Here We Go! Here We Go! Steeler’s Peach Salsa

Sir Wes is lighting up the grill this weekend to get his wings on.  As you must know it is the long awaited NFL Kick-Off Weekend.  With coals already burning, I thought I would cut line and grill some peaches before the wings hit the grill for a quick salsa.

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I do enjoy watching football, but tend to get distracted easily.  I sometimes find that  can watch all four quarters and not be able to tell you what happened.  Not all games, but some…

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Steeler’s Grilled Peach Salsa

  • 1 1/4 pounds ripe peaches, (3-4 medium), pitted and sliced in wedges
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons red bell pepper
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Prepare grill, charcoal or gas, to medium heat. Brush the peaches sections lightly with oil.  Place the peaches directly on the grill and cook until charred and softened, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and cool in refrigerator.  Meanwhile mix the onions, peppers, lime juice, cilantro and a touch of salt.  When cooled, chop the peaches into 1/4-inch pieces and add to the mixture, tossing delicately.

This salsa works will with chips as well as grilled fish, chicken, pork and anything else that might be on your game day table!

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About half way thru the football season I will start to focus more about what is on the table then what is on the TV.   By 3/4 thru the season the only thing that keeps me tuning in is the Steelers and my fantasy teams.  I am a tough competitor (I like to think anyway) in 2 Pigskinner Pick ‘Em Leagues, the owner of one fantasy football team, and assistant coach to another.  By this late into the season I have started planning the Superbowl Menu and tuning into Real Housewives in lieu of the 8:00 game.

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That’s pretty much my football season, but for this weekend I am all in!

By the way- did you notice how shiny and pretty the Notre Dame Gold helmets are?  Here we go! Here we go!!

Late Summer Peach and Mint Bulgur Salad

We still have peaches filling the produce section of our grocery store with juicy, sweet smelling nectar.  I found this summer that I am definitely a peach person.  They just translate so well with other foods.  I love them with desserts and savory dishes, herbs, wines, fish, pork, chicken, vegetables, grilled, poached, raw, sautéed, flambéed.   It’s hard for a peach not to make anything better.

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Quick and easy, fresh and tasty.  All words that matter when we think about school kicking back in.   With peaches still hanging on to the season, I saw this salad and knew it would make a perfect cookout side, a last day of summer picnic lunch, or even an on the go salad.

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Thanks to Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked bulgur
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup diced fresh peaches
  • ½ cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup small fresh mint leaves

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Preparation

In a small sauce pot bring 2 cups water and bulgur to a boil. Place cover on the pot, reduce heat to medium, and cook about 10-12 minutes until tender.

While bulgur is cooking combine vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Drain the bulgur from the sauce pot and give a quick rinse of cold water.  Add warm bulgur to the vinegar and oil mix and toss.  Allow to cool to room temperature and add the peaches and mint to the salad.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 4-6

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Hold on tight to these last moments of summer; enjoy the longer days, the warm evening sunsets, and the family time.  Also- hold on to the peaches, as the perfect fruit will be gone soon.

Cilantro Jalapeño Corn Cakes

Maybe you can tell I like Southwest/Mexican food- Mexican Shrimp Ceviche, Mexican Corn and Poblano Chowder, Texas Caviar, Spanish Turkey Meatball Stew or even Peanut Butter Stuffed Jalapeños.  Pretty much, if it has cilantro I am guaranteed to love it.  My husband knows that after a bad day for me, chips and salsa are the best Band-Aid.  The good kind of salsa, fresh loaded with cilantro with warm thin salted corn tortilla chips.   So admittedly, I am a sucker when I see dishes with cilantro or Mexican/Latin flavor profiles.  Enter these irresistible southwest spiced corn cakes.

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We were smoking a few chickens and needed a side, both of us agreed that a corn cake would be perfect side for the summer cookout.  And absolutely, lets add cilantro.

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Ingredients

  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ears or 2 cups fresh corn kernels, separated
  • 1 egg
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup cilantro
  • ½ small red onion
  • ½ cup low fat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoon fresh lime juice

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Instructions

1. Mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Using a food processor, combine only 1 cup corn, egg, onion, jalapeño pepper, garlic, cilantro, buttermilk, and butter and pulse until finely chopped but not smooth.

3. Fold the pulsed corn mixture into the flour mixing bowl and mix in the remaining cup of corn kernels and lime juice.

4. Heat a heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat. Spray with pan spray or use a touch of olive oil and scoop ½ cup cakes into the pan.  Brown on first side and flip to other, each should take about 3 minutes.

This will make about 8 small pancakes.

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Garnish with a simple avocado salad, fresh tomatoes and sour cream, smoked pork or chicken, even a seafood ceviche.  Try making them with a ¼ cup measure and use as a canapé.

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If you happen to have leftovers, they freeze great- just wrap them tightly to avoid freezer burn.  Reheat the thawed cakes in an oven set at 350, for 10-15 minutes.

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These are perfect for the end of summer, into fall get together.  Even reheating on a tailgate grill on a piece of aluminum foil, anyone ready for football?

Blue Cheese and Walnut Vegetable Slaw

Blue cheese and walnuts, what a wonderful combination!  We have been eating a lot of salads lately and try to keep from getting tired of the waste shrinking meals.  Cheeses, nuts, fruits, crunchy things keep the variety coming to the table.  I steered away salad greens last week and dove into slaws, which can go much further than the standard sweet cream Cole slaw.

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I took this dish from a long time favorite restaurant in Charleston, SC, Vickery’s lead and added in blue cheese to traditional Cole slaw, and then because I think nuts are supreme, but some of them in too.

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Dirty minds….

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon reduce fat mayonnaise, or regular, or nonfat, which ever your preference
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces julienned vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, ect, pre bought or cut yourself
  • 4 tablespoon reduce fat blue cheese, or regular
  • 4 tablespoon toasted walnut pieces

In a mixing bowl add the first five ingredients and whisk well until combined.  Add in the vegetables and toss well until lightly coated.  Sprinkle the cheese and the walnuts and fold evenly.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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The longer the slaw sits, the more water leaches out of the vegetables.  If you make the day before, reserve the blue cheese until you are ready to serve and give the slaw another toss so the dressing gets mixed again.

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I know most people would say that I missed a very important ingredient…. Add the chopped bacon if you want, I know it is calling for a couple of tablespoons.  Or maybe on a pork belly slider…

Sweet ‘N’ Spicy Cocoa Rub Chicken Kebabs- Summer Grillin’

Grilling is a quintessential part of summer in this house.  We love to pull out the charcoal grill, light up the woodchips and coals and wait for them to be ready to put the food on to the grill racks.  Propane grills do offer the convenience and speed that is great for mid-week dinners, but the charcoal grill gives you the chance to offer love and nurture, which makes food so good.  The longer you have to wait the better the meal.

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If we are going to commit the time to use the charcoal grill I like to make it a special meal, with new flavors or products, or even just extra decadence.  I got lucky a few months ago with an unexpected thank you gift from a work buddy.  A thank you wasn’t necessary, but certainly was appreciated, especially because it has two of my favorite things- chocolate and chili pepper.  The Sweet “N” Spicy Cocoa rub is dynamite; chalked with flavor and would make a great marinate for grilled chicken.

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Marinate

  • ½ tablespoon Dove Discoveries Sweet ‘N’ Spicy Cocoa Rub
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh chicken breast, cut in 1” cubes
  • ½ large green pepper, cut into 1” pieces
  • ½ large red pepper, cut into 1” pieces
  • ½ large onion, cut into 1” pieces

Mix first three ingredients together and add in the raw cubed chicken.  Allow to marinate overnight or at least 8 hours.   Assemble kebabs alternating the chicken and vegetables.  Grill over slow coals or on your propane grill until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165.

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The cocoa flavor was very mild, barely noticeable, but offered the earthy flavor that you find in a mole sauce. I served a grilled peach salsa with the kebabs- a perfect complement to the spicy chicken.

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Summer dinners are perfect time to slow down and enjoy friends and family.  They are also the time to take advantage to the gardens bounty the season offers, to play with flavors and add love to the dinner table.

Be patient

Cooking is an art and patience a virtue… Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing – love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist – not perhaps in the representational style of a Dutch master, but rather more like Gauguin, the naïve, or Van Gogh, the impressionist. Plates or pictures of sunshine taste of happiness and love.

~ Chef Keith Floyd

English Pea and Mint Crostini’s **Summer Simplicity

Summer is always a great time to look for light and healthy food.  And equally important easy, quick food!   The convenience of having some “go to” fast dishes for summer evenings, cook outs and family gatherings is amplified over summer.  I especially love the ones that travel well, I feel so fancy when I pack “apps” in a cooler for the beach- goes perfect with vino at sunset!

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Have to admit- when I see things that my Mom, Queenie, can do without calling me 3 times, and they look tasty, I am immediately attracted to them.  I just don’t like spending all day in the kitchen on the weekends in the summer- so simple, quick and tasty is perfect.

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My grandmother, Madame Margo, told me over 10 years ago about a dish she made with peas and mint, and I think maybe Greek yogurt…I stored the flavor combination away in my brain until a few months ago when I saw the them being played with more often.  We actually had a cooking competition the other day at work, based on the TV show “Chopped”, where the dessert ingredients the participants were given included English peas, ricotta and oranges.  I wanted to scream at them, mint, mint!!  But actually I found myself most impressed with one making something like a pea and ricotta ice cream with and orange sauce, I loved the high creativity!

Pea and Mint Crostini’s

Ingredients

  •  10 ounces frozen green peas, or fresh spring peas    
  • ½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese    
  • ¼ cup mint leaves, without stems    
  • 2 tablespoons fine grated parmesan cheese    
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt    
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Butter spray/ cooking spray
  • Small baguette bread, cut into 24  1/3 inch thick slices    
  • Fresh tomatoes for garnish

Method

In a 2 quart sauce pan filled halfway with water heat over medium high until water comes to a boil.  Add the peas and return to a boil for one minute. Drain the peas into a colander and rinse with cold water.

In a food processor put the drained peas, and pulse.  Add ricotta, mint, Parmesan, oil, garlic, salt and pepper and blend until mostly smooth.  Transfer into a serving bowl and refrigerate or 30 minutes.

While the spread chills, preheat oven to 325°F. Arrange the bread slices on a parchment paper lined baking sheet  and spray with the butter spray.  Bake until lightly golden and crisp; cool and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Assemble just before serving with a tablespoon of spread on each piece of bread.  Garnish with tomato.

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The pea spread can be made a few days before and kept in air tight container- a perfect “get ahead” appetizer.  The bread toasts are best made the day of, but if kept in an airtight container you can do the day before.

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Inspired by my grandmother creativity and knowledge, and my mom’s love of life outside the kitchen!  With those two ladies in mind it is hard to not come out great!

Mexican Shrimp Ceviche- Big Kickin’ Flavor!

Hot, sticky Florida days begs for cold, refreshing, light dishes- and of course packed with flavor.  I saw a family a few weeks ago with a gigantic cup of ceviche when we were out to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and found myself staring with envy.  Why didn’t I order that!!  I knew it would not be long before it made it onto our table at home!  I cannot resist cilantro and lime, they are possibly my favorite flavor combination.

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I love ceviche with tostones, fried plantains, but my favorite is with sweet potato crisps, the sweetness of the potato is a perfect complement to the spiciness of the ceviche.  The recipe I used is from the “King of Mexican Food”, Rick Bayless, and is very spicy, but evened out by the creamy avocado chunks.

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 Shrimp Ceviche Verde

Ceviche Verde de Camarón

About 3 1/2 cups, serving 4 to 6 as an appetizer; from Season 8  Mexico – One Plate at a Time

Ingredients

  • 1 pound very fresh uncooked, medium-to-small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 4 ounces fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro (mostly leaves)
  • Salt
  • 1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 1/2 habanero chile, stemmed seeded and very finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from skin and cut into small cubes

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Directions

Cut the shrimp into small pieces—slightly smaller than 1/2 inch—and scoop into a serving bowl.  In a blender, combine the lime juice, tomatillos, cilantro and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Blend until slushy looking, but not completely smooth.  Stir into the shrimp and refrigerate 30 minutes.  Just before serving, stir in the two chiles, chives and avocado.  Taste and season with more salt if you think necessary.

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The marinate time is critical in ceviche, especially with shrimp.  The citrus will cook the raw seafood, but it can also overcook if left to long, leaving you with rubbery, tough shrimp.  I waited an hour before I served it, and was pleased that the shrimp was still tender.  If you find yourself worried about overcooking the shrimp, at least strain the marinate, reserving the juice until you are ready to serve.  But try to get it on the table as soon as you can.

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The kick in this ceviche is powerful, yet smooth.  If you are not a fan of spice, cut the chilies by ½ and be sure to add right before serving.  Try serving sweet potato chips, tostones or tortilla chips to along with the ceviche. And of course make sure there are margaritas or cervezas.