Friday, December 28, 2012

Black-Eyed Pea Soup – good luck food for the New Year

All around the world people eat certain foods on New Years that they believe will bring them good luck for the new year. I grew up in the Deep South and we believed that certain food was black-eyed peas. The peas look like little coins when cooked, so they are thought to symbolize wealth. They also swell when cooked, another sign of prosperity.

I alternate between serving black-eyed pea soup and southern caviar for New Years. Today I’ve chosen black-eyed pea soup because a little cold front has dipped its way south and there’s a bit of a chill in Florida. This soup is fantastic with southern style cornbread (meaning not the sweet cornbread), crusty bread, or an old appetizer favorite of ours - sausage cheese balls. Sausage cheese balls have been around for a long time, are very easy to make, and men go crazy for them. Make a lot because they go fast. My friend Lynn at Happier than a Pig in Mud’s recipe is very similar to mine and here’s a link to her recipe. To serve the soup to a crowd, I use coffee mugs in lieu of bowls and pass the sausage cheese balls separately.

Southern “caviar,” also known as Texas or Longhorn caviar, is made using black-eyed peas rather than fish eggs. It’s a spicy, very colorful salad with black-eyed peas, tomatoes, hot peppers, and southwestern spices that can be used as a dip with chips. If you are a frequent reader, you might remember my recipe, link here.

We rarely go out to a restaurant for New Year Eve and chose to either entertain at home or go to a friend’s house nearby. This year we’ll join friends at our condo’s pool house late in the evening for a little get-together, drink some champagne, and watch the fireworks in downtown from our view across the Caloosahatchee River. Everyone brings something to share and I’m planning on taking a big bowl of my southern caviar, or if it’s cool, this black-eyed pea soup.

What are your plans for New Years Eve? Do you go out? Or do you entertain at home? Or do you do what we’ve done occasionally, which is to share a bottle of champagne and ring in the New Year at home all by ourselves.

Black-Eyed Pea Soup
From My Carolina Kitchen – serves 6

12 oz package black-eyed peas
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup celery, finely chopped
2 peeled carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme or herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon tomato paste - see cook's notes
8 oz tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
7 cups water, or a combination of low sodium, low fat beef broth and water - see cook's notes
Worcestershire sauce, optional
Sour cream for garnish
Optional other garnishes include chopped green scallions, small chunks of sautéed ham, chopped cilantro, seeded & chopped jalapeno peppers

Soak peas overnight in a large stock pot with plenty of water to cover. Drain, rinse, and put back into the stock pot with the beef broth, tomato sauce, and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

While the peas are coming to a boil, sauté the vegetables and garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive in a non-stick skillet until softened and beginning to caramelize. Stir frequently. When browned, sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the dried herbs and stir. Then add the tablespoon of tomato paste, stir to incorporate it into the vegetables, and let it brown a moment or two, then add the sautéed vegetables to the peas.

When peas come to a boil, simmer, partially covered, until peas are tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. Add more liquid if necessary. Before serving, taste for salt, add if necessary, and discard bay leaves. If you want a touch more flavor, add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Garnish as desired.

Cook's notes: The tomato paste is used to further caramelize the vegetables and the paste should brown a little. For a less “soupy” soup, try 6 cups of liquid and add more liquid if needed.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Meakin and I wish you and your family a very happy and healthy 2013.  
See you next year. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday wishes from our house to yours

Both of these cards have been holiday favorites of mine for several years. I hope you’ll indulge me in showing them once again.

This Christmas card with a cow is from a painting by Tim Knepp titled “Ho, Ho, Holstein.” I couldn’t resist it. It just looked so “North Carolinian” with the cow in the snow in front of a red barn. Here in the mountains, farms with cows and red barns are still the norm. Every day farmers can be seen driving their tractors along on our winding roads to bring bales of hay to their cows.

This photo of a mountain stone barn decked out for the holidays with its wreath of greenery, bale of hay, and the horse in the background is also typical of the laid-back style of the mountains of western North Carolina.

Holiday wishes from our house to yours -

Merry Christmas

Joyeux Noël

Felix Navidad

Froehliche Weihnachten

Buone Feste Natalizie

Happy Hanukkah

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pumpkin Yogurt with Granola – an easy “no recipe required” breakfast

This is a super easy breakfast that comes together quickly and doesn’t require a recipe. When we have house guests, some days we prepare elaborate breakfasts and leisurely sit around and drink coffee and visit. Other days everyone is in a hurry to go somewhere and I need something easy.

Enter pumpkin yogurt with granola. It needs no recipe - just mix and taste as you go. Place plain yogurt (low fat is fine & I substituted Greek yogurt) and canned pumpkin in a bowl and sprinkle with a dash of ground cinnamon. Stir, then drizzle with a little maple syrup, or another sweetener of your choice, such as honey or agave syrup. Taste and add more yogurt or pumpkin if you like. Place in an individual bowl and top with some granola, a few fresh berries, and breakfast is served.

I wish I could take credit for this, but the recipe first caught my eye on Kitchen Daily and is from Eating Made Easy. Give this pumpkin yogurt a try the next time you are in a hurry and want something a little different.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Clever Chicks at the Chicken Chick, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Have a great weekend everyone. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Chicken Marbella recreated into cocktail food for a party buffet

Through the years I’ve made Chicken Marbella many times for dinner parties and it’s always a crowd pleaser. With its irresistible and alluring flavors, the chicken with pieces of dark fruit, green olives and capers scattered over, napped with a slightly sweet and savory sauce, the inevitable question poised at the dinner table is always, “What IS this? It’s fantastic.”

Well, start with lots of garlic, vinegar, oregano, brown sugar, wine, capers and briny green olives, dried prunes, or plums as they are now called, and marinate with chicken overnight. Bake in the oven and it couldn’t be an easier dish to prepare. It practically makes itself. It’s perfect served hot, at room temperature, or cold. Could you ask for anything more?

Chicken Marbella was one of the most popular recipes ever to come from the wildly successful Silver Palate Cookbook, which recently published its 25 anniversary edition. The original recipe called for cut up chicken, but in today’s world, if I were making it for a dinner party, I would probably use boneless, skinless chicken thighs or cut in half bone-in chicken breasts. If you're serving it for a dinner party, it is excellent over couscous or rice with baby English peas. A nice accompaniment is an French fresh orange salad, link to recipe here.

But herein is our dilemma. We needed a dish to take to our condo’s Christmas party at the pool the other night and it needed to be a dish that people would be able to serve themselves in small portions, hold up well on a buffet, and allow to be eaten with one of those pitiful plastic forks they invariably give you as these kinds of events. Thus the reincarnation of Chicken Marbella that I present today. Sliced chicken breasts seemed like the perfect solution and it was. Everyone raved about it, as what always happens when you serve Chicken Marbella. Even 25 years since The Silver Palate first published this recipe, there are still those among us who have never, ever tasted Chicken Marbella and some of them were at this party. There’s no shame in that. It's fun to introduce new people to Chicken Marbella. But their first reaction is still the same as it’s always been – “What IS this? It’s fantastic.”

Make people happy - serve this at your next buffet. Nothing could be easier or more of a “people pleaser” than the intriguing and exotic Chicken Marbella. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love this dish and it always distinguishes itself among the other buffet offerings “the very best of the best.”

Chicken Marbella recreated into cocktail food for a party buffet
Adapted From The Silver Palate Cookbook

6 large plump boneless skinless chicken breasts halves
½ head of garlic, peeled & finely pureed
¼ cup dried oregano
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pitted dried prunes or dried plums as they are now called, bite size preferred, or large ones cut in bite size pieces
½ cup pitted Spanish green olives
½ cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dry white wine
¼ cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

In a large bowl combine chicken, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers & juice and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken with brown sugar and pour white wine around the chicken. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when it registers 160 degrees F on an oven thermometer.

Remove the chicken breasts and slice into serving pieces. Transfer sliced chicken, and with a slotted spoon, transfer prunes, olives and capers over chicken to a serving platter. Discard the bay leaves. Moisten the chicken with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauce boat.

Good served hot, at room temperature, or cold. To serve cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juice over chicken.

Notes: Don’t skip the overnight marinating; it’s essential for flavor. If in a hurry, marinate at least 4 hours. To turn back into the original recipe, use two whole chickens cut into serving pieces, or quartered, or any combination of chicken parts, including halved breasts or all thighs. Either version is good hot, cold or room temperature.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winter Salad with Roasted Squash, Potatoes, & Pomegranate Seeds over Arugula

Summer is not the only time to enjoy salads. Take for instance this winter salad with roasted squash and potatoes, garnished with feta cheese and pomegranate seeds. I think it looks very “holiday-ish” – the feta cheese resembling fallen snow, the pomegranate seeds bright red jewels, the roasted squash and potatoes golden gifts, and the arugula green tree branches.

You might recognize this salad. It’s all over Pinterest, although that’s not where I originally saw it. I first discovered it on Eat Boutique, a fantastic blog and an inspiration of diverse food ideas. Eat Boutique showed some of their favorite cold weather salads and this was one of them. The salad came from The Year in Food where they adapted it from Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food. Pop over and see their incredible photos of the salad here and you’ll know why everyone loved it on Pinterest. They used delicata squash, which I could not find, so I substituted acorn squash.

It is a superb salad in every respect. First, it’s pretty. But more importantly, it is full of flavor. I had never eaten pomegranate seeds. Frankly they looked like too much work to me, opening the pomegranate, getting the juices all over me and making a mess in the process. But I happened upon a jar of pomegranate seeds at Walmart of all places and was very pleased.  The pomegranate seeds make this salad. They have a fruity crunch that I had not imagined. I thought the saltiness in the feta and the rich peppery taste of in the arugula were a nice contrast to the slight sweetness of the squash and crispy roasted potatoes always make anything better. This is one of the best winter salads I’ve ever eaten. Highly, highly recommended.

So on the day when you’ve had your fill of Christmas cookies or office parties, treat yourself to a nice healthy winter salad. This would also make a great meatless Monday dish.

Winter Salad with Roasted Squash, Potatoes, & Pomegranate Seeds
Adapted slightly From The Year in Food – serves 4 to 6

1.5 pounds small to medium potatoes (the recipe calls for fingerlings)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium acorn squash, or delicata squash if you can find it
8 ounces baby arugula, also known as rocket or roquette
Seeds from one pomegranate, about 1 cup
1 cup crumbled feta or top quality Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice potatoes lengthwise in halves or quarters depending on size. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with some salt. Toss to coat. Roast until tender and browned, about 20-25 minutes, turning once.

While the potatoes roast, prepare the squash. Peel the squash, then slice in half lengthwise, and remove seeds and membrane. Slice into thin half moons, 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Arrange on another rimmed baking sheet (you may need two baking sheets for the squash), drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat.

Remove potatoes from the oven and set aside. Add the squash to the oven, sprinkle with some salt, and roast until tender and just beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Prepare the vinaigrette. In a small jar with a tight fitting lid, add all of the ingredients and shake to combine.

In a large salad bowl, combine the squash and the potatoes. Drizzle with about half the vinaigrette. Toss to combine. Add the arugula, half the pomegranate seeds and half of the cheese. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and gently toss. Add more vinaigrette if needed. (I did not use all of it.) Top with the remaining cheese and pomegranate seeds. Serve.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Homemade mayonnaise in the food processor + some of our favorite mayonnaise sauces

Homemade mayonnaise is one of the best tasting things you’ll ever make at home and so much better than store-bought. This is a perfect time of the year to make it to use on sandwiches from the left-over ham or turkey you have. It can elevate a simple sandwich from ordinary to sublime. When I was growing up, my mother made homemade mayonnaise, so there was always a jar in our refrigerator.

Homemade mayonnaise isn’t just for sandwiches. It can be turned into wonderful, tasty sauces. The standard tartar sauce comes to mind, but I have a few of our favorites to share with you, including a sherry one for steamed vegetables.

When Meakin and I were married years ago, his family from up east came south for the wedding. One of my favorite memories of meeting his family was of his brother Stuart, barely out of his teens at the time, standing in the open door of my mother’s refrigerator with a jar of her homemade mayonnaise in one hand and a spoon in the other. “Boy, this stuff is great,” he said as he proceeded to scrape the last bites from the bottom of the jar. Now if that’s not a recommendation for homemade mayonnaise, I don’t know what is.

My mother used a hand-held mixer and dribbled the oil in, slowly, as you can see in this recipe clipped out of a grade cookbook collection of our mother’s favorite recipes. But now mayonnaise is easy to make using Julia Child's method in the food processor, utilizing that tiny hole in the feed tube to do the dribbling for you, making your job a whole lot easier.

There are two secrets to making homemade mayonnaise. One is to have all of the ingredients at room temperature and use very fresh eggs. As with anything made with raw eggs, use good judgement and keep the mayonnaise refrigerated. The second is to use what Julia Child calls "fine, fresh oil." I take this to mean open a new bottle unless you are absolutely positive of its freshness.

Julia Child’s Food Processor Mayonnaise 

1 whole egg, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, at room temperature
½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon sugar
Dash of Tabasco sauce, or other hot sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups fine fresh oil such canola, safflower, extra-virgin olive oil, or a combination, at room temperature

Using the metal blade in the food processor, process the egg, the egg yolks, mustard, salt, sugar, and Tabasco 30 seconds. Add lemon juice and process 30 seconds more.

In a very thin stream, pour in the oil, using droplets at a time. In a food processor there is a tiny hole in the lid that will allow the oil to drop in very slowly. As the mayonnaise comes together, you can pour the oil a little faster. When all of the oil is gone, remove the processor cover and check for consistency and taste for seasonings. You may wish to add more lemon juice, kosher salt, or freshly ground white pepper. Driblets of cold water added now make a milder and lighter taste and texture. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for about a week.

Here are just a few examples of our variations on homemade mayonnaise sauces.

Béarnaise Mayonnaise
Entertaining with Taste by Peter Coe – yield 1 cup

1 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh tarragon, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the mayonnaise in a mixing bowl and set aside. Combine the wine, shallots,and 2 tablespoons of tarragon in a saucepan. Boil until reduced by half. Cool. Add this mixture to the mayonnaise, along with the lemon juice, and the other 2 tablespoons of tarragon. Add salt & pepper. Chill thoroughly and serve.

Creole Mayonnaise
Entertaining with Taste by Peter Coe – yield 1 cup

1 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
2 tablespoons chili sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped or snipped
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix and chill. Great with seafood or grilled chicken.

My Carolina Kitchen’s French Remoulade Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons drained capers
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon, crumbled
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Dash of cayenne pepper

Combine sauce ingredients & refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.  Excellent as a base for lobster or shellfish salad.

Sherry Mustard Mayonnaise Sauce for Steamed Vegetables
From Chicken, The 15 minute Gourmet by Paulette Mitchell – yield ¼ cup

¼ cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)

Whisk ingredients together in a glass bowl. Serve over steamed vegetables, such as fresh asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower florets. Sauce will keep for up to 2 days in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before drizzling over warm vegetables. The vegetables can be cooked in advance and served later in the same day chilled or at room temperature.

This wasabi aioli, not shown, is fantastic with seared ahi tuna and so much fresher than the stuff in the tube.

Wasabi Aioli
Entertaining with Taste by Peter Coe – yield 1 cup

1 tablespoons wasabi powder
1 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix wasabi powder and water together to form a paste. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the wasabi mixture, garlic, mustard and lemon juice. Pulse 5 – 6 times. Add mayonnaise and process until ingredients are well-mixed. Add salt & pepper. Refrigerate and serve. Excellent with rare tuna.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Trio of Different Cranberry Sauces & Ideas for Leftover Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is always on our Thanksgiving table, sitting right next to the turkey. Even if we aren’t hosting Thanksgiving, which we aren’t this year, I always bring the cranberry sauce.  

I’ve been making my own cranberry sauce for years, but I decided to give a couple of new ones a try this season. Our traditional cranberry sauce is flavored with red wine with a citrus undertone. It will probably always be my favorite.

But today I have two new varieties of cranberry sauce to offer. Both are decidely less sweet than the traditional. The first is a mixture of fresh cranberries and dried tart cherries, flavored with crème de cassis, a popular French black current-flavored liqueur. If you’ve ever drunk a Kir or a Kir Royale, then you’re familiar with cassis. A Kir is a French cocktail made with a dash of crème de cassis and topped with dry white wine. A Kir Royale is made the same way but topped with champagne. In France Kirs are served as an aperitif before dinner. 

The cherry flavor really comes through in this cranberry sauce and offers a new and exciting taste to the traditional. It was Meakin’s favorite of the two.

The second new cranberry sauce we tried is a citrusy one flavored with dried figs and crunchy nuts. It, to me, is much more of a relish and I really enjoyed the crunch of the nuts. My mother used to make a cranberry jelly with pecans and the nuts in this one brought back fond memories for me of my childhood. I can still see the pecan tree in the back yard.

Cranberry Sauce with Cassis and Dried Cherries
Cooking Light – serves 12

1 tablespoon canola oil
½ cup finely chopped shallots
2/3 cup dried tart cherries
½ cup crème de cassis (black currant-flavored liqueur) or orange liqueur
¾ cup sugar
1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 ½ teaspoons grated fresh lemon rind

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add oil, swirl to coat the pan. Add shallots and sauté for 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally and taking care not to let brown or burn. Add cherries, crème de cassis, sugar, and cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes or until cranberries began to pop, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon rind. Cool to room temperature.

Cranberry Fig Relish
Cooking Light – serves 12

1 cup fresh orange juice (about 4 oranges)
¾ cup chopped dried figs
½ cup dry red wine
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries
1/3 cup chopped roasted pecans or walnuts

Combine the orange juice, figs, and red wine in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add both sugars and the cranberries. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until mixture is slightly thick and berries pop, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly. Stir in pecans. Cover and chill. If you make this a few days ahead, leave out the nuts until just before serving so they remain crunchy. 

My Carolina Kitchen’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce
A citrus twist on a classic – serves 12

1 (12 ounce) package of fresh or frozen cranberries
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup dry red wine, such as a Merlot or Syrah
¾ cup to 1 ½ cups sugar, or to taste
2 tangerines or navel oranges

Put the cranberries (no need to thaw if they’re frozen) in a sauce pan with the one of the cinnamon sticks, red wine, and sugar. Zest the tangerines and set aside half of the zest for a garnish. Add the remaining zest and the juice of both tangerines to the cranberry mixture. 

Stir the cranberry mixture and bring to a boil.  Partially cover the saucepan and simmer about 15 minutes, until the cranberries have burst. Remove from the heat, let cool, and discard the cinnamon stick. The sauce will firm up as it cools. It can be refrigerated, covered, for up to five days. Serve at room temperature.

At the last minute, using a microplane rasp style grater, grate a little cinnamon “dust” over the cranberry sauce and garnish with the remaining citrus zest. 

Ideas for left-over cranberry sauce

By the way, if you have left over cranberry sauce, it’s great on a turkey sandwich with horseradish and cream cheese. Or turn it into a sophisticated little holiday appetizer that I posted a year or so ago. Toast slices of a crusty French baguette, top with fresh arugula or watercress, then a dab of cranberry sauce and finish with a slice of good blue cheese or gorgonzola and a crank of freshly ground black pepper. A little more cranberry sauce on the top doesn’t hurt either. Voila, a cranberry & blue cheese crostini. 

* * *

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable. 

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the U.S.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Green beans and oyster mushrooms tossed in a nut oil vinaigrette – a modern take for a Thanksgiving side dish

Like many of you I’ve been thinking of what to serve as side dishes for Thanksgiving this year. I’m in the mood for fresher, more modern sides that compliment the turkey and not add any more richness than necessary to the meal - more 21st century if you will. Two of my favorite bloggers have inspired my green bean dish.

Cathy at Wives with Knives posted a very attractive haircots verts salad with hazelnuts and gorgonzola tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette, recipe here, that can be served at room temperature. If you’re like me and have a hard time finding hazelnuts and often skip them because of that reason, Cathy’s Bavarian Nut Company now sells hazelnuts on line here, so consider that problem solved.

Joan at Foodalogue made-over the old 1950’s green bean casserole made with mushroom soup & topped with fried onions with a very inspired Italian green bean and porcini mushrooms dish with Parmesan Béchamel, recipe here. She creatively topped it with fried spaghetti to replace the standard canned onions. I know you will love both dishes.

Here’s my take on Thanksgiving green beans this year– crispy green beans & meaty oyster mushrooms tossed with a tangy shallot & nut oil vinaigrette and garnished with toasted walnuts. As Cathy said, a salad can be made in advance and that is a real plus at Thanksgiving when every available burner on your stove is prime real estate.

The nut oil vinaigrette is one of our favorite vinaigrettes and is fabulous tossed with baby greens and garnished with blue cheese crumbles. And it’s another reason to have a bottle of sherry vinegar on hand.

We will be guests this year for Thanksgiving dinner at the home of my brother-in-law, who is a diabetic. I always make sure I take at least one dish that suits his diet. It’s just the nice thing to do as a guest don’t you think? There’s no reason to save this salad for Thanksgiving. It’s perfect any time of the year and can easily be doubled and tripled for a crowd.

Green beans and oyster mushrooms tossed with a walnut oil vinaigrette 
From My Carolina Kitchen – serves 4 to 6 – easily doubled

1 pound fresh green beans, stems removed
¼ pound fresh oyster mushrooms, stems removed, gills cleaned if necessary, torn or cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dry sherry
A handful of walnuts as a garnish, optional but delicious

Nut oil vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons peeled & minced shallots
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons walnut or hazelnut oil
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, or other neutral flavored oil such as canola
Maldon salt or other coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salt water to boil over high heat. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the trimmed & sliced mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms frequently while cooking. When the mushroom liquid has evaporated completely, cook another minute or two to brown slightly. Off of the heat, add the sherry and stir. Return to the heat, stir well for a moment, then turn off the heat and leave the mushrooms to rest in the skillet for now.

Combine the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a jar with a tight fitting lid, shake well and set aside.

Drop beans into boiling water, cover, and bring the water back to a boil. When water returns to a boil, remove the cover and turn heat down to medium and cook until beans are crispy tender, about 7 minutes, depending on the size of your beans. Drain beans well, place in a large bowl, and toss with the vinaigrette, a little bit at a time, tasting while you go, over the still warm green beans. You will probably have some vinaigrette left over, which will keep well in the covered jar in the refrigerator for another green salad.

In the meantime, toast the walnuts in a dry pan over medium heat, shaking the pan constantly to prevent burning. Continue to toast the nuts until they begin to brown and become fragrant. Remove the nuts to a cutting board, allow to cool slightly, then chop very coarsely and set aside.

Add mushrooms to the beans and toss well. Taste for seasonings. Pile high on a platter and garnish with the toasted walnuts if desired. Can be served right away or at room temperature.

* * *

Cookbook give-away results

Thank each of you that participated in the cookbook giveaway. The winner of Foolproof by Ina Garten is Ocean Breezes & Country Sneezes. The winner of Savoring the Hamptons is Savoring Time in the Kitchen. Congratulations to you both. Please contact me at samhoffer (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address.

This will be linked to On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable and Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms & Food on Friday at Carol's Chatter.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Carolina Kitchen celebrates 4 years with 2 cookbook giveaways

It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing My Carolina Kitchen for four years.  They say time flies when you’re having fun and it’s certainly true about blogging. I wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested in what I had to say, but before I knew it I was making friends all over the world with those of you who shared my love and passion for good food. You’ve made my world richer and my life fuller and I thank each of you from the bottom of my heart.

Blogging for me is about friendship and of course the food. I love reading your blogs and I’ve learned so much from you. Meakin and I are fortunate to have met many of you and hopefully many more in the coming year.

Low Country Shrimp & Grits, recipe here, has by far been my most popular post if I look at my stats from internet searches. As much as we like it, I don’t cook dishes like shrimp & grits very often anymore. For me it’s too heavy and rich except for special occasions.

I hope when you think of My Carolina Kitchen you think healthy, elegant, and delicious. I like to call it “food with a flair.”

Here are some of our favorite dishes. To see the recipe, let your mouse hover over the title.

Pan fried tilapia with tomato basil sauté - dinner in under 30 minutes

Secrets on how to make great crab cakes

Pickled shrimp – a popular make-ahead appetizer that men love

The easiest and most successful way to cook salmon – broil it

Arugula salad tossed in a truffle oil vinaigrette – a French salad that’s looks fancy, but super easy to make

Salad with cherries, goat cheese and pistachios – perfect for showcasing fresh cherries in season

Baked Chicken with Lemons & Olives – my prepare in advance, go-to dish for dinner parties

And don’t forget my love for French food and everything associated with Provence that includes winter dishes such as Beef Daube,

Short Ribs Provencale, Braised Lamb Shanks de-fatted and made healthier

French Orange Salad with Olives, and Chicken Marengo, one of my oldest recipes and still a comforting dinner favorite.  And of course I couldn’t leave out the scrumptious French seafood stew reminiscent of bouillabaisse that we ate in the old port city of Marseilles.  

But you also know how fond I am of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I’ve posted adaptations of many of her recipes, including Mexican chicken soup,

Prime rib sandwich with truffle butter, baked ham, and of course her very popular lemon roasted chicken.

One of our most popular dinner party desserts at our house is a specialty of Meakin’s  - an adaptation of Ina’s crème brûlée. Meakin has lightened it just the right amount, but managed to keep all of the creamy flavor.

That’s Ina’s baked shrimp in the lead picture at the beginning of the post from her Back to Basics cookbook, served with Meakin’s famous red cocktail sauce. Meakin makes his red sauce by whisking together 4 tablespoons ketchup, 2 tablespoons bottled chili sauce, juice from a ½ of lemon or lime, a heavy teaspoon bottled horseradish, 2 dashes or so of hot sauce and the same with Worcestershire in a bowl and voila, a fabulous cocktail sauce that is so much better than store-bought. Sometimes he’ll add a teaspoon of finely ground chilies in adobo sauce or a couple of pinches of smoked Spanish paprika. It’s an easy sauce to play with. Repeat after me, I will never, ever buy the bottled red cocktail sauce ever again as long as I live.

Ina’s roasted shrimp cocktail has pretty much taken the place of boiled shrimp at our house. It’s so easy you can do the recipe out of your head and the roasted shrimp have an incredible depth of flavor compared to simply boiling them. Toss peeled and deveined shrimp with some extra virgin olive oil, generously salt and pepper, and spread them in one layer on a sheet pan and roast for 8 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees F, taking care not to overcook. You might want to make a note in her Back to Basics cookbook a little trick we’ve learned – that is to turn the shrimp over midway through for best results so they’ll cook more evenly. To finish, sprinkle with a little finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley to make it look pretty and that’s it – foolproof.

Look inside at Amazon

Speaking of foolproof, Foolproof is the name of Ina’s newest cookbook. I have all of Ina's cookbooks and each is fabulous in its own way. Back to Basics is my favorite so far.

As a way of saying thank you for your loyalty to following My Carolina Kitchen, I want to give a copy of Ina’s new cookbook to one of my followers.

Actually I’m giving away two cookbooks to followers– Ina’s Foolproof plus Savoring the Hamptons, a cookbook devoted to the food and wine of Long Island’s East End where Ina lives in the Hamptons with her husband Jeffrey. The first person drawn will receive Ina’s newest cookbook Foolproof and the second person will receive Savoring the Hamptons.

Look inside at Amazon

The cookbook give-away is open to all followers, including those who follow by email. To qualify just leave a comment saying you are a follower and a way to get in touch with you if your profile doesn’t have an email address with it. If you want extra chances to win, share it on Facebook or tweet it, but be sure to say so so I’ll know how many entries to include for you.

If you have a favorite recipe from Ina, please tell us. It will be fun to see what recipes of hers you enjoy the most.

Good luck to everyone and thank you again for four wonderful years. The give-away will end next Sunday night and the winner will be announced on Monday, November 19, 2012.

Here’s one of the most popular recipes I’ve done of Ina’s for internet searches– “what to serve house guests for breakfast” – Ina’s breakfast crunch.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Good luck to everyone and thank you again for following and reading My Carolina Kitchen. The cookbook give-aways will end next Sunday night and the winner will be announced on Monday, November 19, 2012.