Salmon with Potato and Bean Pesto Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

This dish was so light yet so satisfying.  I picked up about 4 bunches of basil at the market, and made several jars of pesto.  I love warm/room temp potato salads so I decided to pair it with fresh green beans and just use the pesto for a dressing.  I felt like maybe the dish needed just a little something else to tie it all together, so I threw together a quick vinaigrette by grating a tomato on a hand grater and mixing with some vinegar and oil, and there you go – a light vinaigrette that would pair perfectly the salmon and pesto salad. Wanted to grill the salmon, but weather prevented it.

Salmon with Potato and Bean Pesto Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 2 servings salmon
  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans, ends trimmed (I used a variety of beans from the market)
  • 1/2 pound new potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1/4 cup pesto (click on link for my recipe or just use store bought)
  • 1 medium sized tomato
  • 1 shallot, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered mustard (use Dijon if you don’t have powdered)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley and oregano)

For potato salad, place sliced potatoes in a pot of salted, cold water.  Set on stove and bring to a boil. Once boiling, bring temp back to medium to medium high heat (keep it boiling, but not super rapidly so that it tears all the skins off the potatoes). Once potatoes are tender, drain and toss with just a bit of olive oil.  Blanch green beans in pot of salted water about 5 minutes or until tender (might be more or less time depending on how thick or tender your beans are).  To save time, I just added my beans to my potatoes that were boiling when about 5 minutes was left.  Drain.

Mix potatoes and green beans with pesto.  If seems a bit dry, drizzle with just a bit of olive oil.

For tomato vinaigrette, slice a tomato in half crosswise.  Give the tomatoes a bit of a squeeze of the sink to force out some of the excess water and seeds. Then, using a hand grater, rub the cut, fleshy  side of the tomato on the grater until all of the tomato has been pressed through (except for the skin – this should be left in your hand.)

Add the red wine, shallots, and mustard to the tomato  juice/pulp.  Season with some salt and pepper.  Slowly whisk in olive oil.  Mix in herbs and taste for any other seasoning needed.

To cook salmon, heat a pan over high.  Add a couple teaspoons canola or vegetable oil (those 2 oils have a higher smoke point that olive oil – meaning it won’t burn at high temps – and you want to use that since we are searing the fish over a high temp). Add to pan and let sear on one side about 3 minutes.  Turn and let sear another 2-3 minutes.  Pop into a 400 degree oven and let cook another 2-3 minutes or until almost cooked through (I like my Salmon at medium – not well!)

Serve salmon with potato salad and some tomato vinaigrette.  You’ll have left over vinaigrette.


Shrimp BLT’s

This past Labor Day weekend, I was REALLY angling to go to this music festival in Cookeville, Tennessee – The Muddy Roots Music Festival. Lots of rockabilly and roots country/bluegrass, with a few of my favorites being there – Wanda Jackson, Wayne Hancock, Hillbilly Casino, and The Legendary Shack Shakers. But, with the million other things we have going on, we just could not make it happen.  (Next year, I WILL be there.)  To console myself, we bought several desserts from the bakery and I overindulged in fried foods and red wine.  Not quite the same as being at the festival, but it was some good immediate gratification in place of it.

Quite possibly the messiest sandwich I have ever eaten.

Cornmeal Fried Shrimp BLT’s with Old Bay Aioli

Serves 2

  • 1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled, de-veined, and tales removed
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon (or 6 if you have a tendency like me to shove one  slice in your mouth and give one to the dog before you use it in your recipe)
  • 1 large, beautiful tomato, sliced
  • couple leaves lettuce
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • vegetable oil
  • Old Bay Aioli (see recipe below)
  • 1 baguette, cut into 2, 6 inch sections (save remainder for something else)

Make egg wash for shrimp by beating eggs and then mixing in milk.  Make seasoned flour mixture by mixing cornmeal and flour with some salt and pepper and a little bit of red pepper.

To fry shrimp, submerge them in egg wash.  Remove, shake off extra, and put in seasoned cornmeal mixture.  Shake off extra and line them on a sheet pan until ready to fry.

Add oil to a cast iron skillet until comes up sides by about a 1/2 inch. Heat on medium.  When ready to fry, test for it to be at correct temperature by flicking a little flour to oil.  If it starts frying up, it is ready to go.

Add shrimp to pan.  Don’t overcrowd – fry it in two batches if neccesary.  Fry one side about 1 – 2 minutes.  Turn shrimp over with tongs and fry on other side for another 1-2 minutes or until nicely browned.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate or sheet pan and give just a little sprinkle of salt.

In meantime, toast bread in over for just a few minutes at 300 degrees until nice and crispy. Cut down one side and open and flatten like a book. On one side of bread spread Old Bay Aioli, and layer with lettuce and tomatoes. On other side, spread more Aioli, and then layer with the bacon and shrimp.  You are then ready to eat this very messy sandwich!

Old Bay Aioli

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay

In a food processor, put in egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt.  Process for just a couple seconds.  With processor running, SLOWLY start pouring in olive oil through food processor chute.  And by slowly, I mean (at first) one tiny dribble at a time.  Once you have several tablespoons of dribbles poured in, the aioli should start coming together (looking thick, pale, mayo-like). At this time, you can start pouring it in more quickly.  Continue until all poured in.  This recipe makes more aioli than is needed.  Save some for later.  I made some extra into tartar sauce and made up some extra fried shrimp and slathered them with the tartar sauce (like I said earlier, I overindulged to compensate for my grouchiness of missing the music).  For purposes of this recipe, take 2 heaping tablespoons of the aioli and mix it with 2 teaspoons of Old Bay.

Fried Shrimp with homemade tartar sauce - just anothe piece of evidence of my over-consumption.

Eggplant and Tomato Ragout over Quinoa Cakes

I’ve been trying to eat less meat during the week, meaning Monday – Thursday (hilarious, considering a very recent post of mine was a burger with bacon and eggs).  It’s pretty easy to do right now while fresh veggies are overflowing and perfectly ripe and gorgeous.  It’s certainly possible I’ll be back to being a daily flesh eater as soon as local produce goes scarce, but I have been feeling fairly conflicted about meat recently.  I’m reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.  If you ever have an inkling of going vegetarian, but just not sure if you can do it, DON’T read this book (because you will feel incredibly guilty every time you subsequently eat meat. And CERTAINLY DON’T watch Food, Inc.) Every page makes me feel worse and worse about the huge problems associated with factory farms – and there are MANY – not just for the animal, but for humans, the environment, and even the economy.  The best I can see doing – since realistically I’m too lazy to ever become a “real” vegetarian – is t0 try to reduce my consumption and to purchase all meat and eggs from local producers that utilize a more sustainable, humane farming system.  And I am lucky enough to be in an area where this is feasible. Doing this certainly is not cheaper, but my true belief is that it is the right thing to do and I hope soon others will realize this. (Needless to say, I was being facetious and you really SHOULD read Eating Animals and watch Food, Inc.)

I put on so much ragout you can barely see my cakes!

Eggplant and Tomato Ragout with Feta over Quinoa Cakes

Serves 2. Adapted from

For Quinoa Cakes

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

For Eggplant and Tomato Ragout

  • 1 large eggplant, diced
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 roasted red peppers (I used jarred ones), chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup feta, crumbled

To make quinoa cakes:
Bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.

Stir quinoa into boiling water and return to a boil, then simmer, covered, until quinoa is dry and water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, then stir in a beaten egg.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and lightly brush with oil. Lightly oil a 1-cup dry-ingredient measure. Lightly fill enough quinoa into measure with a rubber spatula or spoon to fill it two-thirds full. Then, pack down into cup (will only be about 1/4 full then). Unmold onto baking sheet and gently pat quinoa into a 4-inch-wide patty with spatula. (You may have to kinda slam the cup onto the pan to get them to kind of “pop out”.) Make 3 more quinoa cakes, brushing measure with oil each time. Chill cakes, uncovered, at least 15 minutes.

In the meantime, make the ragout.

Blanch tomatoes in order to remove skin.  To do this, cut out core, and score a small X into bottom of tomato with a knife. Submerge into a pot of boiling water for about 10-15 seconds. Remove from water and put into ice bath. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove from water and peel off skin, starting wit the X area.  Then, roughly chop tomatoes.

In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add eggplant and onion.  Season with some salt and pepper.  Let cook about 10 minutes.  Add wine and let cook down until almost gone.  Add tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and broth.  Season again as needed.  Let cook for another 10 minutes to let juices reduce and flavors come together.  Add herbs and let cook another minute or two.

To cook the quinoa cakes:
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Carefully add quinoa cakes and cook, turning once carefully and adding remaining 2 to 3 tablespoons oil, until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes total (pat cakes to reshape with cleaned rubber spatula while cooking if necessary). Transfer to plates.  Top with ragout and crumbled feta.

My quinoa cakes ready to be put on a plate to eat

Okra, Two Ways – Fried and Pickled

We have okra coming in left and right, so we have been trying to use it in everything.  So, we went two of my favorite ways – pickled and fried.  Pickled okra is perfect for several things – just an antipasta platter, Bloody Mary’s, and as a side for pimento cheese .  For fried, we paired it with a roasted red pepper dipping sauce.

Pickled and fried - my faves!

Pickled Okra

This is enough to fill 2 pint jars packed full of okra

In each jar, add:

  • okra, packed in tight
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon corriander seeds
  • 2 smashed garlic clove

In a pan on the stove, bring to just a boil:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Stir until just combined and pour over okra. Put on lids and let sit in fridge for just about a week to get it’s pickled flavor.  Should keep fine in the fridge for a month.

Fried Okra with Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce

  • As much okra as you feel like frying, cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. (We probably did about 2 cups cut up)
  • 2 cups buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute an egg wash of  2 eggs and 1/2 cup milk)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • vegetable oil
  • Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce (recipe below)

Heat oil in a cast iron pan on stove over medium heat.  You’ll want the oil to come up the sides of the pan about a 1/2 inch or so.

Submerge okra in buttermilk (or egg wash) for about 5 minutes. In meantime, combine cornmeal and flour in shallow dish with salt and pepper (and I usually like to add a few dashes of whatever hot pepper spice I have).  Set up a breading station like so: on counter place okra in buttermilk, next to it your seasoned flour, and next to that a sheet pan or plate to place the breaded okra.  Next to your pan with oil on the stove, set up either a sheet pan or plate lined with a couple paper towels.

To  bread okra, remove okra from buttermilk/egg wash, let excess drip off, and drop in seasoned flour/cornmeal mixture. Toss around in this until coated, gently shake off any extra, and place on sheet pan. To keep things a little neater, use just one hand for the “wet” and one hand for the “dry” for the breading of the okra – this will keep you from ending up with two breaded hands!

Sprinkle just a tiny bit of flour in the oil.  If it sizzles up, you are ready to go.  Gently place okra in pan.  Don’t over crowd pan because that will cause temp of oil to drop and it won’t fry up as nice.  If you are doing 2 cups, you will have to do at least 2 batches.  Once okra has fried on one side for about 1 -2 minutes, turn them over and fry another 1-2 minutes.  Carefully remove them from the pan and place on the paper towel-lined pan and season with a light dusting of salt.  Continue until all okra has been fried. Service with dipping sauce.

Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce

  • 2 roasted red peppers (I just used them from a jar – I did not roast them myself)
  • 1/2 cup mayo (I used store-bought)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Put peppers in blender and blend up until kinda smooth.  Add mayo, balsamic vinegar, and some salt and pepper.  Blend up until fairly smooth and serve with okra.

Burger, Round 3 – The Breakfast Burger

Ok, even I’ll admit this burger is over the top.  But it certainly was delicious!  I had been wanting to do a burger with an over easy egg on it, and so I decided to craft it around a kind of “breakfast” theme – burger, bacon, over easy egg, and a maple coffee BBQ sauce.  My original plan was to put it on an English muffin, but somehow I forgot about that small detail at breakfast that morning and ate it then.  Oh well – buns worked out fine.

I think I can actually hear this burger calling my name!

Breakfast Burger with Bacon, Over Easy Egg, and Maple Coffee BBQ Sauce

Serves 2

  • About 10-12 ounces hamburger meat (I prefer 80/20 ratio) split into two patties
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 buns or English Muffins
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh brewed coffee
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth

Generously season patties on both sides with salt and pepper.  Grill over a hot grill about 5 minutes per side for medium to medium rare.

Lay bacon on sheet pan and cook in 350 degree oven for about 12 – 14 minutes, or until just crisp.  Place bacon on paper towel to drain off extra grease.

To make BBQ sauce, sweat onion in a medium sized sauce pan for about 10 minutes.  Add crushed tomatoes, coffee, mustard, maple syrup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and chicken broth.  Season also with a little salt and pepper. Thoroughly whisk together and let cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes.  Once sauce has cooked down and thickened up some, remove from heat and use either  a blender or an immersion blender to puree it up.

While burgers are finishing up on the grill, brush them with a bit of BBQ sauce during last minute or two of grilling.  Toast buns on grill.

Cook egg in non stick skillet over medium high heat.  Season with salt and pepper, and cook just until whites are set.  To help cook whites and yolks evenly, add a teaspoon or two of water to pan and cover with a lid during last 30 seconds of cooking.

Place burger on bun and add bacon and egg to burger. Slather top bun with more BBQ sauce, top burger with it, and serve.

Gazpacho, Version #2

Fresh vegetables, summertime, yada, yada, yada, it’s all I talk about, I know. And I know I just did gazpacho, but seriously how can I possibly get sick of it this time of year? But I think that everyone is on the same page as me with this!

Gazpacho with Cilantro and Avocado Cream

Gazpacho with Avocado Cream

  • 8 tomatillos, halved
  • 5 medium sized tomatoes, rough chopped, set in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes
  • 2 green peppers, rough chopped
  • 3 jalapenos (remove seeds and ribs if you prefer less spice), chopped
  • 1 small red onion, rough chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeds scraped out, rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, stems picked out
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Avocado Cream, recipe below

In a large bowl, combine tomatillos, tomatoes, green peppers, jalapenos, onion, garlic, and cucumber. Mix all up so evenly distributed.  Add half of veggie mixture to food processor.  Process until somewhat smooth and frothy. Add 1/2 of the cilantro, 1/2 of lime juice, 1/2 of vinegar, and half of olive oil.  Season.  Transfer to serving bowl, and put all remaining ingredients (except Avocado Cream) into processor and process until smooth-ish and frothy. Combine with other gazpacho.  Chill at least 20 minutes.  Serve in bowls with a big dollop of avocado cream and a few sprigs of cilantro.

Avocado Cream

  • 1 avocado, removed from skin, pit removed
  • 2 heaping tablespoons sour cream
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix avocado, sour cream, lime juice, and cilantro in food processor.  Slowly pour in olive oil. Season with just a bit of salt and pepper.

Tomato Risotto with Roasted Vegetables

We have so much beautiful produce right now! I know this is almost all I have been talking about lately, but just bear with me. Unfortunately, before we know it, we will be back to barren winter and the only thing I’ll be posting about is braised short ribs or braised lamb shanks or braised something or other with hardly a fresh vegetable in sight.  But, between the farmer’s markets and our garden, we right now have gorgeous tomatoes, eggplants, squash, zucchini, onions, okra, peppers of all kinds, beets, carrots, and it just goes on and on.  We had quite an assortment on hand the other day, and several things that were needing used ASAP.  I decided I was a little veggie pasta-ed out (as its pretty much my go-to easy meal), so I decided to do risotto, which I had not made in months.  I also had on hand some tomato sauce that I had made earlier in the week for a pizza.  It’s just a basic tomato sauce that I  usually make a kinda big batch of and then keep on hand to use in multiple things (pizza sauce, pasta sauce, etc) over the next week or so as it is very versatile and keeps fine for over a week.  I thought giving the risotto some tomato flavor  from this sauce and adding in some oven roasted veggies would be a good combo.

Tomato Risotto with Roasted Veggies

  • 1 zucchini, halved lengthwise, and then in half and again, and then into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 yellow squash,  halved lengthwise, and then in half and again, and then into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 yellow onion, half sliced into thick slices; the other half small dice
  • about 1 cup cubed eggplant (I used this small, white, thin eggplant, but use whatever looks best for you)
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes (whatever variety/size of tomatoes you prefer)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • olive oil – for roasting veggies and for starting risotto
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • about 4 cups broth, warmed on the stove
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss zucchini, squash, sliced onions, eggplant, and tomatoes with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread onto sheet pan in single layer and roast in over for about 12-15 minutes, stirring once. Remove from oven and set aside.

In the meantime, heat a large pan on medium heat and add about 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Add onion and sweat about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and sweat another 2-3 minutes.  Add rice and continue to cook another couple of minutes, or until rice starts to look a little bit “toasted”.  Add white wine and let reduce until almost gone.

Keeping heat right about medium, start adding broth to rice, about a 1/2 cup at a time.  Add first 1/2 cup to rice and slowly stir in.  Continue stirring rice until all the broth has been absorbed.  As soon as the rice starts looking just a bit dry, add another 1/2 cup or so of broth.  Keep temp so that broth/rice bubbles just a tiny bit, but in no way is a rigorous boil.

Though you do not have to literally stir constantly as some risotto recipes call for, you do need to be pretty vigilant with your stirring.  Continually stirring helps to release the starches in the rice and create the creamy texture that you want in a risotto.

After several broth additions, start to taste your ristto.  You want to season the risotto as you go along – not just right at the beginning or right at the end.  So, keep tasting to know where you are with seasoning and also to taste the doneness of the rice.  Once the rice has just almost reached the proper consistency, add the tomato sauce.  Let cook down for about 3 more minutes or until rice is a nice consistency your are happy with. Stir in the butter.  Once the butter has melted in, add the cheese.  Taste again for any last seasoning.  Add about half the vegetable mixture.  Plate and divvy out any remaining roasted veggie mixture on top. Finish with just a bit of shaved Parm on top.

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes (can be found in any decent Italian store)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 big pinches salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh cracked pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Taste for any additional salt/pepper seasoning the may be needed.