Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Menu ideas and recipes for snapper, fig jam, catfish, corn, skirt steak, eggplant, peppers and blackberries

Menu ideas and recipes for snapper, fig jam, catfish, corn, skirt steak, eggplant, peppers and blackberries

Snapper and catfish

Thanks to my sister-in-law’s fig harvest, we enjoyed baked vermillion snapper topped with fig chipotle jam. I doctored up the jam with shallots and chipotle per the recipe.

Enjoying the last of corn season, on another night we had saucy spiced catfish with corn and basil.

Skirt steak

For Sunday dinner, I made skirt steak for the first time, specifically pan-fried skirt steak with shallot butter. It was excellent—what a flavorful cut of meat.

On the side, roasted baby potatoes tossed with leftover red chimichurri. I also pan-fried a mix of shiitake and cremini mushrooms with garlic and thyme because steak and mushrooms, mmm. Our veggie was zucchini pesto sautéed with yellow carrots, orange bell pepper and tomatoes.

skirt steak etc.Eggplant and peppers

This vegetable dish is on frequent rotation here: pan-fried eggplant with a mix of peppers (shishito, poblano and other sweet peppers), red onion, tomatoes, garlic, basil and a dash of red wine vinegar at the end.

Blackberry happy hour

I’ve been getting the best blackberries lately at the farmers market. For our Saturday happy hour last weekend, I made blackberry margaritas. They were quite tasty. I used agave syrup instead of making simple syrup, and triple sec instead of Grand Marnier.

Until next week, stay awkward, brave and kind. (phrase from Brené Brown)


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Menu ideas and recipes for swordfish, salmon, zucchini, green beans and boiled peanuts

Menu ideas and recipes for swordfish, salmon, zucchini, green beans and boiled peanuts

Swordfish with red chimichurri

This smoky red chimichurri recipe is great on baked swordfish—and I’ve also made it for tilefish and dogfish. Tomorrow, I’m tossing the leftover chimichurri with roasted potatoes. Let nothing go to waste! (Or at least try not to.) Red chimichurri is made of garlic, shallots, cumin, parsley and olive oil, plus the red ingredients—red wine vinegar, smoked paprika, chipotle powder and red pepper flakes.

Creamy lemon salmon and zucchini spaghetti

I pulled some sockeye salmon out of the freezer to add to creamy lemon zucchini spaghetti. The shredded zucchini just about melts into the pasta. I used onion instead of shallot, and added yellow bell pepper and tomato to kick it up a bit. Salmon wasn’t part of the original recipe but I thought it was a natural match.

salmon lemon zucchini spaghetti

Green bean favorite

On the side, we had green beans sautéed with bacon, mushrooms, red bell pepper, red onion, garlic and a little chicken broth to keep the beans cooking.

Boiled peanut salad

One of my guy’s favorite beach snacks is boiled peanuts topped with slices of pickled jalapeño, passed around to our beach buddies on a frisbee, of course. It’s even better on a cracker with a dollop of pimento cheese—or low-rent canned cheese.

I made this boiled peanut salad with bacon dressing for him. It’s a keeper and would be great for potlucks, especially with his family. I added sweet onion and substituted basil for the cilantro, but forgot to serve pickled jalapeños on the side. Next time!

Until next week, stay awkward, brave and kind. (phrase from Brené Brown)

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Menu ideas and recipes for pizza, linguiça, canned clams, tilefish, collards and kohlrabi

Menu ideas and recipes for pizza, linguiça, canned clams, tilefish, collards and kohlrabi

Menu ideas and recipes for pizza, linguiça, canned clams, tilefish, collards and kohlrabi

Birthday pizza!

My birthday fell on a Tuesday this year. Plain regular Tuesday. I was planning to work as usual but then thought, what the heck, this is the one day of the year that’s my day. I’ll take the day off.

But what about dinner? I’m always thinking about dinner. What do I want? I’d have to plan ahead and make it on Sunday—that’s what I usually do for Tuesday dinners so I can work and read late on Tuesdays. See, Tuesday is my dinner duty night—along with Thursday, Friday and Sunday, Jim has the other nights. I love dinner duty but don’t like being rushed through them, so I plan ahead.

I’ve been planning to use my sourdough starter discard to make pizza crust one day so that became my plan—and it was the highlight of the week. I made two sheet pan pizza crusts using this King Arthur sourdough recipe, an excellent recipe.

In one pan, I made my favorite: a linguiça, onion and garlic pizza modeled on the one from Union Villa in my hometown. First, I diced and sautéed the linguiça and onion, then I added garlic at the end and let it cook another minute. I spread tomato sauce—I cheated by buying a jar of Harris Teeter pizza sauce—over the crust, topped it with the linguiça mix and grated mozzarella. So happy.

The other was a white clam pizza. I spread the shallot-garlic herb sauce from my white pizza recipe over the crust, topped that with three cans of minced clams and then a mix of fresh and regular mozzarella along with parmesan cheese. When it came out of the oven, I sprinkled it with fresh basil. Very tasty.

birthday clam pizza 2020

Tilefish with citrus pesto

Another night, we had baked blueline tilefish for dinner. Before popping it in the oven, I topped the fillets with citrus pesto, made simply by adding some peel and juice from an orange and lemon to basil pesto.

Summer veggies

We had two vegetable sides this past week. First, collard greens sautéed with bacon, red onion, carrot, red bell, jalapeño and garlic. My bundle of collards was gigantic so I made a huge pan, more than we needed. The leftovers, after making an appearance at two dinners, turned into a humongous frittata.

The other vegetable side was a kohlrabi sauté with carrot, broccoli stems and florets, onion and garlic—sort of like this recipe. Take a chance on kohlrabi, it will pleasantly surprise you.

Until next week, stay awkward, brave and kind. (phrase from Brené Brown)


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Menu ideas and recipes for striped bass, bluefish, striped mullet (or any fish), linguiça, chouriço, jalapeños, spaghetti squash and pesto

Menu ideas and recipes for striped bass, bluefish, striped mullet (or any fish), linguiça, chouriço, jalapeños, spaghetti squash and pesto

Portuguese fish skillet

Last weekend, I made what I call “Portuguese fish skillet” with bluefish, striped mullet and linguiça. I had to pull out the ginormous 14” deep pan for this excellent meal. Here’s my recipe:

  • Olive oil for cooking
  • 1/2 pound diced linguiça
  • 1 large red (or yellow) onion, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large glass white wine
  • 1/2 cup (or more) shrimp (or chicken) broth
  • 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds fish fillets cut into spoon-sized chunks
  • Fresh flat leaf parsley

In a large pan with a lid, fry the linguiça in a little olive oil until it browns, then remove it with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add the onion and red bell pepper to the pan and cook on medium-low until softened, then add the smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and garlic, and cook for a couple more minutes or until the garlic turns slightly golden

Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Next, add the broth and diced tomatoes, and cook at a gentle simmer with the lid on for about 10 minutes, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Add the chickpeas and lemon juice, and cook for about 5 minutes with the lid off. Add the fish to the pan, pushing it into the sauce, along with the linguiça. Put the lid back on and simmer gently for about 8 to 10 minutes. Before serving, taste for lemon, salt and pepper, then sprinkle with parsley.

Menu ideas and recipes for striped bass, bluefish, striped mullet (or any fish), linguiça, chouriço, jalapeños, spaghetti squash and pesto

No time or prep patience for your fish dinner?

A much simpler fish dish was baked striped bass with lemon juice, Aleppo pepper and butter—a menu regular here.

Pesto spaghetti squash

On the side of the Portuguese fish skillet, we had pesto spaghetti squash. I prepared the squash in the Instant Pot and added a mix of slow-roasted tomatoes from the freezer and grape tomatoes from the garden to the recipe. Tasty.

Chouriço-stuffed jalapeños

I used the leftover chouriço mix from last week’s stuffed poblanos in two ways. First, in quesadillas with caramelized onions and red bell peppers, and then in stuffed jalapeños topped with grated mozzarella cheese. We both agreed we could have eaten a plate each of those stuffed jalapeños for dinner.

Until next week, stay awkward, brave and kind. (phrase from Brené Brown)


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Creative Commons photo of sausage via Wikimedia Commons

Menu ideas and recipes for shrimp, spice/herb mixes, pork, peaches, peppers, chouriço and vegetables

Menu ideas and recipes for shrimp, spice/herb mixes, pork, peaches, peppers, chouriço and vegetables

Swooning over summer scampi

The highlight of the week, hands down, was summer shrimp scampi with tomatoes, corn, red onion and basil. My god, this was good. The extra butter I added at the end didn’t hurt. I’m making this again the next time I buy North Carolina shrimp—the only kind I buy.

You know about the slave labor used for Asian frozen shrimp, right? There’s a reason why they’re so cheap, never mind all the environmental issues. Shrimp used to be a luxury and should be still.

summer shrimp scampi

Let your spice/herb mixes find purpose

If you have jars of herb or spice mixes hanging out without purpose in your cupboard, add them to the flour, cornmeal and/or breadcrumbs the next time you dredge fish (in my case, flounder with Greek seasoning) or some other piece of protein.

Pulled pork with pickled peaches

I fell hard for this pulled pork with pickled peaches recipe but didn’t want to heat up the house by turning on the oven. So I adapted the recipe for the Instant Pot by increasing the liquid and adding most of the ingredients to the pot as the pork cooked. I also added some barbecue sauce too.

We had the pork on buns with the pickled peaches and slaw. Now what to do with the leftover pickled peaches? I’m thinking they’d be good in a quesadilla or tacos with spicy meat and cheese—something about spicy heat, salt, sour and fat all together is really speaking to me.

Menu ideas and recipes for shrimp, spice/herb mixes, pork, peaches, peppers, chouriço and vegetables

Chouriço-stuffed peppers

I had a few poblano peppers ready to harvest so I made a batch of this chouriço mix for a side of stuffed peppers. This was the same day I made the pulled pork so I kept the Instant Pot out to make the brown rice and cooked the stuffed peppers in the toaster oven. Next week, I’ll tell you what I did with the leftover chouriço mix.

By the way, I’m not misspelling chouriço—I’m using Portuguese chouriço, not Mexican or Spanish chorizo.

Summer vegetables

For veggies this past week, we had calabacitas—a Mexican-inspired summer vegetable medley—and the old standby of roasted broccoli, cauliflower and red onion with garlic. Leftovers from both of these dishes are great for frittatas.

Until next week, stay awkward, brave and kind. (phrase from Brené Brown)


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Menu ideas and recipes for tomatoes, tuna, sea bass, broccoli and eggplant

Menu ideas and recipes for tomatoes, tuna, sea bass, broccoli and eggplant

The daily tomato sandwich

Summer’s been weird for all of us, but take one bite of a tomato sandwich and, oh yeah, it’s definitely summer. My version features thick slices of local tomatoes on sourdough sandwich bread with American cheese (Havarti and Muenster are okay too), Duke’s mayo (on both slices of the bread), Diamond Crystal kosher salt (so hard to find these days!) and freshly ground black pepper. Good for breakfast and/or lunch.

Tuna and sea bass recipes

I’m glad I made the full amount of this maple teriyaki marinade because I got two great meals out of it. After marinating blackfin tuna, I heated up the remaining marinade and whisked in a cornstarch slurry to make a delicious sauce.

This coconut mint chutney came back for an encore too, this time on baked black sea bass that I first sprinkled with lemon juice and Aleppo pepper.

Menu ideas and recipes for tomatoes, tuna, sea bass, broccoli and eggplant

Broccoli salad—look, no mayo!

I love discovering a good potluck recipe—not that we’re going anywhere I can bring a dish these days. But now I’m ready with this broccoli salad with cheddar and bacon vinaigrette. I used a mix of Asiago and extra sharp (not aged) cheddar. Next time, I’ll make more vinaigrette because it got lost in the salad.

By the way, I love mayo. I really love mayo. But my guy and some of his family are mayo-haters. So sad for them. That’s why I keep an eye out for no-mayo salads and slaws.

Pasta forever, please

Why do I keep making pasta? The Covid-10 is going to turn into the Covid-15 if I keep this up. But it’s eggplant season and I couldn’t resist when I saw this recipe for a cheesy eggplant and rigatoni bake. It’s quite good.

Until next week, stay awkward, brave and kind. (phrase from Brené Brown)


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Menu ideas and recipes for flounder, swordfish, crudités, linguica, clams, blueberries and buttermilk.

Menu ideas and recipes for flounder, swordfish, crudités, linguica, clams, pasta, blueberries and buttermilk.

Flounder and swordfish

If you’re not the kind of person who scarfs up all the crumbs from the bottom of a potato chip bag (ahem), then you can save them for potato chip flounder. Otherwise, do what I did and buy a bag of jalapeno potato chips for this tasty simple dish. Make the dill tartar sauce too—it’s wicked good.

This maple teriyaki marinade was great on baked swordfish. The recipe made enough that I used the remainder on blackfin tuna, but heated the leftover marinade up with a cornstarch slurry to make a fantastic sauce.

I’m thankful for my North Carolina fish share from Locals Seafood in the Raleigh State Farmers Market shops. Two pounds of fish delivered straight from the coast every week.

Blueberry buttermilk scones

Sunday morning, I made Joanne Chang’s maple blueberry scones. Highly recommended.

Have you ever had buttermilk fresh from a farm? Oh my word. I’ve been getting mine from Mae Farm in the Raleigh State Farmers Market shops. They sell Ran-Lew Dairy products, including buttermilk. I took a sip the first time I brought some home—salty, sweet, tangy, creamy. All kinds of delicious. Now I get it.

blueberry scones

Summer veggie tray

If you need a good dip for a vegetable tray, I like this buttermilk ranch dressing. This time, I added parsley and chives because I didn’t have enough dill. My summer crudités included blanched green beans, sugar snap peas and broccoli florets, zucchini, summer squash, cukes, carrots, grape tomatoes, and red bell pepper.

Blanching works great on green vegetables, like beans, snap peas and broccoli. Just throw them in a pot of salted boiling water for a minute or two, drain them, and immediately plunge them into an ice water bath to preserve and enhance the color.

Linguica, clam and summer vegetable pasta

I used the leftover crudités in a linguica and clam summer vegetable pasta. I had plans to make a linguica pizza and a clam white pizza with some sourdough discard. But, I spent the Sunday afternoon Zooming with a dear faraway friend so opted for a quick pasta instead.

My “recipe” included linguiça, red onion, red and orange bell pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, garlic, broccoli florets, snap peas, grape tomatoes, corn, spinach, basil, canned clams and their juice, fettuccine, pasta water and butter. Here’s how I did it.

  • Get your pasta water boiling. When it’s ready, add pasta and salt. Cook per package instructions. Ladle out and reserve at least a cup of pasta water before draining.
  • Sauté 1 pound of chopped linguiça in a bit of olive oil in a large pan. When done, remove the sausage but leave in the oil.
  • Add more oil if necessary. Sauté chopped onion, sweet bell pepper and squash. Season with salt. When nearly done, make room in the middle and add minced garlic. Cook for a minute or until it’s starting to golden.
  • Add broccoli (if it’s already cooked, if not, add it to the onion mix), chopped snap peas, halved tomatoes and corn (I scraped the kernels off 2 cobs). Season. Cook, stirring every now and then, until the tomatoes soften.
  • Put the linguiça back in.
  • Stir in chopped spinach (I used about a half package, the kind in the salad mix section of the supermarket), basil (as much as you like), two cans of chopped or minced clams with their juice.
  • Add drained pasta and about 1/2 cup of pasta water. Mix it all up and let simmer a bit. Add more pasta water if you want more liquid.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in a few pads of butter.

Sorry, no amounts because you rely on your judgement/taste—and I can’t remember what I ended up using since it was a mix of leftovers and fresh ingredients.

Linguiça is a mildly spicy Portuguese pork sausage made with garlic and paprika. I buy mine online from Gaspar’s in southern Massachusetts.

Until next week, stay awkward, brave and kind. (phrase from Brené Brown)


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Menu ideas and recipes for bluefish, tilefish, sweet bell peppers, zucchini, corn and greens

Menu ideas and recipes for bluefish, tilefish, sweet bell peppers, zucchini, corn and greens

Bluefish and tilefish recipes

If you like spicy, check out this recipe for cherry pepper sauce. Although meant for pork chops, I made it for bluefish. I also added eggplant (in season!), onions and basil. It’s a keeper.

My mint was getting leggy and in need of a serious pruning so I made a coconut mint chutney to serve with blueline tilefish. To me, it’s more like a pesto than a chutney, but nevertheless, tasty.

Update: Reading this article on Indian-style chutney, now I realize it really is a chutney. Learn something new every day.

Discovery of the week: shrimp kielbasa

Sunday’s dinner was the highlight of the week thanks to shrimp kielbasa from Locals Seafood. OMG. So good. I’ll buy more of that.

Menu ideas and recipes for bluefish, tilefish, sweet bell peppers, zucchini, corn and greens

This savory summer clafoutis is nothing much to look at but it’s really tasty

Savory summer clafoutis

The Sunday sides weren’t too shabby either. First, a sweet bell pepper and zucchini clafoutis. I subbed sour cream for crème fraîche, and added corn, onion and jalapeno. It wasn’t as pancake-y as fruit clafoutis I’ve made, more like a frittata, but plenty tasty.

A new ingredient for greens

My regular collards got an upgrade thanks to ground chorizo. I often add bacon to my greens but chorizo, wow. The rest of the mix included red bell and corno del toro peppers, onion, carrots and jalapeño.

Until next week, stay awkward, brave and kind.*

*I picked this up from Brené Brown, known mostly as a shame researcher, whose podcast I’ve been enjoying lately. She also said, shame is not a tool for social justice, but for oppression. I wish more people would listen to her and shut up.


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Menu ideas and recipes for catfish, grits, yellowfin tuna, black drum, grouper, sourdough bread, corn and greens

Menu ideas and recipes for catfish, grits, yellowfin tuna, black drum, grouper, sourdough bread, corn and greens

Two fish recipes—including the hot highlight of the week

Our highlight of the week was hot catfish with cheesy grits from Suwannee Rose, her inspired take on Nashville hot chicken. I made my favorite grits recipe—that link also takes you to the best shrimp and grits recipe ever. I can’t take credit. It’s from the late Bill Neal, former chef at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill.

The runner-up for the highlight spot had to be glazed yellowfin tuna with a ginger and oyster sauce. The original recipe called for cod and baby bok choy but our fish share included yellowfin and it fit the recipe just fine as did the grown up bok choy.

sourdough bread with Shug's fig jam

Sourdough goodness

Along with the rest of the herd, I made a sourdough starter recently following this recipe at King Arthur. I made mine with flour from Carolina Ground, a mill in Asheville NC. The wheat in my flour came from nearby Wake Forest so the wild yeast is all NC.

Sunday afternoon, I made two loaves of rustic sourdough bread—a recipe from King Arthur for newbie sourdough bakers since it includes as much commercial yeast as you think you need. I wasn’t sure if my starter was feisty enough but it did fine with a scant teaspoon of extra yeast. I loved the mild tang and soft crust of this bread—the recipe is a keeper. It’s the perfect loaf for breakfast toast with butter and homemade fig jam from my sister-in-law.

Summer corn pasta

The week’s pig-out meal was a pasta dish. Yes, pasta again, blame corn. At the farmers market, some of the farms bring in a pickup truck with a bed full of corn and the prices are good.

My pasta dish started with this creamy corn pasta with coconutty greens recipe. But I added two different kinds of fish—black drum and grouper—plus homemade shrimp broth, jalapeno, ginger, double the corn and kale, onions and scallions instead of shallots, and no thyme. Hot sauce is recommended.

Until next week, stay awkward, brave and kind.*

 *I picked this up from Brené Brown whose podcast I’ve been enjoying lately.


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Menu ideas and recipes for flounder, snapper, quesadillas, four-bean salad, pesto potatoes and watermelon margaritas

Menu ideas and recipes for flounder, snapper, quesadillas, four-bean salad, pesto potatoes and watermelon margaritas

Flounder and snapper recipes

How about some simple fish recipes? First, place flounder (or any fish) fillets into a greased baking dish, sprinkle with salt, pour a few tablespoons of lemon juice all over the fillets, and top them with a few dabs of butter. Have any herbs? Aleppo pepper flakes? If you do, add them. Bake at 375 until done. You’ll have to judge that for yourself since fillets vary but the butter builds in a buffer in case you overcook them.

Or, rub snapper (or any fish) fillets with a neutral oil (I like grapeseed), then top with a blackening rub made of smoked paprika (go heavy on that) and equal parts onion powder, garlic powder, dried thyme and dried oregano and then a little less of cayenne and black pepper. Pan-fry on both sides until done—again, a judgement call.

Cheeseburger quesadillas

Cheeseburger quesadillas seemed like the right choice for a patriotic weekend. I used a mix of cheddar and pepper jack cheese on corn tortillas and sprinkled sweet onion, sweet pickles and pickled jalapeños over the meat. I omitted the mustard—blame my feller, a mustard hater. I had mine with special sauce—a mix of ketchup, mayo and relish. Mayo will be the death of me, I love it too much.

Menu ideas and recipes for flounder, snapper, quesadillas, four-bean salad, pesto potatoes and watermelon margaritas

Four-bean salad on Day 6 so not the most fresh looking sample

Four-bean salad

Several years ago, we had a family gathering at my aunt’s house in southern Rhode Island. She served a bean salad that I couldn’t get out of my mind. When I got home, I found a recipe from Our State magazine, adapted it to my taste and added some extras I remembered from my aunt’s salad. The resulting recipe is a mix of NC and RI which fits a misplaced Yankee like me.

  • 8 to 10 ounces green beans, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon table salt
  • 1/2cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (I plan to omit the sugar next time to see if it makes much of a difference. The original recipe called for 1/4 cup—too much for me.)
  • 1/4cup grapeseed, canola or neutral oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 poblano and 1/2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup corn (or 2 ears, cooked 5 minutes, cooled and stripped from cob)
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet pickles
  • 1/4cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Set a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. When it comes to a boil, toss in 1 tablespoon salt and add the green beans. Boil for 3 minutes or until the beans are crisp-tender, meaning they just have a slight crunch still, sort of al dente.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with several cups of ice and cover the ice with cold water—leave room for the beans. As soon as the beans are crisp-tender, drain them, rinse quickly with cold water and dump them into the bowl of ice water. Let them soak in the ice water while you prepare the dressing.

Pour the vinegar (and optional sugar) into a small bowl, whisk until the sugar dissolves, and then whisk in the oil. Whisk in salt and pepper, and taste. Add more vinegar, sugar, salt or pepper if you think it needs it.

In a large bowl, combine the green beans, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, poblano and bell pepper, celery, corn, sweet onion, pickles and parsley. Pour dressing over the mix and toss. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Toss before serving.

Basil pesto potatoes

It’s basil season so grab a bunch, make pesto, grate some Parmesan and try this new way to roast potatoes.

Watermelon margaritas

Our 4th of July treat: watermelon margaritas. Reserve some time to make watermelon juice. Chop up the melon and purée the pieces in a blender. Strain the juice (and seeds) through a fine sieve. Juice some limes too while you’re at it.

Here’s the recipe for one cocktail: 4 oz watermelon juice, 1-1/2 oz tequila and 3/4 oz lime juice. Shake it up with ice and enjoy.

Until next week, stay awkward, brave and kind.*

*I picked this up from Brené Brown whose podcast I’ve been enjoying lately.


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