Friday, May 31, 2013

Luau at the Lake - 4th Annual Blogger Get-together

The 4th annual blogger get-together was held again this year at Tellico Lake in east Tennessee on the dock of Almost Heaven South at the home of Larry, Big Dude’s Eclectic Ramblings, and his wife Beverly. I can think of nothing finer than to spend Memorial Day weekend at the lake with friends. This year the theme was a Hawaiian Luau. Chris of Nibble Me This served as the menu coordinator for the event. Other bloggers in attendance included Penny of Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen and her husband David, Dave of Big Daddy Dave and his wife Laurie, and the third Dave of My Year on the Grill and Inspired by E Recipe Cards and his wife Jackie, who traveled all the way from Kansas, plus my husband Meakin, the event photographer and other friends and relatives. We all missed Katherine of Smoky Mountain Café and her husband A. J., who are part of the threesome who plan this event, but weren’t able to attend this year.

Grab a plate and join me and the others as we sample the offerings.

For appetizers, Larry prepared a sweet and spicy pineapple pork ribs that were “fall of the bone” delicious (more about it here) and Dave made an appetizer of grilled shrimp & pineapple.

For the main course we started with Kalua Pork, which were pork butts wrapped in banana leaves that Larry smoked over Koa wood, details here.

Chris made Huli Huli sliders with chicken that had been brined and was served with a tangy, sweet, almost teriyaki sauce and topped with ponzu slaw on a slider roll. Here’s a link to his post and more pictures of how the fabulous the slider looked assembled.

Penny brought an authentic Hawaiian macaroni salad, recipe here, and wrote more about the party here with lots more pictures.

I made a sweet and spicy pineapple salsa to compliment the pork. My salsa recipe was adapted for the Hawaiian theme, substituting pineapple for the nectarines in this post for a salsa seen previously seen on my blog. Link to recipe here. I also added quartered slices of peeled kiwi for more color.

For dessert my brother-in-law Stuart made a pineapple upside down cake using his wife Sandy’s mother’s recipe, one of their family’s favorite recipes.

Here’s Larry with his plate displaying a nice selection of food for you.

And later showing a sample of a banana leaf that he used to wrap his Kalua Pork.

Of course a party isn’t complete without drinks and lots of visiting. Larry makes some of the best margueritta's on the planet and he also whipped up a Blue Hawaiian special for the occasion.

More to follow on my next post with a very special breakfast the next morning prepared by David and Penny, so don't miss it. Here's David telling us more about what he has planned for breakfast.

Obviously you can see a great time was had by all. If you would like to join us next year, please let any of us know and we'll be sure you get the details.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable, and Oh the Places I've Been at the Tablescaper.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Celebrating Local Strawberry Season with a Strawberry Salad with Grilled Chicken, Peas, Cucumbers and Gorgonzola

Local strawberries are in season at our markets and what better way to celebrate strawberry season than to make a salad.

But this is not just any salad. This salad is filled with even more spring and summer flavors – baby English peas, and cucumber and snow peas to add some crunch. Top with crumbled rich and delicious gorgonzola and dressed with a fresh basil vinaigrette, you have spring & summer rolled into one on a plate.

I added grilled chicken to make this a main course, but crumbled smoked bacon as the original recipe called for, would also be delicious.

Strawberry Salad with Grilled Chicken and Peas
Adapted from Southern Living – serves 6

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups trimmed fresh snow peas or sugar snap peas (about 5 oz)
¾ cup frozen baby English peas
1 package baby arugula (4 oz)
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup seeded and chopped English cucumber
4 ounces gorgonzola or blue cheese, crumbled
Basil vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat the grill for high heat. Lightly oil the grill grates. Season chicken with salt & freshly ground black pepper and cook 8 minutes approximately on each side, or until juices run clear. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When ready to serve the salad, cut chicken in small chunks.

Arrange snow peas in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Plunge peas into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Cut peas in half horizontally.

Place frozen baby English peas in a colander and pour boiling water over the peas to blanch. When peas turn bright green, plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain when ready to assemble salad.

Toss together arugula and next 4 ingredients, add drained snow peas and drained English peas, and the chunks of chicken. Toss again with the sweet basil vinaigrette. Serve on a large platter or individual plates.

Printable recipe including sweet basil vinaigrette

Sweet Basil Vinaigrette
From Southern Living – serves 6

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 shallots, chopped
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup canola oil, or half canola and half extra-virgin olive oil

Process first 8 ingredients in a blender until smooth. With blender running, add canola oil in a slow, steady stream, processing until smooth.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

Have a great weekend everyone.
If you’re in the States, Happy Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Citrusy Tomato and Olive Salsa with Salmon

Citrusy sweet oranges, tangy tomatoes, and briny green and imported black olives join together in a lively salsa to bring big bold flavors to salmon. This is the kind of dish I call transitional, or between seasons. It is a great time of the year to make this while you can still buy those big navel oranges in the store. I find plum or roma tomatoes to be reliable year-around and they are what I use before the summer, homegrown ones arrive at our farmer’s market.

In almost any recipe we prepare, I make what the French call a mise en place with the ingredients and that is what I suggest you do here for the salsa ingredients. Mise en place, pronounced “miz on plas,” and often referred to as a “mise,” means to put in place or set up the ingredients. Restaurants do this and it makes the actual cooking of any dish go much faster when the ingredients are prepared and ready to go. When making a Chinese stir-fry with a lengthy list of ingredients, preparing a mise is essential. If you don’t currently make a mise before you cook, I highly recommend you give it a try. It will change how you cook from that moment on.

The only time consuming part of this recipe is sectioning the peeled oranges. The original recipe called for three oranges, but I suggest you buy several extra, because all oranges are not created equal when it comes to sectioning them. Sometimes the sections will be a nice size, other times they can be very small.

The original recipe that inspired this dish called for the salmon to be cooked on top of the stove. Our favorite and most reliable way to cook salmon is to broil it, so that’s what I’ve done here. If you prefer to follow the original, the link is below. If you like a spicier salsa, you could always add fresh chopped jalapenos. No matter what you do, don’t skip the mise part.

Citrusy Tomato and Olive Salsa with Salmon
Inspired by Cooking Light – serves 4

4 six ounce fresh boneless salmon fillets, preferably with the skin left intact
2 to 3 teaspoons grape seed oil, or other neutral tasting oil
Kosher salt or sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
4 large navel oranges plus more for squeezing orange juice
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 ½ cups diced plum or roma tomatoes
¼ cup pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced in thirds
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in quarters
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
½ to 1 tablespoon canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Watercress for garnish if desired

Cut the salmon into four pieces approximately the same size and weight. Put salmon on a plate, rub with the oil, season with salt & pepper, and allow the salmon to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. In the meantime, grate ½ teaspoon orange rind before peeling and sectioning the oranges with a sharp knife. Prepare a mise en place for the remaining ingredients, keeping the orange sections separate from the other ingredients.

Preheat the broiler. Arrange the salmon in one layer, skin side down, on an unheated sheet pan lined with heavy duty foil for easy clean-up. Place the salmon under the broiler about six to seven inches from the source of heat. Broil 8 to 10 minutes or just until the pieces are cooked through. It is not necessary to turn the salmon. If salmon starts to get too crispy on the top, change from broil to bake and bake at 400 degrees until done. Do not overcook or the salmon will be dry. Allow to rest for a few minutes before removing the skin and serving.

While the salmon is cooking, add ½ teaspoon of canola oil to a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high. Add the onions to the pan and sauté 3 or 4 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. If necessary, add more canola oil. Add the tomatoes, olives, orange juice, and orange rind to pan, simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, cover and set aside momentarily.

While the salmon is resting, add orange sections to the warm salsa and cook a minute or so to reheat the sauce, taking care not to break the orange segments. Place one piece of salmon on four individual plates and spoon warm salsa alongside. Garnish with watercress if desired.

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 everyone
and thank you for visiting My Carolina Kitchen.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin with a Greek Panzanella Salad from the Barefoot Contessa

This is one of the best two recipes to serve together and even though the list of ingredients is long, don’t be scared. It’s easy and a lot of it is done in advance. The pork marinates overnight in the refrigerator and then grilled. The panzanella salad needs to sit for thirty minutes for the flavors to come together, so you can see this isn’t as intimidating as the list of ingredients would have you believe.

For those of you who love to grill, this would make a very nice Mother’s Day meal. If you are looking for something easy to serve at your next dinner party where the guys can gather around the grill while the ladies visit, this is for you. And because most of the cooking is done outside with the exception of the croutons, and the salad is tossed in one big bowl, there’s not that much to clean up afterwards.

Making the croutons on top of the stove as opposed to browning the bread cubes in the oven is a breeze and a method you’ll want to keep for making croutons for other dishes in the future. No more pulling a sheet pan out of a hot oven and struggling with turning the cubes. In this method the bread cubes brown beautifully on top of the stove if you keep an eye on them and toss or stir occasionally. Don’t omit salting the bread cubes while they cook. An amazing amount of flavor comes from this one step.

These two recipes are real keepers.

Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloins
Adapted slightly from Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics - serves 6 

1 lemon, zest grated
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 to 6 lemons)
Good olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
3 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)
Freshly ground black pepper
Thyme leaves and rosemary flowers for garnish (my rosemary bush was flowering)

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and 2 teaspoons salt in a sturdy 1-gallon resealable plastic bag. Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat with the marinade. Squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.

Either grill the pork tenderloin on the grill - or preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and discard the marinade but leave the herbs that cling to the meat. Sprinkle the tenderloins generously with salt and pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large oven-proof sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sear the pork tenderloins on all sides until golden brown. Place the sauté pan in the oven and roast the tenderloins for 10 to 15 minutes or until the meat registers 137 degrees F at the thickest part. Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Carve in 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices. The thickest part of the tenderloin will be quite pink (it's just fine!) and the thinnest part will be well done. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm, or at room temperature with the juices that collect in the platter. Garnish with rosemary flowers and fresh thyme leaves if desired. Excellent served with a Panzanella salad.

Greek Panzanella Salad
Adapted slightly from How Easy is That by Ina Garten – serves 6

Good olive oil
1 small French baguette or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
Kosher salt
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, large diced
1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
1/2 pound feta cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted


2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Add more olive oil as needed. Set aside when browned.

Place the cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.

For the vinaigrette, in a jar with a tight fitting lid add all of the ingredients, cover well, and shake to combine and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta, olives and bread cubes and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve at 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, Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper, and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable. 

Have a great weekend everyone.
Happy Mother’s Day.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pimento Cheese BLT – No Recipe Required

This is a combination of two of my all time favorite sandwiches – pimento cheese topped with a BLT and served open-faced. Mention pimento cheese to me and my mind is immediately transported back to the south where I grew up. There was always a jar of rich, yellow cheese combined with my mother’s homemade mayonnaise and studded with bits of red pimento in our refrigerator.

As soon as I was old enough to grate cheese, making pimento cheese became my job. It was one of the few things I was allowed to do in my mother’s kitchen as a child. With only three ingredients, there was no need for a written recipe. I grated the cheese on a box grater and added drained chopped pimentos (no need for a knife if you use the pre-chopped ones in the jar) and added just enough of her homemade mayonnaise to bind the cheese and the pimentos together. As I look back, this was a great way to teach kids how to use a box grater.

As with any recipe that relies on only a few ingredients, the quality of the ingredients is very important. The foundation of a good pimento cheese starts with good homemade mayonnaise. I like to make mine in the food processor.  Here’s a link to a recent post about how to make mayonnaise the easy way in the food processor. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own mayonnaise, cooks throughout the south rely on Hellman’s or Dukes. No Miracle Whip here – it’s too sweet.

A good aged American cheddar is also essential. My favorites are New York and Vermont cheddar. No matter what kind of aged cheddar you use, it is essential that the cheese be freshly grated. Grating the cheese, either by using a hand or box grater, or in the food processor, makes all the difference in the world in the end result. Not only does freshly grated cheese taste a thousand times better than the pre-grated stuff found in packages in the supermarket, it also binds much more easily with the mayonnaise.

Pimentos are the third ingredient and here’s where I differ from the original. Even as a child, I thought pimentos never had much flavor, so I’ve substituted chopped bottled roasted red peppers for the pimentos. Sometimes I also like my pimento cheese on the spicy side, so I throw in some finely chopped fresh jalapenos and if it’s not hot enough, a dash or two of Tabasco sauce does the trick.

The sandwich is served open-faced with the pimento cheese spread on a toasted slice of good country bread (I used a sourdough boule) as a base, topped with crispy fried bacon and thinly sliced ripe tomatoes, seasoned with lots of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then garnished with baby arugula. When you’re craving comfort food, this is the perfect sandwich.

My inspiration for this sandwich came from this recipe in Cooking Light if you want to refer to it for specific amounts of ingredients. However, I did not use their pimento cheese recipe. I made my own, eyeballing the ingredients as I did as a child. Start with freshly grated cheddar cheese (I used both a yellow and a white cheddar), then add some chopped roasted red peppers or pimentos (patted dry with a paper towel), stir well, then add just enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together so they will spread easily. If you like your pimento cheese spicy, add some fresh seeded and chopped jalapenos and a dash or two of Tabasco. If not using right away, it will last, covered, for several days in most people’s refrigerator. Since childhood I’ve been addicted to pimento cheese and confess one of my favorite ways to eat it is on Ritz crackers, so it doesn’t stand a chance of lasting long at our house.

* * *
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 everyone.

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