Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fire and Ice

Picky eaters drive me crazy (ie:my son)! I don't even mind so much if someone does not like something if they will just try it and then make that decision. I like to cook with what some people (not me) might consider somewhat unusual ingredients. This usually means some spices that they are not familiar with or combinations of foods that your basic Southern/Americana cook would not typically use. Because of this, when I make a new dish I am often faced with the dilemma..."do I tell them what is in it?" With my children the answer is usually a no. My policy is make them taste first and then disclose. Friends and acquaintances on the other hand are a little trickier.
I will have to say that most of my friends have a pretty open mind about trying new things and now after a few times of trying my new creations they have come to know that for the most part my cooking ROCKS (hey when you got it Flaunt it)! It also does not hurt that I have a disproportionately large number of male friends most of whom are Firefighters that subscribe to the ... If it does not eat me first philosophy. I also think it helps that due to the military, a lot of them are not Southern born and raised.

Now, no offense to my friends (or anyone else) who are not Damn Yankees (like myself). I am not knocking Southern cooking. Lord knows that I love to eat it. But I am not that great at cooking it. ( I can't make good fried chicken to save my life). What I am getting at is there is a simplicity to the ingredients of Southern Cooking and some people who have eaten it all their lives are resistant to try things they are not familiar with.

On of my favorite things is to mix sweet and savory. Even I had trouble with that concept at first but once I tried it I was hooked. Now I look twice at those recipes with combinations that even I have some doubt about. I try to think about the ingredients separately and then use some blind faith.

Today's recipe was one that gave me pause. I love salsa! I have seen recipes for Watermelon salsa several times over the past few weeks. Now I make a fruit salsa all the time but it is definitely a sweet salsa and I make cinnamon tortilla chips with it. But this is a Savory Salsa with garlic and jalapenos. At first I was like, ehhhhh that really does not sound too good. But then after seeing it a couple of more times I was intrigued. I found several recipes on Recipezaar along with several other sites that I googled. There are many variations and I took what I liked best from them to come up with this one. I kept the name from the one I followed most closely because I thought it described it perfectly "FIRE AND ICE SALSA" The cool watermelon with the hot jalapenos is a surprising combination. I debated telling my friends what it was before they tasted it because quite honestly when you look at it you can't tell it is not tomatoes. But in the end I did and they tried it anyway. As is typical with something unusual, it got a slow start with people tentative about it but by the end of the evening the huge bowl was nearly gone. How could they have doubted me?

Fire and Ice Salsa

3 cups diced watermelon
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1-2 jalapeno peppers finely diced (adjust to taste)
1-2 cloves garlic finely minced
1 TBS Balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup finely minced cilantro
2Tbs finely chopped mint leaves
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover refrigerate for at least 1 HR. Serve with tortilla chips. Also would be great over broiled fish. 24-48 hr. is about the extent of it's shelf life in the fridge but so far mine has not lasted that long anyway.

Note: Be careful with the jalapeno. The contrast of it with the watermelon makes it seem hotter. Error on the side of not enough to start with then you can add more according to your taste.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sandwich Artistry

I saw this on an episode of Everyday Italian months ago and thought it looked amazing! I had been looking for an opportunity ever since to make it. I finally did on the 4th of July. It was a HUGE hit and I have made it twice since then. One time was for friends who came over to discuss a menu for their Wedding reception. (Yes, I will be make that for their wedding). I also made it last week and took it along to Fayetteville after 5 for my friends and I to munch on while listening to the beach music. Again it was a hit. You can absolutely use whatever cold cuts and cheeses in it you desire. I used spinach in it because I thought it would hold up better than other lettuces. You could also try arugala if you don't like spinach but I just didn't mention it to anyone (my kids) who does not like spinach and they did not even notice.Though I am not crazy about olives the flavor of them in this is irreplaceable. My personal twist on this was the pesto which I think adds a great flavor to it. I think next time I might even layer some basil in with the spinach ...mmmmmm basil! The bread is also something that can be whatever you like. Round and crusty are pretty much the requirements for that. The secret to this recipe is that it MUST be made 8-24 hrs ahead, wrapped tightly and refrigerated. This lets all those yummy flavors soak into the bread.


1lb round loaf of Sourdough bread
1/4 cup of Olive tampenade
1/4 cup pesto
Spinach leaves
4oz sliced swiss chese
4oz sliced provolone cheese
4oz pastrami
4oz ham
4oz tukey breast
Thinly sliced Red onions
Thinly slice roasted red peppers

Carefully cut off about 1/2 in off top of Bread. This will become the "lid". With you fingers hollow out the bread leaving about a 1/4 inch wall on bottom and sides. Mix together Tampenade and Pesto. Spread 3/4 of mixture over bottom , sides and "lid" of bread. Place a single layer meat, cheese, tampenade/pesto, peppers, onions and spinach. Continue to layer ingredients alternating types of cheese. Continuely press down on ingredients packing them very tightly into bread. Replace Top of bread onto loaf. Wrap sandwhich as tight as possible with plastic wrap (press and seal is great for this). Refigerate sandwhich for at least 8hrs. Cut sandwhich into 8 wedges immediately before serving.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

In Spite of my Mother...

I have come to the conclusion that I LIKE tomatoes. Now this might not seem like any great epiphany to you but my MOTHER would certainly be shocked to read this. My WHOLE life I have said I hate tomatoes. When I was growing up mother (who would sprinkle salt on a whole tomato and eat it like an apple) always put tomatoes in our dinner salad and MADE me eat them. So, I would pick out the tomatoes and choke them down by themselves. Don't tell my Mom but, I actually would swallow them whole which I also did with peas (which by the way I love now) and lima beans. This would INFURIATE her. "If you hate them so much why would you eat them by themselves???" my reply, "I love salad. "
My answer was simple and I think, quite insightful for a small child. I wanted to enjoy my salad. Savor my salad. If I ate the salad with the tomatoes it would have ruined it. It is also further proof that I was a foodie even back then. I can also vividly remember the sausage pizza we had every Fri night (and cold pizza left overs for breakfast Saturday morning) from Jacks Pizza. It was just recently that I realized that the reason that I loved that pizza so much is that the sausage was perfectly spiced with loads of fennel seeds. SEE ... what 5 yr. old has such a distinguished palette?
I also have vivid memories of going to my Grandparents and my Grandpa giving me a glass of Buttermilk. Sprinkled with a dash of salt and pepper. I loved tang of the buttermilk and the feel of it coating my mouth. I would drink it like a wine connoisseur ... rolling it around my mouth and over my tongue before swallowing it. OK, maybe I was a strange child ..but then again, look at me now. Are you REALLY surprised?
Once again, I have gotten off topic (but it was a nice stroll down memory lane) back to tomatoes. So though I hated tomatoes I loved catsup and tomato soup (with grilled cheese of course) and of course spaghetti. But as I have gotten older I have continued to add more and more tomatoes to my diet. But I have always been resistant to any raw tomato. Several years ago I decided that a small amount of tomato on Mexican food was really good. I love salsa but I stuck to the more thinner kind with less chunks in it. Then I tried Sams club "Fresh Salsa" sold in the refrigerator section and I was like ..HEY that's pretty good stuff. Then I decided to try to make my own Pico de Gallo. That was it, I was hooked!!! I was beginning to realize that I could no longer claim to hate tomatoes when I started eating the Pico De Gallo by its self. With a spoon! But, when I was cutting up tomatoes for it the other day and the juice ran down my wrist and I licked it a thought MMMM...I knew I was busted! Now you will still not catch me putting a slice of tomato on a burger and you will NEVER catch me putting them in my salad (thanks to MOM for traumatizing me I love tomatoes in lots of other things!

I am sure you are saying ..."geeze is she EVER going to get to the point? know ... like an actual recipe?????" Hey it's my blog! You're not the boss of me! Anyway, I made some Pico the other day and I was planning on adding shrimp and taking it to work for lunch. But through the course of the day I would walk by the fridge and take a spoonful (or 4) of it. By the time I got ready to pack my lunch for the next day. There was a pitiful amount of Pico left. Even with a lot of shrimp it was not going to make a very substantial lunch. So I came up with this tasty (and WAY simple) little dish and was very satisfied with my lunch. I have reworked it to make more than a single serving here. You can use a store bought Pico de gallo but really, its quite simple to make and SO worth it. It also allows you to make it as hot or as mild as you like. I would recommend making the Pico a few hours before mixing it with the rest of the ingredients to let the flavors develop and for it to get "juicy." It's fresh and light and very summery!

Pico De Shrimp and Pasta Salad

3 cups fresh Pico De Gallo (click on link for recipe)
8 oz steamed Shrimp cooled
4 oz of Orzo cooked according to Pkg. and cooled
Salt to taste

Fold together first 3 ingredients. Salt to taste. Refrigerate for at least 30 min.

Approximately 4 servings for a main dish (light lunch) or 6-8 as a side dish.

* I used the frozen precooked shrimp thawed and drained before adding to Pico.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Roof The Roof is On FIRE!

So I really had hoped to have a beautiful loaf of bread to Post here today. What was I thinking have I not said OVER AND OVER that I am not a baker????? Well I inherited a bread machine from my friend Robin who is moving UP IN THE WORLD therefore downsizing. I thought ...great this is easy ..dump in ingredients, hit start button and about 4 hrs later BREAD! This is surely NOT considered baking. I CAN do this! Well............... NOT SO MUCH!

2 hrs into this smoke was BILLOWING out of the vents of the Machine!!! Apparently the bread rose TOO much and spilled over the sides of the container dripping down onto the heating element causing a LOVELY stench and like I said before COPIOUS amounts of smoke!!! I SWEAR I MEASURED EVERYTHING!!!!!!

In my defense, One of the recipe reviews I read actually said that this rose too much did NOT however say it would likely catch on FIRE!! No, mine did not catch on fire because I unplugged the machine. Let's just say this was QUITE a mess to clean up! There were parts of the big GLOB that were cooked and I did taste it and it was quite good. But there was just no way to salvage it.

I would like to try this again ...perhaps I will try to halve the recipe??? Or perhaps try a different one. But I am a little gunshy. I DO know that I will NOT put the bread in and leave the house. Which is what I had hoped to do know go to work in the morning and come home to freshly baked bread? Perhaps that would NOT be a good idea. know I do have insurance ...It would be nice to have ALL NEW Stuff!!! Ok, Maybe not.