Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Recipes and menu ideas: tomato sandwiches, pasta salads, lamb pasta, Thai chicken, Thai corn, Thai red curry cauliflower, peach blueberry pie, peach sugar, shrimp and grits, pecan-crusted flounder, and oven-roasted black sea bass with ginger, scallion and lime.

Recipes and menu ideas: tomato sandwiches, pasta salads, lamb pasta, Thai chicken, Thai corn, Thai red curry cauliflower, peach blueberry pie, peach sugar, shrimp and grits, pecan-crusted flounder, and oven-roasted black sea bass with ginger, scallion and lime.

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Summer treats

Back in my teenage days when I was a counselor at Wheaton Farm, I had a tomato sandwich every day for lunch. I suppose it must have been easy enough for me to put together and take with me as I biked to camp every morning. I still eat them the same way—tomato, salt and pepper, lettuce, American cheese and lots of mayo. I probably used Cain’s growing up in Massachusetts, but now Duke’s is my brand.

And now the tomatoes are fancier, sometimes. I’ve been buying Cherokee Purple, German Johnson, and some kind of yellow heirloom tomato, as well as good ol’ Johnston County field tomatoes.

Another treat recently has been the sweetest meloniest cantaloupe ever. The lady at the farmer’s market picks them out for me. She asks when I’m going to cut it open and picks one that will be ready that morning. Good golly, what flavor.

Recipes and menu ideas: tomato sandwiches, pasta salads, lamb pasta, Thai chicken, Thai corn, Thai red curry cauliflower, peach blueberry pie, peach sugar, shrimp and grits, pecan-crusted flounder, and oven-roasted black sea bass with ginger, scallion and lime.

Party Pasta Salads

Pasta salads are always a sure bet for daytime parties in the summer. Recently I made a no-mayo peperonata pasta salad from Food 52. I added zucchini because I had too many, but didn’t add the nuts. And I increased the vinegar because it just didn’t have enough oomph for me.

I took home some of the leftovers and turned them into dinner. I cooked some ground lamb and tossed it with the leftover pasta salad, and added more tomatoes plus basil pesto. I liked the pasta dish better than the original salad.

My favorite pasta salad is pesto pasta salad. I make mine with:

So much flavor, much better than the peperonata pasta salad. Maybe the peperonata one would be better with some chopped salami and mortadella. Hmm, that’s a really good idea.

Recipes and menu ideas: tomato sandwiches, pasta salads, lamb pasta, Thai chicken, Thai corn, Thai red curry cauliflower, peach blueberry pie, peach sugar, shrimp and grits, pecan-crusted flounder, and oven-roasted black sea bass with ginger, scallion and lime.

Thai Tuesday

Another stretch of hot nights and I turned to southeast Asia again. This time I made Thai basil chicken—a recipe from Leite’s Culinaria, one of my favorite food blogs. The recipe was for a pork dish but I used ground chicken instead. I also subbed in red cherry peppers instead of bird’s eye chiles.

I added cilantro and mint in addition to the Thai basil called for in the recipe—I love that mix of herbs. I’m growing mint and Thai basil in pots on the deck. I can never grow enough cilantro (or flat leaf parsley) for my needs so I rely on the store for them.

I went with Thai recipes for the sides too: Thai corn salad and Thai red curry roasted cauliflower steaks. I added that same herb combo to the corn salad and used jalapeno instead of bird’s eye chiles—can’t find those in our markets. The cauliflower recipe was real simple—just brush red curry paste onto the cauliflower steaks and roast them.

Why can’t I make pie every weekend?

Seriously, I wish I could make a pie every weekend but I don’t feel like gaining 40 pounds. However, I couldn’t resist making one with the perfect peaches I brought home. And then I thought, ooh blueberries too. I found a recipe for Peach Blueberry Pie on the Taste of Home blog and went to it.

I used the double pastry crust recipe from Ken Haedrich’s Pie Hero because it’s so buttery and flaky, and he’s one of my favorite pie people. I sprinkled vanilla sugar—add a vanilla bean to a jar of sugar and let sit—on top of the top crust.

This was my best pie in forever. I will make it again but probably not until next summer since peaches are on their way out. Of course we had it with vanilla ice cream.

I don’t remember what possessed me to wonder about the skins I peeled off the peaches, but I found myself making peach sugar. I dried the peels, ground them in my extra coffee grinder, ground the same amount of sugar, and ground both together again. What will I do with peach sugar? Good question but something will come to me, I’m sure.

Recipes and menu ideas: tomato sandwiches, pasta salads, lamb pasta, Thai chicken, Thai corn, Thai red curry cauliflower, peach blueberry pie, peach sugar, shrimp and grits, pecan-crusted flounder, and oven-roasted black sea bass with ginger, scallion and lime.

Warm from the oven and spreading all over my plate.

My week in seafood

We hadn’t had shrimp and grits in a while so when I got some NC shrimp in my fish share, I pulled out my old recipe. The secret to the best grits ever is cooking them in shrimp broth instead of water—along with all the other tasty ingredients in that grits recipe. I had the leftover grits with fried eggs for breakfast.

On the side, I made Rodney Scott’s BBQ collard greens. He just won the James Beard best chef in the Southeast award for his BBQ place (or maybe places) in South Carolina. I made a few changes: used oil instead of lard and added cherry peppers.

Later in the week, I made pecan-crusted flounder. We loved it but I had trouble getting the pecans to stick—I probably should have chopped them even finer. Next time I might use buttermilk instead of milk and add hot sauce, or not. On the side, some regulars: roasted broccoli with garlic, lemon zest and parmesan, and roasted spicy sweet potatoes.

The other fish in my share that week was black sea bass—that was a treat. We had oven-roasted black sea bass with ginger, scallion and lime. A bold, tasty preparation that would also be great on flank steak, chicken thighs or salmon.

That’s all for now!


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Recipes and menu ideas: eggplant caponata, summer southern succotash, charred shishito peppers, summer squash gratin, peach glazed chicken thighs, roasted mackerel with garlic and paprika, and southwestern striped mullet.

Recipes and menu ideas: eggplant caponata, southern summer succotash, charred shishito peppers, summer squash gratin, peach glazed chicken thighs, roasted mackerel with garlic and paprika, and southwestern striped mullet.

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Eggplant Caponata

About a month ago, eggplants of all kinds and shapes appeared at the farmers market. When I first saw a display of them, eggplant caponata came into my head. I made it on a Sunday to serve as a side later in the week. My version (linked above) has eggplant, red onion, red bell pepper, garlic, capers, olives, oregano, basil, and balsamic vinegar.

Caponata also makes a great snack or appetizer on toast points or small slices of crusty white bread. Come to think of it, I bet it would be terrific tossed with pasta too.

Recipes and menu ideas: eggplant caponata, summer southern succotash, charred shishito peppers, summer squash gratin, peach glazed chicken thighs, roasted mackerel with garlic and paprika, and southwestern striped mullet.

Southern Summer Succotash

Okra is at every farm stand now too. I know okra isn’t everyone’s thing because of its mucilaginous (isn’t that a great word?) innards. But that’s a shame because it’s darn tasty. I’m still discovering Southern dishes. One of my recent favorites is fried pickled okra. Oh. My.

A few weekends ago, the Greenville (NC) convention center hosted my state association’s conference. One night, waiters passed trays of fried pickled okra with a remoulade sauce (or something similar) for dipping. I hovered and partook. Repeatedly. I now have two different, highly-rated, deep fat fryers on my kitchen Amazon list. I’m either going to wait for a sale or my birthday to buy one of them—whichever comes first.

And a totally random observation that will be of interest to meeting planners and caterers: the waiters at the Greenville Convention Center wore white t-shirts with hand-written stickers describing what dish they were carrying on their tray. So smart!

Succotash is a traditional way to use okra around here so that’s what I did recently: southern summer succotash. I adapted a recipe from two different sources: the Spicy Southern Kitchen and Deep South Dish blogs. My version included butter beans, bacon, sweet onion, red and orange bell pepper, okra, corn, grape tomatoes, garlic, and herbs (thyme, oregano, basil).

Recipes and menu ideas: eggplant caponata, summer southern succotash, charred shishito peppers, summer squash gratin, peach glazed chicken thighs, roasted mackerel with garlic and paprika, and southwestern striped mullet.

Charred Shishito Peppers

I first had shishitos at a place in Nashville. Then my CSA started growing them. My CSA is on hiatus right now so I picked up a bag of them at the farmers market to make charred shishito peppers.

I cook them in a black pan that’s not cast iron but acts the same way. Heat up the pan, add a few glugs of olive oil and let it heat up, add the whole peppers (stem and all) and let them char while you toss them around so they don’t get too burnt on one side only. I like to cook them so some sides are charred and some are just blistered. Take the pan off the heat and sprinkle on a generous amount of sea salt and then some squirts of lemon juice.

Summer Squash Gratin

I made an easy summer squash gratin with a mix of yellow and zucchini squash that I based on this recipe from Peas and Crayons. I added red bell pepper and skipped the spinach. Since I had saltines left over from making an Atlantic Beach pie, I used them for the topping.

Recipes and menu ideas: eggplant caponata, summer southern succotash, charred shishito peppers, summer squash gratin, peach glazed chicken thighs, roasted mackerel with garlic and paprika, and southwestern striped mullet.

Peach Glazed Chicken Thighs

We have a new summer favorite: peach glazed chicken thighs. The farmers market is overrun with peaches. I was having trouble keeping up with my supply before they got too soft so I decided to turn some of them into dinner. I found this recipe on The Seasoned Mom blog. The only change I remember making is reducing the brown sugar. I may just eliminate it next time since in-season peaches are soooo sweet.

King Mackerel and Striped Mullet

I can’t talk about cooking without mentioning fish. Every week, I pick up my CSF (community supported fishery) share of two pounds of North Carolina fish from Locals Seafood—who have a new website, nice. Two weeks ago (I’m a little behind on my blogging here), my share included king mackerel and striped mullet.

Mackerel is full-flavored so doesn’t need much—unless you don’t like all that flavor, but we do. I found an Epicurious recipe for roasted mackerel with garlic and paprika—real simple and tasty. I just noticed it’s a Gordon Ramsey recipe. I didn’t make the vinaigrette, only the garlic/paprika paste—a fabulous idea.

The next night we had southwestern striped mullet. Striped mullet, per Locals Seafood, has a “rich, nutty flavor and buttery texture… [that] can be cooked in almost any fashion.”

I read somewhere about soaking striped mullet fillets in spiced buttermilk, so that’s what I did. My buttermilk was seasoned with garlic salt, ground ancho chile powder, chipotle powder and coriander. Then I dredged the fillets in cornmeal and pan-fried them in grapeseed oil, a few minutes per side. As they were done, I transferred them to a paper towel-lined plate and squeezed lemon juice on them. Good and quick. I’ll do that again.

More to come!


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Creative Commons licensed images by Neha Deshmukh on Unsplash (okra), pameladebutler on Pixabay (shishitos) and Diego Duarte Cereceda on Unsplash (peaches).

Recipes and menu ideas for fish with Thai coconut red curry sauce, blackened skipjack tuna, green beans with mushrooms and herbs, shrimp scampi, Southern tomato pie, and pork Milanese.

Recipes and menu ideas: fish with Thai coconut red curry sauce, blackened skipjack tuna, green beans with mushrooms and herbs, shrimp scampi, Southern tomato pie, and pork Milanese.

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Ocean Isle Beach

We spent a few days visiting cousins who were vacationing at our regular coastal haunt, Ocean Isle Beach—where I met my honey. Usually when we stay on OIB, we hardly ever leave the island except for grocery shopping. But this time we had an early dinner at Makai Brewing Company. Enjoyed a few beers while listening to two guys doing 90s covers.

The brewery is connected by a hallway to an Italian market. This place used to be The Butcher of Brunswick, but I can’t remember what it’s called now. I enjoyed something I haven’t had in a long time, a meatball sub.

The next night we ate at Dockside Seafood House Restaurant in Calabash. We sat outside so we could enjoy the water view. The inside has that dated old school look, no surprise since this place has been in business since 1955. Calabash is a renowned style of fried seafood in these parts. The fish or shellfish is only lightly battered, just enough to give it the fried taste but without the heaviness of regular fried food. I enjoyed a big plate of flounder, scallops and oysters.

Recipes and menu ideas for fish with Thai coconut red curry sauce, blackened skipjack tuna, green beans with mushrooms and herbs, shrimp scampi, Southern tomato pie, and pork Milanese.

Thai Coconut Red Curry Sauce

On another hot evening, I went back to one of my tried and true recipes, fish with Thai coconut red curry sauce. I pulled some cod from the freezer for this one. My recipe has evolved a bit from the original. I add red bell pepper and garlic, a whole can of coconut milk, brown sugar instead of regular sugar, and a mix of fresh basil, Thai basil and mint. This time I also added julienned collards to the dish too and served it over jasmine rice.

Recipes and menu ideas for fish with Thai coconut red curry sauce, blackened skipjack tuna, green beans with mushrooms and herbs, shrimp scampi, Southern tomato pie, and pork Milanese.

Green Beans with Mushrooms and Herbs

We loved the blackened amberjack I made recently so I decided to make blackened skipjack tuna. For one of the sides, I roasted a mix of sweet and new potatoes with some sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder and sea salt, and green beans with mushrooms and herbs.

Green Beans with Mushrooms and Herbs

  • Olive oil
  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 4 to 8 ounces cremini and/or shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds green beans
  • 1/2 cup or more diced tomato
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth (plus extra just in case)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, parsley or basil or a combo
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil. When the oil is hot, add bacon, let cook for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms and onions, cook a few minutes, until they’re starting to soften a bit. Add garlic. Cook 1 minute, or until the garlic starts to golden.

Add green beans and tomatoes, toss it all together. Cook for a few minutes, stirring. Add a little chicken broth and cook (covered if you want to speed it along) until the liquid evaporates or green beans are crisp-tender, whichever comes first. If the broth evaporates before the beans are done, add some more. When done, toss with herbs and season with salt and pepper.

Recipes and menu ideas for fish with Thai coconut red curry sauce, blackened skipjack tuna, green beans with mushrooms and herbs, shrimp scampi, Southern tomato pie, and pork Milanese.

Shrimp Scampi

I got a pound of North Carolina brown shrimp in my CSF share and made one of the most satisfying dishes ever, shrimp scampi with pasta.

Shrimp used to be a luxury, remember that? Now you can buy cheap packages of frozen Asian shrimp in every supermarket—but don’t. In addition to the horrid issues mentioned in this article—slave labor being just one of them—the compromised Asian shrimp industry has put many American shrimpers out of business. They can’t compete with slave labor.

Recipes and menu ideas for fish with Thai coconut red curry sauce, blackened skipjack tuna, green beans with mushrooms and herbs, shrimp scampi, Southern tomato pie, and pork Milanese.

Southern Tomato Pie

We are in the midst of tomato season here. I bought some German Johnson and Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes to make Vivian Howard’s Southern tomato pie. This is definitely a Sunday recipe due to all the steps involved—making the pastry, drying tomatoes, roasting tomatoes and making the filling—but it was worth it.

We had slices of the pie alongside pork Milanese—and the rest for breakfast. I also cooked some collards and kale with banana peppers, red and yellow onions, mushrooms, red bell pepper, and bacon.

More to come!


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Recipes and menu ideas for dogfish taco night with peach salsa, salsa verde, squash calabacitas

Recipes and menu ideas for basil pesto, dogfish taco night with peach salsa, salsa verde, squash calabacitas, butter beans and southern pie.

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Tis the season for basil pesto

Every spring I buy at least six baby basil plants so I can make pesto every few weeks throughout the summer and into the fall. Last year, my plants got sick, some kind of wasting disease caused by the soil, after only a few harvests so my pesto inventory got perilously low.

This year, we had so much rain that mildew got them, but they seem to be coming back. I cheated on them by buying a huge bunch of basil at the farmers market for this year’s first batch of basil pesto. I freeze pesto in ice cube trays, then pop the pesto cubes into freezer bags.

Here’s how I’ve been using basil pesto lately:

Recipes and menu ideas for dogfish taco night with peach salsa, salsa verde, squash calabacitas

Fish taco night!

I love all the traditional accompaniments to tacos which is why they’re usually a Sunday dish. On a recent Sunday, I ended up making seven things to go along with dogfish tacos. A little excessive but enough for leftovers on Tuesday too.

Since cod is overfished, I read somewhere that Brits now use dogfish for fish and chips. It’s a tasty fish. I gave it a good rub with ground ancho chile, paprika, cumin, dried oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Taco time in this house means southwestern slaw time. No mayo in this recipe, instead it calls for lime juice and rice vinegar. Red and green cabbage, carrot, sweet onion, red bell pepper, broccoli stems, cilantro and hot sauce are the stars of this slaw.

Of course, you have to have guacamole—and that reminds me of a key step when planning for tacos: you’ve got to have ripe avocadoes. Maybe the store will have them, maybe they won’t. To be safe, I plan ahead and get some ripening by putting them in a sealable bag with a banana or apple.

Peach salsa

I went crazy buying peaches at the farmers market so I decided to make some peach salsa too. I loved having the hit of sweet fruit against the other flavors.

  • 2 cups of diced peaches
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced jalapeno, remove ribs and seeds before mincing to reduce the heat level
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice of one lime or more to taste
  • salt to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Recipes and menu ideas for basil pesto, dogfish taco night with peach salsa, salsa verde, squash calabacitas, butter beans and southern pie.

Salsa verde

One of my favorite Mexican accompaniments to tacos is salsa verde. My recipe comes from Rick Bayless’ cookbook, From Mexico: One Plate at a Time.

  • 8 ounces (5 to 6 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed, roughly chopped
  • Fresh hot green chiles, to taste (roughly 2 serranos or 1 jalapeno), stemmed, ribs and seeds removed if you don’t want that much heat, roughly chopped
  • 6 hefty sprigs fresh cilantro (remove only the thick stems, you can use the thin stems), roughly chopped
  • Scant 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • Juice of at least 1/2 lime (taste, maybe more)
  • Salt

In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos, chiles and cilantro. Process to a coarse puree, then scrape into a serving dish. Stir onion and lime juice into the salsa and season with salt, usually a generous 1/4 teaspoon. Taste for lime and salt, and add more if necessary.

Squash calabacitas

Think about it: when you dine at a Mexican restaurant, do you ever get a green veg on your plate? I once ordered nopales as an appetizer but that’s as close as I ever got. When I want a green veg for a Mexican-style meal, I turn to calabacitas. I don’t know how authentic this really is but I don’t care that much, it’s delicious.

  • 1 tablespoon (or more) olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, chopped (or jalapeno or canned green chiles)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and chopped into 1/2-inch chunks (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and chopped into 1/2-inch chunks (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • 1/2 to 1 cup diced tomato
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Cayenne, cumin, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium-low and cook onions and poblano until they just start to get soft. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Turn heat up to medium if you don’t mind some of your squash getting a little brown. Add zucchini and squash and cook, stirring every now and then, until they’re at the tenderness you like. Usually some of mine get pretty soft while some are more crisp-tender, depending on how long they spend at the bottom of the pan.

Add corn, tomato and oregano, cook until the tomatoes are cooked enough for you. Remove from heat and season with cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper to taste.

Recipes and menu ideas for basil pesto, dogfish taco night with peach salsa, salsa verde, squash calabacitas, butter beans and southern pie.

Southern summering

Different kinds of beans and peas have been appearing lately at the farmers market. These ingredients have never been part of my repertoire so I decided to start my southern bean/pea education with butter beans. They look and taste a lot like lima beans, in fact, I found out they are lima beans—it’s a southern thing.

I asked the lady at the farm stand how she cooked her butter beans. She said to simmer them in water with a ham hock. I can’t recall if she said anything else or if I did anything else—besides add salt, pepper and butter after I drained them.

I added the leftover butter beans to my leftover calabacitas—Mexican succotash!

I was in charge of dessert on the 4th of July so I made another tasty Southern treat: Atlantic Beach pie. The story goes that this pie was served back in the day at many of the seafood places on the coast around Atlantic Beach. I found a recipe by Bill Smith, chef at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill. He’s a proven source of good eats: the only shrimp and grits recipe I ever use is his recipe, and I’m telling you, I’ve never had better in any restaurant.

The pie was a hit. I thought the saltine crust would be weird but the salty buttery crust contrasted with tangy sweet lemon filling. It was super easy to make. Now I need an occasion to make it again. However, next time, I’m going to cut back on the crackers a bit, I had way more crumbs than I needed for the crust.


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Creative Commons licensed image by Daderot (tomatillos).

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Recipes and menu ideas for a summer Indian dinner, yellowfin tuna, peach andouille basil flatbread and blackened amberjack (or other hearty fish).

Recipes and menu ideas for a summer Indian dinner, yellowfin tuna, peach andouille basil flatbread and blackened amberjack (or other hearty fish).

Fighting the heat with Indian food

When the temps are in the 90s, I like meals with fresh, spicy, bold flavors like Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican or Indian. On a hot night recently I made cod with coconut-cilantro sauce. Since the recipe has garam masala in it, I’m guessing it’s supposed to be Indian or Indian-style. Whatever, it was quick, easy and delicious.

I kept with the Indian theme and made this Indian-spiced mashed cauliflower recipe using a yellow cauliflower I picked up at the farmers market. I swear it tasted and looked like mashed potatoes, but even better thanks to the mix of red onion, cilantro and spices. I doubled the amount of red onion and omitted the mustard seeds. Jim’s not a fan of mustard—and doesn’t know what he’s missing—so I go easy on it when recipes call for mustard, mustard powder or mustard seeds.

Our other side was Indian-style kale and spinach. The original recipe called for mustard greens but I used what I had in the fridge. An interesting recipe: the greens were puréed with cornmeal and spices in a food processor. It was pretty good but nothing special although I loved the purée aspect and the heat.

Recipes and menu ideas for a summer Indian dinner, yellowfin tuna, peach andouille basil flatbread and blackened amberjack (or other hearty fish).

Highlight of the week: yellowfin tuna

We received two pounds of gorgeous North Carolina yellowfin tuna from our CSF share at Locals Seafood, more than enough for two dinners. The first night, I made this Sicilian tuna recipe. It reminded me of puttanesca—a boldly flavored topping for the tuna. Next time, I will skip the marinade. I’m not sure it added much plus the lemon juice cooked the sides of the tuna.

On the side I made my Italian-style spaghetti squash recipe with the addition of some carrot top pesto.

The highlight of the week was the next night’s supper: Thai tuna burgers. Oh my, swooningly good. I got to use my mortar and pestle for once to make a paste of ginger, garlic, jalapeño, fish sauce, cilantro and Thai basil. I added this vibrant green paste to the finely chopped tuna. Brush a mix of grapeseed and sesame oil on the buns. Spread some ginger-lemon mayo on mine. Top with pickled cucumber and red onion. Heavenly.

Recipes and menu ideas for a summer Indian dinner, yellowfin tuna, peach andouille basil flatbread and blackened amberjack (or other hearty fish).

Peach, Andouille and Basil Flatbread

I made peach, andouille and basil flatbread as a side one night. I had some peaches that were soft in parts so I thought I’d make a pizza out of them with some type of pork and basil. I decided to go the easy route and use flatbread. Dang, it turned out really well. I will definitely do this again.

  • Olive oil
  • Andouille or linguica sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4” or less
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 large naan flatbreads
  • 2 peaches, thinly sliced
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced – can add some goat cheese too
  • Basil, chopped

Heat olive oil in pan. Add sausage. If it’s raw, cook until done. If it’s fully cooked, add garlic too and cook about a minute. Spread evenly over flatbread. Place peaches and mozzarella evenly over flatbread. Cook at 350 until cheese bubbles and starts to brown. Sprinkle with basil.

Recipes and menu ideas for a summer Indian dinner, yellowfin tuna, peach andouille basil flatbread and blackened amberjack (or other hearty fish).

Good eats in Massachusetts

I spent some time in Massachusetts recently visiting my family. Here are some of my dining highlights for your menu inspiration:

Razor clam ceviche at Cibo Matto in Mansfield where I also tried a bit of my Dad’s sea scallops (I opted for halibut)—the best darn scallops I’ve had in ages—guessing just seared in butter.

Desserts at Cibo Matto: vanilla bean panna cotta with blueberry sauce and oat crisp crumble—tis the season to make a cool refreshing panna cotta, and the most delicious gingerbread sundae with gingersnap molasses ice cream, gingerbread, and whipped cream with caramel, holy moly—definitely more of an autumn dessert but I couldn’t resist, so darn good.

Lobster roll at Lobster Hut in Plymouth—I can’t go to MA and not have a lobster roll.

Linguica, onion and garlic pizza at Union Villa in North Easton—and I can’t leave without having my favorite pizza.

Swordfish on the grill.

My mum’s cod with Ritz/lemon/butter topping—a family classic.

Breakfast at JJ’s Caffe in Brockton: salmon benedict—two poached eggs on top of a mix of salmon, onion and spinach on a grilled English muffin, topped with whole grain mustard cream, alongside crème brulée french toast topped with apple cinnamon syrup, crème fraiche, bananas, blueberries and strawberries.

Donuts from Kane’s in Saugus.

Recipes and menu ideas for a summer Indian dinner, yellowfin tuna, peach andouille basil flatbread and blackened amberjack (or other hearty fish).

Blackened amberjack

We love amberjack. My seafood shop describes amberjack as having a sweet, mild flavor with tender, firm, and delicate meat along with a high oil content that gives it a buttery texture. All I can say is: fabulous.

I made up a recipe for one pound of blackened amberjack based on a few I found online:

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

We decided to add it to a big dinner salad—I had mine with gorgonzola crumbles and chipotle ranch dressing. I also made some roasted sweet potatoes with smoked paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, garlic powder and sea salt, plus some leftover veggies on the side too.

More to come!

Recipes and recipe suggestions for homemade coffee syrup, carrot top pesto, blueberry cake and a Vietnamese dinner

Recipes and recipe suggestions for homemade coffee syrup, carrot top pesto, blueberry cake and a Vietnamese dinner.

Hot weather treat: chilled or iced coffee

What do you do in hot and humid weather? Stay inside, that’s what. I get out there to exercise and sweat once a day but the rest of the time you can find me in the cool comfort of the AC. If it’s morning, you’ll also find me with a big chilled coffee. I haven’t graduated to any sophisticated methods of making chilled coffee, I simply make a pot of coffee and stick it in the fridge.

I like my hot coffee with a bit of milk but when it comes to chilled coffee, I like a hint of sweetness in it too. My homemade spiced coffee syrup is just the thing.

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the water, maple syrup, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg in a small saucepot and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

You can strain the mixture through a cheesecloth if you wish or simply pour it through a funnel into a jar or bottle. Store it in the refrigerator.

Recipes and recipe suggestions for homemade coffee syrup, carrot top pesto, blueberry cake and a Vietnamese dinner

Carrot top pesto

I’ve written about my carrot top pesto here before but did I give you the recipe? At first, like you, I thought the idea of making pesto from carrot tops was a bit of a stretch, but the flavor is much better than you could ever imagine. As proof, I will point to Jim who has no idea he’s eating carrot top pesto but loves it when I stir it into vegetable sautés. Plus, I hate food waste so I love that I can use every part of the carrot—the ones we get from the CSA or farmers market usually come with their frilly green tops.

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin or sunflower seeds — I’ve been making it only with pumpkin seeds (pepitas) but will try pecans next.
  • 2 cups lightly packed carrot leaves, stems removed, rinsed thoroughly
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place them in a preheated 350-degree oven or toaster oven. Toast until fragrant and lightly browned. Watch them closely after 5 minutes so they don’t get too dark and burn.

In a food processor, combine the carrot leaves, parsley, oil, garlic and salt, and process until finely minced. Add the nuts and pulse until finely chopped. Add more oil to get to the consistency you want. I like it thicker than tomato sauce but not as thick as hummus, if that makes any sense.

If you’re not freezing the pesto, stir in the Parmesan. If you’re freezing it, wait until you defrost the pesto to add Parmesan. Taste the pesto and add salt and/or lemon juice if you think it needs it. I freeze my pesto in ice cube trays.

Here are some ways to use carrot top pesto:

  • Stirred into a vegetable sauté.
  • Tossed with pasta—I added it once to cheese-filled tortellini.
  • Dolloped on top of hard-boiled eggs.
  • Tossed with roasted potatoes.
  • Spooned on top of bruschetta with goat cheese.

Blueberry season

Peaches have overtaken the farmers market but blueberries are running a strong second in the most popular fruit category. I’ve been coming home with at least two pints every week.

A few weekends ago, I made this blueberry cake recipe from Simply Recipes. I increased the cinnamon because why not. And I omitted the powdered sugar topping because this cake really doesn’t need it. This is more of a breakfast and snacking cake than a fancy wow-you-made-cake dessert cake.

Recipes and recipe suggestions for homemade coffee syrup, carrot top pesto, blueberry cake and a Vietnamese dinner

Satisfying my Vietnamese yearnings

Southeast Asian food is perfect for hot humid evenings. I pulled some wild salmon from the freezer and made roast salmon with Vietnamese caramel sauce—a Food52 recipe. Fantastic. I will make it again, but next time I’ll add some heat to the sauce itself.

My spiralizer went into action for the side: Vietnamese zoodle salad with herbs and roasted peanuts—a Fine Cooking recipe featuring zucchini, carrot and red onions with mint, cilantro and Thai basil—the recipe called for regular basil but I’ve got a pot of Thai basil on the deck.

That’s all for now. I’ll have more meals to share soon since I’m still catching up here.

Creative Commons licensed photos by Frank McKenna (iced coffee) and Joanna Kosinska (blueberries) via Unsplash.

recipes on my menu and e-cookbooks on sale this week

Tilefish and fish cakes

My cooking week began with blueline tilefish. Before getting involved in a CSF (that stands for community supported fishery which is like a CSA share but with fish and shellfish), I hadn’t ever heard of tilefish. Tilefish is a mild, white, flaky fish found along the east coast. Its diet of tasty sea critters makes it quite delicious—some people compare it to grouper.

A few years ago, I made tilefish with a spiced breadcrumb topping. The star of that topping was New Bay 33—a black garlic enhanced take on Old Bay seasoning. And let me tell you, New Bay 33 is so much better than Old Bay.

This time I made a tilefish cakes recipe from Food52. I used New Bay 33 instead of the Old Bay and celery salt called for by the recipe. And, I added a shallot which is missing from the list of ingredients although it’s mentioned in the instructions—sloppy recipe writing.

I love fish cakes. Maybe because I love meatballs of all types too and what’s a fish cake but a smooshed fish ball, right? This recipe doesn’t have a lot of filler so the tilefish shone through.

On the side, roasted new potatoes sprinkled with a sample of Nons pinching salt I got when I picked up my CSA share at Chickadee Farms. I used all my leftover broccoli stems in a sauté with a mix of summer squash, grape tomatoes, spring onions and garlic scapes—all local veggies.

recipes on my menu (including tilefish) and e-cookbooks on sale this week

This is a golden tilefish fillet, both sides.

Portuguese perfection

The highlight of the week was a dish inspired by an Andrew Zimmern recipe: Portuguese clams with linguica, spinach, tomatoes and orzo. I got two dozen littleneck clams in our CSF share and although I was tempted to pop them open and snarf them down raw, I decided to turn them into dinner. Zimmern’s recipe looked fine but I thought linguica would be so much better than Italian sausage. My real inspiration was the Portuguese habit of combining pork and clams. Here’s my recipe:

  • 3/4 cup orzo, cooked up and tossed with butter as I prepped the rest
  • 12 ounces linguica, sliced in half lengthwise, then into 1/4” slices, cooked in olive oil with a medium chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup diced tomatoes melted with 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 cup white wine, reduced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth, brought to a boil
  • 24 littleneck clams, steamed in all that goodness until the shells opened
  • 6 ounces spinach, stemmed, julienned, mixed in along with 2 tablespoons butter

I went with my gut and the results were swooningly delicious. Following my gut doesn’t always work out but boy did it ever this time.

Now about that linguica: that’s a Portuguese sausage made, as far as I know, with garlic and paprika. You can find it in Massachusetts and Rhode Island—it’s my favorite pizza topping when I go home. I was ecstatic to find it in Sacramento too—another Portuguese-American area. Now, I order it from Amaral’s. Gaspar’s is another popular brand.

recipes on my menu and e-cookbooks on sale this week

My gorgeous little littlenecks before they headed to the pot

Amberjack and Essence

Speaking of Portuguese, Emeril Lagasse’s Essence was the co-star of the next night’s dinner: pan-roasted amberjack. I made a batch of Essence, a Creole seasoning mix, a while back to keep on hand. I sprinkled two amberjack fillets with salt and Essence and cooked each side two minutes then put the pan in a 375 oven and cooked them four minutes more. The cooked fillets sat in the covered pan on the stove while we ate salad so it probably cooked a bit more. But, oh my, the fish was moist, tender and absolutely delicious.

Amberjack is a game fish. Here’s a description from my CSF: “Greater amberjack has a sweet, mild flavor and is tender, firm, and delicate. The high oil content gives it a buttery texture. Fresh greater amberjack has a bright color and firm, compact flesh.” Accurate on all counts.

For our side, I made a potato, squash and goat cheese gratin from The Kitchn. I added sliced onion to the veggie mix and made the topping with equal parts parmesan and panko breadcrumbs.

recipes on my menu and e-cookbooks on sale this week

Amberjack aka sea donkey

On My Menu

The hot weather is turning me toward Asian flavors so tomorrow night we’ll have roasted salmon with a Vietnamese caramel sauce. Yes, more fish, this time from the freezer. I’ll spiralize two big summer squash for Vietnamese zoodle salad. I may have to increase the dressing ingredients because I want to add four cute little heads of cabbage I’ve been neglecting—two green and two red.

Right before I joined the CSF, I bought several packages of frozen (supposedly) sustainable fish from BJs, hence all fish all the time here. My plan for Tuesday night is baked mahi mahi with coconut cilantro sauce. This recipe looks wicked easy. On the side, kung pao yellow cauliflower and a kale sauté of some type.

And then on Thursday, I’ll pick up more fish from Locals Seafood! What tasty delights await, I do not know. But I do have a spaghetti squash that needs cooking so I’ll make an Italian-style spaghetti squash sauté either Thursday or Friday.

That’s the plan but we’ll see what happens in real life.

eCookbooks and Food eBooks on Sale

Act quickly if any of these interest you, ebook deals last a day, a week, or sometimes longer. Click on the title to get to the Amazon deal. No time for Amazon blurbs this week, sorry, but I feel these are all worthy.

The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum ($3.99) – I’ve had this one in my library for a loooong time. If you need a good baking cookbook, this is the one.

Essential Pépin Desserts: 160 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food by Jacques Pépin ($3.99) – I love Pépin’s approach to desserts. He’s my hero.

The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery by Karen Mitchell and Sarah Mitchell Hansen ($4.99)

Cook Simple: Effortless Cooking Every Day by Diana Henry ($2.99)

Southern Routes: Secret Recipes from the Best Down-Home Joints in the South by Ben Vaughn ($2.99)


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