:  Combine the vinegar, shallot, mustard and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth.  Slowly add both oils and blend until emulsified,  Season with salt and pepper.
Saute the bacon pieces over medium heat until crispy.  Drain and set aside.
In a bowl, toss the butternut squash pieces with the tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes , or until tender.  Keep warm for serving.
Increase the oven temp. to 400 degrees.  Spread the spice rub on a plate, dredge the pork in the spice rub, coating all sides and place on a baking sheet.  Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 150 degrees.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  When the pork has cooled, slice into 1/4 inch thick slices.
For each serving, toss 3 ounces greens, 2 ounces warm squash, 1 1/2 ounces bacon with 1 1/2 tablespoon of the dressing.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in the middle of the plate.  Top the salad with 4 ounces of pork tenderloin.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the port reduction over the top and sprinkle with 1 ounce chopped pistachios.

In the mood for Peaches!

Peaches are one of those fruits that I would never, ever buy out of season.  Sometimes I wish that I could  find the discipline to buy and eat only local, in season products as Barbara Kingsolver did, and then documented, in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I was fascinated by her year-long challenge and adventure.  But quite frankly, I can’t imagine never eating a banana or pineapple, nor could I bear going all winter with only canned or frozen vegetables and fruits.  But it is an interesting concept and one that I try to keep in mind as I choose produce.  Back to the peaches…knowing that the season is short makes us appreciate them all the more.   Here are three peach recipes that we are enjoying this summer.

Peach Crostata

Now, I’ve made pies and tarts, crisps, crumbles and cobblers….but this is the first time that I have made a crostata.  No particular reason, just never got around to it.  Well, I’m here to tell you that I may never make another proper fruit pie.  This crostata, or free form tart, couldn’t be easier and I just loved the way that the kids would slice off a wedge and carry on their way, no plate, fork or napkin.  Such a casual, fun little pie.  Of course, you could always dress it up for company with a lovely scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprig of fresh mint.  This recipe is adapted from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table.
(makes 2 small crostatas that will serve 4-6 each)
For the dough:
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cup into 1/2 inch cubes and chilled
1/4 cup ice water
For the filling:
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 1/2 pounds ripe peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced into 3/4 inch thick wedges
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon heavy cream, for an egg wash
1 tablespoon coarse or granulated sugar for topping
To prepare the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to blend.  Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas, about 15 times.  With the processor running, add the ice water and process for about 10 seconds.  Stop the processor before the dough comes together.  Turn the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper, divide the dough in half, and shape it into two disks.  Wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, for the filling, combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl. Add the butter and cut the mixture together with a pastry knife or two table knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roll each disk of dough into an 11 inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place the peaches in the center of the dough circles on the baking sheet and top with the butter sugar mixture.  Begin draping the edges up and over, forming about three pleats.  crimp the pleats and press down to seal.  Brush the pastries with egg wash and sprinkle with the coarse sugar.
Bake the tarts for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.  let cool on a rack and serve warm or room temperature.

Fresh Peach Bellini

Mmm…fresh squeezed peach juice and Prosecco.  This is a refreshing cocktail that is perfect for late summer parties.  Harry’s Bar in Venice is the supposed creator of the peach Bellini.  But theirs is made of  white peach puree and is quite overpriced, if I remember correctly.  This is another recipe from Frank Stitt, a chef and restaurateur from Birmingham Alabama.  Not surprising that a southern chef would know what to do with peaches!
8 very ripe peaches
1 ounce simple syrup ( 1 cup sugar and 2 cups water, simmered for 2 minutes to dissolve. Cool.)
fresh lemon juice to taste
1 bottle prosecco, well chilled
Wash the peaches.  Set a colander over a large bowl and , with clean hands, squeeze the whole peaches one at a time over the strainer to extract every bit of juice possible.  You will need 3/4 cup juice.  Add simple syrup and lemon juice to taste…depending on the ripeness of the peaches, you may need a little more syrup…and whisk to combine.  Refrigerate the peach juice mixture until will chilled.  In a large cocktail shaker or pitcher, combine the peach juice mixture with half of the prosecco.  Let the foam settle and add the remaining prosecco.  Stir and serve.
note:  From my experience making this wonderful drink, you really need very ripe, never been refrigerated, peaches to be able to juice them in the way described.  These photos were taken on a day when the farmers market peaches that I had were just perfect for juicing.  A subsequent time, I had peaches from the grocery that advertised to be local but although ripe, they just wouldn’t release their juice so I ended up peeling and pureeing them to make the Bellini.  While the taste was still very nice, the drink had a thicker consistency so not as light and refreshing.

Fresh Peaches with Whipped Cream and a                 Balsamic Caramel Sauce


If a dessert could be fresh and light, and luxurious and decadent at the same time, this would be it.  And I am already counting up the ways that I will use this caramel recipe this fall and winter. I found this special dessert in At Home with Michael Chiarello.

2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

8 large ripe peaches, halved, pitted, peeled if desired, and cut into 1/2 inch wide wedges
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pour 1 cup cream into a small saucepan, bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to low to keep the cream hot.

In a large, deep, heavy saucepan, combine 1 cup of the sugar with 3 tablespoons of the water and place over medium high heat.  Heat the mixture, tilting and swirling the pan in a circular motion every now and again, until the sugar dissolves.  As the sugar mixture begins to bubble, watch for crystals developing on the inside of the pan just above the liquid.  Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush the inside of the pan right above the crystals, so the water drips down and dissolves the crystals back into the liquid.  When the sugar begins to brown, occasionally move the pan to swirl the liquid gently and cook it evenly.  Continue to cook, without stirring, until the mixture is a dark golden brown.  The total cooking time will be 12 to 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.

Very carefully, add the hot cream to the sugar mixture a few tablespoons at a time.  The liquid will bubble up dramatically, so watch for spatters.  Stir the sauce, place over medium heat, and cook for 1 minute.  Pour into a heatproof bowl and add the vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and mix well.  You should have a bout 1 1/4 cups sauce.  You will only need 1/2 cup for this recipe; cover and reserve the remainder for another use.

Put the peaches in a bowl.  Add the lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and toss lightly to coat evenly.  Divide the peaches evenly among individual glass bowls.  Cover and refrigerator to chill the fruit.

In a bowl, using a mixer or a whisk, whip the remaining 1 1/2 cups cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

To serve, plop a spoonful of whipped cream into each bowl of peaches.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the  sauce over each bowl.  Serves 8


In the mood for Tomato Tarts!

‘Tis the season…for tomatoes, that is.  So I can’t resist another post on ideas enjoying this season’s bounty. Tomato Tarts…beautiful and delicious.  Make all three and let me know which is your favorite.




Cherry Tomato Tart with Parmesan Crust 

Although the crust in this recipe is from scratch, it’s an easy one, I assure you.  Actually, it took longer to defrost the frozen puff pastry for the two recipes that follow, than it did to whip this one up in the food processor.  The tart shell is adapted from Tarts, by Sarah Banbery, and the filling is mine, inspired by my visit to the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market this week.
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 1/2 tablespoons ice water
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5-6 slices provolone cheese
4 cups of cherry tomatoes, mixed colors and sizes, if possible
   large tomatoes cut in half and smaller ones left whole
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 10 inch loose-bottomed tart pan.  Set aside.
Place the flour, salt, butter, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.  Add the egg and ice water and pulse until dough starts to come together…just a few seconds.  You can add more water…just a teaspoon at a time, if necessary.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and form it into a round and roll it out to be about 13 inches.  Carefully lift the dough and place it in the tart pan, gently pressing to fit.  Roll the rolling pin over the pan to neaten the edges and trim the dough.  Place the piece of parchment paper into the tart pan and fill it with pie weights or dried beans.  Put the tart in the refrigerator to chill for at least 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Bake the tart shell for 15 minutes.  Remove the pie weights and the parchment paper and bake shell for another 10 minutes  until the edges are starting to brown and the base has dried out.
While shell is baking, toss the cherry tomatoes with the sugar, salt and pepper, and olive oil.
When the tart shell is ready, remove it from the oven and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly to cover the base.  Place the provolone cheese slices in a single layer over the Parmesan.  Use a slotted spoon to fill the tart with the cherry tomatoes and return to the oven for about 15-20 minutes.  The tart is ready when the crust is golden brown, the cheeses are bubbling and the tomatoes are just barely starting to split their skins.  The tomatoes will not brown.  Let the tart cool for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.  Serves 6-8
note:  I served this with a drizzle of basil oil. (didn’t have it ready and was about to lose the light for the photos) Just throw about 1/3 cup of olive oil into the blender with a good handful of fresh basil leaves, a healthy pinch of salt and a sprinkle of black pepper and whiz it all together for a few seconds.  Season to taste and spoon a scant teaspoon or so over each serving of the tomato tart.

Tomato Tart with Caramelized Onions, Olives and Capers

A tomato tart with no cheese…doesn’t need it…don’t be tempted.  The caramelized onions are so sweet and rich and the olive and capers provide the perfect salty bite.  Served with a lovely salad of arugula and herbs and, yes, more tomatoes!  This recipe is adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin.
For tart:
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 sheet frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry
1 large egg yolk
3 medium tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt packed capers, soaked and drained
1/4 cup Nicoise olives, pitted, cut in half
For salad:
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, for juicing
1 bunch arugula, cleaned and dried
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup small basil leaves
1/4 cup 1/2-inc snipped chives
salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat a large saute pan over high heat.  Add the olive oil, onions, 2 teaspoons of the thyme,  1 teaspoon salt and some pepper.  Cook 10 minutes, stirring often.  Then turn the heat down to medium, add the butter and cook slowly, stirring often with a wooden spoon.  It will take at least another 15 minutes to caramelize the onions.  Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to help them cook evenly.  They should be a deep golden brown.  Set aside to cool completely before you make the tart.  (This can be done well in advance if you want)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place the defrosted puff pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Use a paring knife to score a 1/4 inch thick border around the edge of the pastry.  Whisk together the egg yolk and one teaspoon water.  Brush the border with the egg wash.  Spread the caramelized onions evenly within the border.
Core the tomatoes and cut into 1/4 inch rounds.  Place the tomato slices, just touching, but not overlapping, on top of the caramelized onions.  Season the tomatoes with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a sprinkle of pepper.
Arrange the capers and olives over the tomatoes and onions.  Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of thyme over the tart.
Just before serving, place the cherry tomatoes and diced shallot in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice and toss together.  Add the arugula and herbs and toss well.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve the salad with wedges of the tart.  Serves 6

Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

From the clever folks at Cooks Illustrated, here is a brilliant tomato tart that will stay crispy enough to eat out of hand, as demonstrated below by my trusty hand model!  The process of assembling the crust may seem a bit tedious at first but it is really quite simple and the end result is spectacular.
All purpose flour for work surface
1 box Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (defrosted in frig overnight)
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound Roma tomatoes (3-4 medium)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
ground black pepper
8 ounces low moisture whole milk mozzarella, shredded
2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil leaves
  Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.  Dust work surface with flour and unfold both pieces puff pastry and follow these steps to form one large sheet with a border.
1) Brush egg along short edge of one sheet of puff pastry and overlap with second sheet of dough by one inch and press to seal pieces together.
2)  With a rolling pin, smooth out seam.  Dough should measure about 18×9 inches.  Use a pizza wheel or knife (and a ruler) to trim edges straight.
3)  With a pizza wheel or knife, cut a 1-inch strip from the long side of the dough.  Then cut another 1-inch strip from that same side.
4)  Do the same thing on one short side.  Now you should have 1 large rectangle of dough, 2 long, 1-inch wide strips and 2 short, 1-inch wide strips.  Transfer the pieces of dough to a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with egg.
5)  Gently press long strips of dough onto each long edge of dough and brush with egg.  Gently press short strips of dough onto each short edge and brush with egg.
6)  With a pizza wheel or knife, trim the excess dough from the corners.
So now, hopefully, you have a long, rectangular, unbaked tart shell with doubled up edges.  Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the shell (inside of the borders) and then using a fork, uniformly and thoroughly poke holes in the base of the shell. Bake 13-15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Continue to bake until golden brown and crisp, 13-15 minutes longer.  Transfer to wire rack.  Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.
While the shell bakes, place tomato slices in single layer on double layer of paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Let stand 30 minutes.  Place second double layer of paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.  Combine garlic, oil, and pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over warm (or cool if made ahead) baked shell.  Shingle tomato slices on top of cheese (about 4 slices per row)  Brush tomatoes with garlic oil.  Bake until shell is deep golden brown and cheese is melted, 15-17 minutes.  Cool on wire rack 5 minutes,  sprinkle with basil and serve.  (6-8)

In the mood for Crab Cakes!

I set up this blog with three recipes per post to give myself the structure to use recipes from my collection and at the same time make it necessary to find new ones to complete each category.  I always have one or two recipes in my repertoire for a certain post, and the fun part is finding new ones to complement them.  I keep a huge binder with all of my best recipes and if a new dish fails to make the cut to enter the binder, I won’t post it….even if the photograph turned out really well…which can be annoying.  I have a beautiful photo of white gazpacho on my computer that I will never post, or make again, because it wasn’t very tasty.  (Still looking for a good recipe if anyone out there has one!)
I am also trying to figure out how to take appetizing photos of some very yummy, but not particularly attractive, dishes.  I’ll go ahead and post those, I’m sure, because it is all about the recipes after all.

I guess that the point is that I am having lots of fun, and learning so much about food and photography by keeping this blog, so thanks for checking it out.  By the way, I didn’t have to do any research for this post on crab cakes.  These three recipes are firmly established in my binder and are there to stay.




Daniel Boulud’s Crab Cake Sandwich


A really special sandwich!  Worth the effort! (published in Elle Decor magazine)
1 pound jumbo lump crab, picked over for shells
1 egg
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
pinch of ginger powder
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of cardamom
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
2 pinches cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 cup good white sandwich bread, cut in 1/8 inch dice, then lightly toasted
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 loaf ciabatta bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 head Bibb or Boston lettuce, washed
2 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
Sauce Remoulade
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped cornichons
1 teaspoon paprika
dash of garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper 
salt to taste
In a bowl, mix together the egg, mayonnaise, mustard and all of the spices and salt to taste.  Add the crabmeat, mix evenly and gently fold in the toasted bread cubes.  Shape 6 crab cakes of the same thickness without pressing too hard.  Set aside.
In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients for the remoulade.  
Preheat the broiler.  Slice the bread into pieces that are 4 inches long.  Cut each segment horizontally and brush the cup sides with a little of the olive oil.  Toast briefly, open faced, under the broiler, then set aside.
Place the crab cakes on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and brush them with the melted butter, Broil each side for 4 minutes or until golden brown.
Spread some remoulade on the bread and add 1 slice of tomato,  a leaf of lettuce and a crab cake.  Garnish with a dollop of sauce and an herb sprig to make it pretty!
Serves 6

Oven Baked Crab Cakes with Two Sauces

One of my pet peeves is when a I am reading a cookbook or magazine and the photo of the dish obviously doesn’t match the recipe.  Probably the food stylist made a last minute change for the sake of art and the chef was unaware.  Well, now I’ve done it myself.  I’m going to give two recipes for sauces that I love to serve with these crab cakes,  but with all wonderful chaos of summer vacation, I didn’t have time to make them last night.  So I threw together a quick substitute as pictured.  Still, I want to include the best options and they can be made ahead of time, if you are more organized than I am at the moment.
Note:  This is the recipe that I turn to when I want to serve crab cakes to a crowd. ( adapted from The Sea Grill Restaurant)
5 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large egg yolks
2 pounds jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
In a food processor pulse cornflakes until ground coarse and spread in a shallow baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, Old Bay seasoning, cayenne, and yolks an add crab meat and salt and pepper to taste, tossing mixture gently but thoroughly.
With a 1/4 cup measure, form crab mixture into cakes and gently coat with cornflakes, transferring as coated to a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Chill crab cakes, covered with plastic wrap, at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.  (This is an important step)
Preheat over to 400 degrees.  Transfer crab cakes to a large baking sheet.  Put about 1/2 teaspoon butter on each crab cake and bake in middle of oven until crisp and cooked through, about 15 minutes.  You will need to turn the cakes after about 10 minutes to brown them evenly on both sides. (You will NOT need to add more butter)  But it is key to wait  until they are golden brown on the bottom before you attempt this.  Otherwise the fragile cakes will come apart.  Dealing with the fragility of these crab cakes will be worth it when you taste the sweet crab inside…free of the fillers that you so often get in restaurants.
Makes about 20 small crab cakes.
Lemon Dill Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Refrigerate until chilled.  The sauce will thicken as it chills.  (recipe from Paula Deen)
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce with Capers and Dill
2 large red bell peppers, roasted and peeled
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1 tablespoon drained capers
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
Puree the peppers, dill, parsley and capers in a processor or blender, maintaining a little texture,  Transfer to a small bowl,  Add the sour cream, mayo, salt and pepper,  Stir until combined.  Taste for seasoning.  Let stand until needed, about 30 minuted or refrigerate one or 2 days.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  ( from Teri’s

Spicy Asian Crab Cakes

I just love this recipe from Ming Tsai in his book, Simply Ming. As a matter of fact, I love all of his recipes!  Sambal is an Asian chili sauce that is available in most supermarkets these days.  
2 tablespoons sambal 
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon honey
juice of 1 lime
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko
2 tablespoons canola oil
In a small bowl, combine half the sambal, half the mayonnaise, and half the chives,  Mix well and set aside, refrigerated. This will be the sauce for the crab cakes.
In a medium bowl, gently combine the remaining sambal and mayonnaise with the honey, lime juice and crabmeat, and season with salt and pepper.
Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop out 8 portions of the crab mixture and place them on a plate.  Wet your hands and form each portion into a cake, packing it tightly
Place the flour, eggs and panko in 3 separate shallow dishes.  Dredge the cakes in the flour, dip in the beaten egg, and then dredge with the panko.
Heat a large saute pan over high heat,  Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the cakes, and sear on both sides until brown and crisp, about 3 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels.
Serve with the reserved sauce and garnish with the remaining chives.

In the mood for “Cool” Slaw!

The Dutch called it koolsla.  (kool = cabbage and sla = salad)  We anglicised it to Cole slaw and that is just a bit of food trivia for today.   Here are three slaws that I think are a bit “cooler” than average.



Caesar Cole Slaw

This is a fresh twist on your basic Cole slaw from Bob and Melinda Blanchard published in their wonderful cookbook, Cook What You Love.
for the dressing:
1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
for the slaw:
1 1/2 pounds Chinese napa cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (8 cups)
1/2 pound red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (2 cups)
1/2 pound jicama, peeled and cut into long thin strips
2 large carrots, shredded or grated
4 scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
In a small mixing bowl, whisk all of the dressing ingredients until well blended.  In a large bowl, toss together both cabbages, jicama, carrots, and scallions.  Add enough dressing to coat well.  Add the Parmesan and toss again.  Serves 6-8

French Carrot Salad

This simple, fresh salad is omnipresent in France.  You will find it in every Charcuterie (delicatessen) and Bistro but I rarely see it here.  It is such a nice side dish for a summer lunch or supper and of course, it would be wonderful to take to a picnic or potluck.
7 large grated carrots
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, toss the grated carrots with the parsley.  In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, and mustard.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add vinaigrette to carrots and toss well to lightly coat.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Sometimes I add a bit more lemon juice or olive oil to tweak the flavor if necessary.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serves 6

Chinese Coleslaw

I’ll  be honest with you, this salad was a lot of work… which is OK by me as I love to chop, mince, slice and dice.  It started out as a recipe from the chef and caterer Wendy Leon, published in the June issue of Food and Wine.   I simplified it considerably and it was still wonderful.  However,  next time, I plan on adding lots of shredded chicken (I’ll buy a roasted chicken at the market) and making it the whole meal.  The rice sticks will stay crispy so they can be fried ahead of time.  But don’t toss the vegetables with the dressing until right before serving because this slaw will wilt.
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 ounces dried cellophane noodles
1/2 lemon
2 cups mixed field greens
1 1/2 cups finely shredded red cabbage
1 1/2 cup finely shredded green cabbage
1 large celery rib, cut into 2 inch julienned strips
1 small carrot, cut into 2 inch julienned strips
1 scallion, cut into 2 inch julienned strips
2 ounces jicama, peeled and cut into 2 inch julienned strips (1/2 cup)
1/3 seedless cucumber, peeled and cut into 2 inch julienned strips (1/2 cup)
1/4 cup snow peas, julienned lengthwise
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves
In a small bowl, whisk the hoisin sauce with the vinegar, lime juice, sesame oil and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
In a large saucepan, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil the 350 degrees.  Break the noodles into 2 equal clusters.  Add one cluster to the hot oil; fry until the noodles puff up and whiten, about 5 seconds.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the noodles to paper towels to drain.  repeat with the remaining cluster.
In a large bowl, toss the field greens with the red and green cabbages, celery, carrot, scallion, jicama, cucumber, snow peas, and cilantro.  Add the dressing and toss to coat.  Transfer the salad to a platter.  Top with the fried noodles, garnish with the basil and serve right away.  Serves 6

In the mood for Cinnamon!

10 reasons to eat cinnamon

(according to the website,

1.  It can help lower cholesterol
2.  It can help regulate blood sugar
3.  It can relieve arthritis
4.  It is a natural food preservative
5.  It can boost cognitive function and memory
6.  It has an anti clotting effect.
7.  It can cure yeast infections.
8.  It can fight e coli infection.
9.  It has been shown to fight leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells.
10.  It is a good source of manganese, fiber, iron and calcium.
OK OK, I know that in the recipes below, I have mixed this miracle spice with a lot of other ingredients that may counteract some of these benefits but I prefer to focus on the positive and eat cinnamon as much as possible.

Cinnamon Baked Fruit

This brilliant dessert is a bit like a cobbler. 
The ginger cookies not only made it quick and easy, they, along with the cinnamon, give it an amazing aroma and flavor.  Use the thick crunchy ginger cookies, not the super thin type.  Any fruit that bakes well would work in this recipe.  It was inspired by one published in the UK magazine, Delicious.
3 ripe peaches, roughly chopped
1 banana, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and quartered
3/4 cup coarsely broken ginger cookies, plus 2-3 more cookies finely crushed for garnish
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
butter for coating the baking dishes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place the fruit, ginger cookies, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and mix together gently.  Butter 4 shallow baking dishes lightly, divide the fruit mixture among them and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling around the edges.  Cool slightly and serve warm with vanilla ice cream, dusted with cinnamon and a sprinkle of finely crushed ginger cookies.  

Cinnamon Scones

This is probably my most requested recipe and yet I hesitate to post it.  Not because it is a closely guarded secret but rather because the cinnamon chips have recently become so darned hard to find.  I use the Hershey’s Cinnamon Chips and in the last year or two they have disappeared from the shelves.  You can order them online, of course, or there is a similar product available on the King Arthur Baking website.  Otherwise, keep yours eyes open…I found them this week at Sunset Foods in Lake Forest, IL.  
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups cinnamon chips
1 cup heavy cream
For glaze:  whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar with a light sprinkle of cinnamon and just enough milk (it will only take a tablespoon or two) to get a consistency that you can drizzle with a fork. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the cutter with a pastry knife until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  (alternately, you can mix the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers)  Stir in the cinnamon chips and make a well in the center.  Stir in the heavy cream just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Take care not to overwork the dough and resist the urge to add more cream…it is OK if the dough is crumbly.  On a lightly floured surface, gently pat the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 3 inches.  Cut the rectangle in half, then cut those pieces in half again, which will give you 4 squares.  Cut each square twice diagonally to get 4 triangles from each.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or so, until edges are just turning golden.  Cool on a wire rack and use a table fork to glaze with confectioners sugar glaze.  Let glaze dry and serve.


One of my children once said, “It’s hard to be in a bad mood when there are Snickerdoodles in the house!” Like the best sugar cookie but with so much more personality.  I don’t usually like to cook with shortening but I make an exception for these cookies…it’s for the texture…crisp yet chewy.  This is a recipe from Baking Illustrated.  Hints for getting the best results: use parchment paper, try to make the cookies uniform in size, bake until just starting to brown around the edged and no more… the centers will be soft and puffy but will collapse back down and set as they are cooling.

2¼ cups (11¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1½ cups (10½ ounces) granulated sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for rolling dough
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, for rolling dough
Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions.  Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening and 1½ cups sugar on medium speed until well combined, 1 to 1½ minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and beat again until combined, about 30 seconds.  Add in the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 20 seconds.
In a small, shallow bowl, combine the 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon for rolling the dough.  Stir well to combine.  Working with a heaping tablespoon of dough each time, roll the dough into 1 inch balls  Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place them on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
Bake until the edges of the cookies are beginning to set and the center are soft and puffy, 9-11 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets 2-3 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

In the mood for Summer Tomatoes!

“In Spain and those hot regions, they use to eat the apples prepared and boiled with pepper, salt and oile:  but they yield very little nourishment to the bodie, and the same nought and corrupt.”  (Herball, by John Gerard 1597)
John Gerard, a barber-surgeon, (can anyone hear that term without thinking of the SNL skit?  You know, the one with the leeches?) echoed the general misconception that tomatoes were poisonous…an idea that stuck around until the mid 1700’s.
Thank goodness that turned out to be false because who could imagine summertime with the arrival of the big ripe beefsteak tomatoes.  Of course you will enjoy your BLT and your tomato mozzarella salads this summer.  But here are three more ways to celebrate the slicing tomato.

Parmesan Pepper Crusted Chicken

When you see a recipe this simple and easy, you should know that it’s success will depend on the quality of each ingredient.  So find the perfect tomato, the freshest basil, best aged Parmesan (not from the green can, please!) and of course, this is the time to use your best extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic.
This is adapted from a Donna Hay recipe from New Food Fast.
4 medium sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 egg whites, lightly beaten
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper (or more to taste)
4 tablespoons oil
2-3 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
1 cup shredded fresh basil
balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to serve
salt if necessary
Butterfly each chicken breast into 2 thin, flat pieces.  Dip each piece in the egg white and then press the chicken in the combined Parmesan and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add half of the chicken pieces.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side or until the chicken is golden and cooked through.  Keep warm while you repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.  To serve, place tomato and basil on serving plates and sprinkle with balsamic and olive oil then the slices of chicken.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt if necessary.  (Parmesan is salty so taste first) Serves 4

Tomato Watermelon Salad with Hushpuppy Croutons


Doesn’t this salad just scream summertime in the South?  This is based on a first course that I had at Noble’s Restaurant in Winston Salem, NC.  Their croutons were smaller but more hushpuppy is always a good thing.  I used Savannah Classics, Original Recipe Hushpuppies found in the freezer section of the grocery, because 1) Who wants to deep fry in the summer and 2) They are really good!  I ended up having  to make a second batch because the kids ate the first before I composed my salads.  Also, I love to use the pinkish heirloom tomatoes in this recipe (Cherokee Pink, Caspian Pink) because some of the cubes are almost indistinguishable from the watermelon.
5 cups watermelon (3/4 inch cubes, seeded)
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (3/4 inch cubes)
3 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
back pepper
hushpuppies, prepared according to package directions
Combine the watermelon and tomatoes in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with sugar and salt and toss to coat.  Let this sit for 15 minutes and the fruits will release some juices.  Now add the onion, vinegar and oil, and stir it all together gently.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.  Toss once more and serve with hushpuppies and basil to garnish.  (serves 6)
(The Tomato/Watermelon recipe is based on one from the July 2007 issue of Southern Living)

Fresh Tomato Panini


If you don’t have a panini press or an electric panini grill then….. well…….go buy one, you’ll love it!  Just kidding, sort of.  You could use a second heavy skillet to weigh down the sandwich or you could wrap a brick in foil and use that.  At Pot Belly Sandwich Shops in the Chicago area, you can order any sandwich as a “skinny”  This means that they will rip out all of the fluffy insides of the bread before they add the fillings.  This cuts down on the carbs and the calories, which is great, but I also love that, when grilled, it creates a beautiful crunchy crust for the sandwich.
1 loaf fresh bread, french loaf or ciabatta (i used ciabatta in this photo)
very thinly sliced prosciutto
fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Slice the bread into sandwich sized portions, then split each piece and tear out most of the interior.  Fill each sandwich with a slice of prosciutto, mozzarella, and tomato and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bush outside of sandwich lightly with olive oil and grill, either on the stove top, pressing it flat and turning to cook both sides, or in an electric panini grill, until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted.

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.

In the mood for Filet-O-Fish?

Back when I used to occasionally find myself at a McDonalds, during the “Happy Meal” years,  the Filet-O-Fish was my meal-o-choice.  Never a big fan of burgers (with the exception of the “World Famous Huey’s Burger” in Memphis, TN) I will always prefer a sandwich like the ones you see below.  None of them are even the slightest bit more difficult than cooking your basic cheeseburger… and even the burger lovers in my family devour them happily.  I’m going to write these recipes for one serving each and you can just multiply as needed.



Open Face Salmon BLT

For this wonderful summertime sandwich, I bought a large piece of salmon fillet and cut it into portions that I knew would work with the bread that I was intending to use.  This can be a knife and fork sandwich, or you can do as we did, and use a fork to gently flake the salmon to cover the bread and pick it up to eat out of hand.
For one sandwich:
1 slice good crusty bread (I used a pre-sliced loaf of La Brea Pane Toscano)
olive oil
1 piece of fresh salmon fillet
1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
salt to taste
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp
1 slice tomato
1 leaf bibb lettuce
1 tablespoon good quality mayonnaise, thinned with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh chopped dill weed
Brush a slice of bread with olive oil and toast until golden.  Season salmon with cracked black peppercorns, ground coriander and a bit of salt.  Heat olive oil in heavy skillet over high heat.  Place salmon fillet in hot skillet and let one side develop a beautiful golden brown crust before turning to cook the other side.  Cook to desired degree of doneness.  I prefer salmon just a touch more cooked than medium and that took about 3 minutes per side.  While salmon is cooking, start to compose the sandwich with the bread, lettuce, tomato and bacon.  Place salmon on top of the bacon slices and finish up with a dollop of the mayonnaise mixture and chopped dill.

Minced Tuna Burger

This burger was somewhat of a revelation.  While trying to simplify a time-consuming recipe, and using whatever ingredients I had in the pantry so as to avoid another trip to the market, I ended up with what will be a new family favorite.  For those of us who prefer rare tuna,  it only took a few seconds to sear both sides of the burger.  But one great thing about this tuna is that it stayed moist and tender  even when cooked through, as in the photo above. Try to find a tapenade that is a good mixture of Mediterranean flavors…black olives, capers, herbs and spices and olive oil.  Most grocery stores have at least one or two and of course you will have lots of choices at a speciality food market.  Note that the burgers need to chill for about 30 minutes before cooking.  

For one sandwich:
3-4 ounces fresh tuna
1 generous tablespoon prepared black olive tapenade*
coarse ground black pepper
1 split English muffin
olive oil
1/2 green scallion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped tomato
1 tablespoon mayonnaise, thinned with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers, drained and rinsed
Use a sharp knife to mince the tuna into 1/4 inch pieces then place it in a small bowl and gently stir in the tapenade and a nice big pinch of black pepper.  Since some tapenades are quite salty, it is best not to add additional salt at this point.  Also, the product I used had a nice amount of olive oil.  If your tapenade seems dry, add a drizzle of olive oil to the tuna.  Using your hands, gently mold the tuna into a patty and place it in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly, (about 30 minutes) as this will help the burger hold together while cooking.   When ready to serve, brush English muffin with olive oil and toast.  Place tomato and green onion on bottom half of English muffin bun.  Heat a heavy skillet over high heat.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, remove the tuna burger from the frig and use a spatula to gently place in in the pan.  I know that I keep saying “gently” but the point here is that this is a fragile burger and that is what makes it so good…you don’t want to overwork it.  Once one side is nicely seared, it will start to hold together and the English muffin is the perfect “bun” as it provides the right amount of structure.  So, cook the burger to order over high heat and serve it on the English muffin topped with the mayo mix and the capers and a sprinkle of salt if necessary. 
*Tapenade: a Provencal paste or dip, made from black olives, capers and anchovies

Grilled Grouper Taco


There are so many options with a fish taco like this.   I’ve used fresh corn tortillas but you can go with flour tortillas or even hard taco shells.  The possibilities for toppings is endless.  Sliced avocado would be great, or you could add black beans and salsa.  Anyway, you get the idea.
I used about 4 ounces of fresh grouper per taco.
This is enough marinade for 4-6 servings.
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
green onions
sour cream thinned with a bit of lime juice
Cut the fish into portions that will suit your tortilla shell.  Mix together the 6 marinade ingredients and brush the fish liberally.  Let marinate 5-10 minutes.  Season fish with salt and grill over high heat until opaque throughout.  I used a grill pan indoors but of course these would be great grilled outdoors as well.  (Make sure that your grill rack is clean, hot and lightly oiled)  Serve with warm tortillas and a variety of toppings.

In the mood for Blackberries!

Well, it is the first day of July and the farmers markets are in full swing here in North Carolina.  Last Friday I picked up a basket of the biggest, sweetest blackberries that you have ever seen.  In, A Skillet Full, a Cookbook of Traditional Southern Lodge Cast Iron Recipes and Memories, 87 year old Bertha Russell Gonce is quoted as saying, “We have blackberries growing beside the fence in front of our house.  We pick them in July, but we have to watch out for ticks, chiggers and snakes.”  I guess that I got off easy because all I had to do was pull over at a roadside farm stand outside of Boone, NC to find these beauties.  You will find Miss Bertha’s recipe for Blackberry Cobbler below.



Bramble Custards


Blackberries, the fruit and the bush, are known as brambles in parts of the UK.  Brambles are actually thorny plants in the genus Rubus, in the rose family, and not surprisingly raspberries and boysenberries belong to the same group.  So I’m calling this a Bramble Custard because 1) it sounds charming and 2) you can certainly make these with raspberries or any other berry in season for that matter.  Above you will see that I have made them it little 2 1/2 ounce ramekins…a great size for a light dessert.  See photo below for a larger version, about 1/2 cup, which had to be cooked about 10 minutes longer.  I adapted this recipe from one in Petite Sweets, by Beatrice Ojakangas.
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 cups fresh berries
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fine lemon zest
1 teaspoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Have ramekins available.  This made 16 servings in my little white ramekins and 7 in the larger green ones.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the ricotta and mix until blended.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until completely incorporated.  Add the vanilla, sugar, and cream and mix until combined.
Spoon the batter into the ramekins and place them in a large rimmed baking sheet and place the sheet on the oven rack.  Carefully pour enough hot water in the baking sheet, around the ramekins, to reach about halfway up the sides.  Bake for 30-45 minutes, until set.  The tops will not have browned at all.  Remove ramekins from the water bath and set aside to cool slightly, then refrigerate until chilled through.
To make the fruit glaze and topping:  Place 1 cup berries in a saucepan with the water, sugar and lemon zest and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes while you occasionally stir and mash the berries to release all of their juices.  Remove from heat and strain the berry mixture to remove the pulp and seeds.  Wipe any remaining seeds out of the saucepan and return the now smooth berry sauce to heat gently.  Stir in cornstarch mixture and stir for a minute or two until it thickens slightly.  Remove from the heat and gently stir in the remaining blackberries.  Set aside to cool. (note:  you can make a sauce like this from any type of berry and you can adjust the amounts of water, sugar, and cornstarch as needed, based on the size and sweetness of your berries and on the berry/sauce ratio that you prefer.  It’s a flexible process.)
Top the chilled custards with berries and sauce and either serve right away or refrigerate until needed.  You can make the custards the day before you need them if you like and cover them, refrigerated.  The berry sauce can also be made ahead of time and kept covered at room temperature but I would wait until you are within a few hours of serving to top the custards.

Blackberry Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans

Andrew Swallow, of Mixt Greens restaurant in San Francisco, is the creator of this beautiful recipe.  He calls it “Berry” (using strawberries and blackberries) and has published it in the Spring section of his new book, Mixt Salads.  Perhaps in California, good blackberries can be found year round but for me this is pure summer.  In any case, it is a genius combination of flavors.  (The changes I made to this recipe were very slight, except for one, which I won’t describe because I think it must have been a typo in the original.)
Candied Pecans
2 cups pecans
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh minced thyme leaves
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup canola oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces mixed greens
1 pint blackberries
2 teaspoons of fresh mint, finely slivered
2 teaspoons of fresh basil, finely slivered
4 tablespoons goat cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, toss together the pecans, sugar, salt, cumin, cayenne pepper and 1 tablespoon water.  Spread this mixture on a sheet pan and bake for about 10 minutes, or until just toasted.  Watch carefully.
For the dressing:  Combine the vinegar, shallot, mustard, thyme, and honey in a blender.  Slowly add the oil in a stream and blend until emulsified  Season with salt and pepper.
For the salad:   Gently toss together the greens, blackberries, mint, basil, and pecans with dressing and serve with a tablespoon of the goat cheese.  Makes 4 servings.

Blackberry Cobbler

Here is Miss Bertha’s cobbler, as mentioned at the start of this post.  Note that the topping does not form a crumbly crust but rather sinks into the cobbler.  While this may not be the the most beautiful of desserts, it is mighty fine served just barely warm with a couple of scoops of premium vanilla ice cream.
1 1/4 cups flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, plus 3 tablespoons
1 cup sugar, divided
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups fresh, unsweetened blackberries
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine 1 cup of flour, baking powder , and salt,  Set aside,  in a mixing bowl, beat together 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg and beat.  Combine milk and vanilla and add with dry ingredients to the butter mixture,  Pour into a greased 2 quart casserole.   Spoon the berries over the batter.  Combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour. cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons butter.  Mix until crumbly.  Sprinkle over the berries.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.