Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lobster Rolls – a quintessential summer favorite


Lobster rolls are a quintessential favorite and they always remind me of trips to Maine, where lobsters are plentiful in the summer. Now most good supermarkets and seafood stores carry live Maine lobsters, making them readily available everywhere.

As in the case of many sandwiches, you don’t need a recipe. All you need is cooked lobster meat, good mayonnaise, preferably homemade, some finely chopped celery for crunch, a bit paprika or cayenne for spice, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and tarragon, chives or parsley for a nice fresh herby flavor, buttered hot dog roll and you’re in business.




Some people are squeamish about handling a live lobster and understandably so. I’m fortunate my husband was willing to plunge him in the boiling water for me. Here’s a link to excellent instructions on how to cook Maine lobsters from the Maine Lobster Marketing Cooperative. Just for fun, we also included spiny lobsters in our sandwich because they were the lobsters of choice when we lived in the Bahamas. Here’s a link on how to cook spiny lobster tails.




If you follow the instructions below from The Summer House Cookbook on how to remove the meat from Maine lobsters, you’ll be all set.




Here’s an outline for how we made our lobsters rolls, yielding 4 sandwiches. We started making the lobster salad by placing picked over meat from 2 (1 ¼ pound) cooked Maine lobsters and also included the meat from 2 (6 ounce) cooked spiny lobsters in a large bowl. Set the salad aside while you make the dressing. If desired, it can be made ahead several hours and kept covered in the refrigerator.




For the dressing, in a bowl we combined about a 2 to 3 tablespoons of homemade mayonnaise or good quality store-bought mayonnaise such as Hellman’s, (some people like more mayonnaise so use your own discretion), a rib or two if they are small of finely chopped celery, some chopped fresh tarragon or chives, a good squirt (a couple of teaspoons) of fresh lemon juice, a shake or two of sweet paprika, and a pinch of cayenne if desired if you like a bit of spice, then season with kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well and taste for seasonings, then carefully fold some of the flavored mayonnaise into the chunks of cooked lobster. Taste again and correct as necessary with more mayonnaise or seasonings. You want the flavored mayonnaise to moisten the lobster without overwhelming it.

To assemble the sandwich, toast 4 hot dog rolls (split top if you can find them) until they are golden brown, taking care not to let them burn. Brush with melted butter, divide the lobster salad equally among each roll and serve at once. We like chips and a pickle on the side.

For more precise recipes, check out these links - Martha Stewart, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Fine Cooking. You'll notice that the proportions of lobster to mayonnaise vary quite a bit, so it really all comes down to a matter of taste.




If there’s a secret to great lobster rolls, I would say it’s to use homemade mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is one of the best tasting things you’ll ever make at home and so much better than store-bought. It can elevate a simple sandwich from ordinary to sublime.

When I was growing up, my mother made her own mayonnaise and there was always a jar in our refrigerator.  She used a hand-held mixer, dripping the oil in very slowly until the eggs and oil came together to form an emulsion. It was a tedious project. Now thanks to the food processor, mayonnaise is very easy to make, utilizing that tiny hole in the feed tube to do the dribbling for you, making your job a whole lot easier. Below is Julia Child’s food processor mayonnaise and it is a snap to put together.

The best tip for making homemade mayonnaise is to have all of the ingredients at room temperature and use very fresh eggs. As with anything made with raw eggs, caution should be taken not to leave it out too long or it will spoil.




Julia Child’s Food Processor Mayonnaise
Printable Recipe

1 whole egg, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, at room temperature
½ teaspoons kosher salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon sugar
Dash of Tabasco sauce, or other hot sauce
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups fine fresh oil such canola, safflower, extra-virgin olive oil, or a combination, at room temperature

Using the metal blade in the food processor, process the egg, the egg yolks, mustard, salt, sugar, and Tabasco 30 seconds. Add lemon juice and process 30 seconds more.

In a very thin stream, pour in the oil, using droplets at a time. In a food processor there is a tiny hole in the lid that will allow the oil to drop in very slowly. As the mayonnaise comes together, you can pour the oil a little faster. When all of the oil is gone, remove the processor cover and check for consistency and taste for seasonings. You may wish to add more lemon juice, kosher salt, or freshly ground white pepper. Driblets of cold water added now make a milder and lighter taste and texture. Store the mayonnaise, covered, in the refrigerator for about a week.




This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.    
Have a great weekend everyone.




Thursday, July 10, 2014

Peachy Blueberry Salsa with Grilled Pork Chops – to celebrate fresh peach season


Fresh southern peaches have arrived in our markets and that’s always a reason to celebrate at our house. Peach season is relatively short, so we try to incorporate fresh peaches into as many dishes as we possibly can. The recipe I’ve featured today is, for me, all about the fresh peaches.

Sweet juicy peaches combined with fresh blueberries and hot pepper jelly make for a sweet and spicy condiment for grilled bone-in pork chops, but would also be excellent on a cheese tray spooned over goat cheese or creamy Brie and served with a crisp white wine.

You've probably noticed that I use spicy fruit salsas often in my kitchen and although I've talked about it in the past here, I thought new readers might be interested in how that came about. I fell head-over-heels in love with spicy fruit salsas  when they were served with a fresh tuna roll at Little Moir's Food Shack, a very popular fish joint in Jupiter, Florida. I had never tasted anything like it before - the salsas were sweet, spicy, and hot all at the same time and burst in my mouth with fabulous new-to-me flavors. Mike Moir, the owner of The Food Shack, says his food is "a simple twist of taste," but I call it falling in love with incredible flavor combinations. Spicy, sweet, and hot salsas are a "party in your mouth." I hope you'll fall in love with them as much as I have.

I’ve broken down today's recipe into three parts – peachy blueberry salsa, grilled pork chops, and the all-purpose pork brine because all three recipes are worthy of standing-alone.

But first the peachy blueberry salsa – my favorite part of this meal of course.


Peachy Blueberry Salsa
Adapted from Southern Living, makes about 3 cups
Printable Recipe

1 large peach, or 2 small peaches
1 ½ cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons hot pepper jelly (I used red)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 small shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel and dice one large or two small peaches. Coarsely chop half of the blueberries and leave the remainder whole. Set aside with the diced peaches. Combine the hot pepper jelly, olive oil, zest and juice of 1 lime in a large bowl and mix well. Add the peaches, blueberries and remaining ingredients and stir carefully. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 24 hours. Best in my opinion served immediately. Salsa is perfect as a condiment for grilled pork chops or chicken and also excellent on a cheese tray with goat cheese or Brie.



Grilled Pork Chops with Peachy Blueberry Salsa
Adapted from Southern Living – serves 4
Printable Recipe

4 - 1 ½” thick bone-in pork chops (about 3 ¼ pounds total)
All purpose pork brine, recipe below
1 tablespoon oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peachy Blueberry salsa, recipe above

Place chops and brine in a large zip-lock plastic freezer bag and chill for 8 hours. It’s smart to place the freezer bag in a shallow dish to prevent spills.

Remove the chops from the brine and discard brine. Let pork come to room temperature, about 30 minutes, and pat dry. Light one side of the grill, heating to 350 to 400 degrees F (medium-high), leaving the other side unlit. Brush pork chops with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place pork over lit side and grill, covered with grill lid, for 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to unlit side and grill, covered with grill lid, 8 to 10 minutes on each side or until meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 150 degrees F. Remove from heat and let stand 4 minutes. Arrange pork on serving platter and top with peachy blueberry salsa. Serve right away.

All-Purpose Pork Brine
Adapted from Southern Living, yield 1 ½ quarts
Printable Recipe

1 ½ quarts hot water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground (coarse) black pepper
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
½ of large lemon, sliced

Stir together all of the ingredients in a large stockpot until salt and sugar dissolve. Let stand 1 hour.


This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.    
Have a great weekend everyone.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pizza on the Grill


You don’t have to have a wood-fired oven to get great pizza. Pizzas can be cooked at home on your grill. The other night we watched Bobby Flay grill really great tasty looking pizzas on his charcoal grill and decided to give it a try. It looked simple enough – Bobby just punched out his dough, brushed it with a little oil, seasoned it with salt and pepper and threw it on a hot grill, turned it once, and in minutes he had a nice crispy grilled pizza, ready for the toppings. We made two different grilled pizzas - one with slow roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil and the other with fresh mozzarella topped with a lemony arugula salad.

Pizza with quick-rise dough
I usually make a simple quick-rising dough using the food processor, shown above and link here, with our homemade tomato sauce and top it with fresh tomatoes and basil. However today we took a short cut and purchased dough from the deli of our local supermarket. Some supermarket dough is better than others (Publix has a great one).

Pizza dough is simple to make at home and next time, if I’m not near a Publix, I will make my own. In addition to my quick rise dough recipe above made in the food processor, I can also recommend a very tasty recipe for homemade dough that we found in the New York Times from pizza mavens Roberta’s in Brooklyn (I know how wonderful this recipe is because my brother-in-law made this dough recently), link to Roberta’s recipe here, and another link to how they make their dough here.

We used Bobby Flay's method of grilling pizza. Bobby says instead of oiling his grill, he prefers to brush his food with the oil and don't forget to season your food with salt and pepper. Bobby uses tongs to flip his pizzas and so did we. We found it was a lot of fun to be outside, enjoying the weather while we flipped pizza dough and the pretty grill marks and crusty edges are part of the reward.

If you're having a cook-out this weekend, shake it up a bit and throw some pizza dough on the grill.


Grilled Pizza with Slow-roasted Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, and Fresh Basil
Grilled pizza dough instructions adapted from Bobby Flay
Topping - My Carolina Kitchen – Sam Hoffer, serves 2
Printable Recipe

1 pound ball of pizza dough, homemade or store bought, brought to room temperature if refrigerated
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut or torn into small pieces
4 tablespoons freshly grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Slow-roasted tomatoes, recipe below
Fresh basil leaves, torn or if small, left whole

Punch and stretch out the pizza dough with your fingers until you reach a desired shape, round or slightly elongated, your choice (not all pizzas have to be round.) Heat a gas or charcoal grill to high and when very hot, brush both sides of the dough with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden brown on both sides (use long tongs to flip them), about 2 minutes per side. Remove the pizza to a flat surface (we slid ours on a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal) and top first with the mozzarella, then sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese, and finally arrange the slow-roasted tomatoes on top of the cheeses. Slide the pizza back on the grill, cover and heat just long enough for the mozzarella to melt & become bubbly, about a minute. Remove the pizza and top with basil leaves. Basil leaves tend to turn dark when they get hot, so leave them for last minute. Serve immediately.


Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Cooking for Friends from Williams Sonoma, serves 4 – 6
Printable Recipe

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Slice 8 to 10 plums tomatoes in half lengthwise and arrange on a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet, cut side up. Be careful, the tomatoes will want to slide around. Drizzle with about 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle evenly with some sugar, about a teaspoon, then thinly sliced garlic, a clove or two depending on their size, and plenty of crunchy sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast until the tomatoes turn a deep red and are wrinkled, which should take about 2 to 2 ½ hours. Remove them from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet. They are good warm or at room temperature.


For a nice twist to a pizza, top it with a freshly dressed salad. In this case I used a lemony arugula salad, but you could use any young greens. Roberta’s pizza in the New York Times used arugula, as well as my brother-in-law when he made the NY Times version of this recipe, so I followed suit.

All in all we had a fun time grilling the pizzas, flipping them with tongs like Bobby Flay. Whether you grill your pizzas outdoor, indoors, or use a pizza stone, these are very versatile recipes and are open to your own interpretations.


Grilled Pizza with Mozzarella and Arugula Salad
Grilled Pizza dough instructions adapted from Bobby Flay
Salad topping adapted from Roberta’s & the New York Times, serves 2
Printable Recipe

1 pound ball of pizza dough, Roberta’s homemade, your own homemade, or store bought, brought to room temperature if refrigerated
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut or broken into small pieces
4 tablespoons freshly grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Crunchy sea salt (I liked Maldon)
2 handfuls baby arugula
Half a lemon, juiced and seeds removed

Punch and stretch out the pizza dough with your fingers until you reach a desired shape, round or slightly elongated your choice (not all pizzas have to be round.) Heat a gas or charcoal grill to high and in the meantime put the arugula in a large bowl and dress it lightly with a splash of olive oil, lemon juice and a further pinch of salt, or to taste. Brush both sides of the dough with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden brown on both sides (use long tongs to flip them), about 2 minutes per side. Remove the pizza to a flat surface (we slid ours on a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal) and top with the mozzarella and Parmesan, then slide the pizza back on the grill, cover and heat just long enough for the mozzarella to melt and become bubbly, about a minute. Remove and top with the dressed salad greens and serve immediately.


This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.  

For my friends in the US, 
I wish you a safe and happy 4th of July and I hope everyone has a great weekend.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Baby Greens with Fresh Cherries, Gorgonzola Cheese, & Chicken with Raspberry Vinaigrette to celebrate Fresh Cherries


It’s cherry time and I have a new recipe to add to my repertoire of cherry dishes – a main course salad of baby greens with fresh cherries, crumbled creamy gorgonzola cheese and grilled chicken, dressed with a raspberry walnut vinaigrette. Of course you could always exclude the chicken and make this a side salad to Ina’s roasted lemon chicken with homemade croutons, link to post & recipe here, which is what we are serving tonight for dinner guests.

The inspiration for this salad came from Better Homes and Garden’s Skinny One Dishes. They suggested bottled raspberry vinaigrette, which you know isn’t going to happen in this kitchen. I always make my own vinaigrettes and why not - it’s so easy to make your own and they come together in a matter of minutes. I’ve had luck finding raspberry vinegar at Italian markets and Amazon has a nice selection on line, link here.


The most daunting task with cherries is pitting them and I have a solution there too. A cherry pitter is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets and it also does a great job of pitting olives too. For years I had an old handheld pitter and after a while, my hand would start to hurt. Enter a gift from my brother-in-law – a brand new pitter that pits four cherries at a time with a swift one hand motion. It’s available at Sur la Table and happens to be on sale, link here. If you pit olives or cherries often, you owe it to yourself to have a pitter and I’m not a gadget person.

One quick tip about pitting and slicing cherries, especially light colored ones such as Rainier – don’t do it too far in advance or the edges of the cherries turn dark. I learned this from experience and I won’t make that mistake again.


Baby Greens with Fresh Cherries, Gorgonzola Cheese, & Chicken with Raspberry Vinaigrette
My Carolina Kitchen, Sam Hoffer – serves 4
Printable Recipe

4 cups baby greens
¾ cup fresh pitted and halved dark sweet fresh cherries
1 pound grilled or roasted chicken breasts, cut in half-strips, optional if you wish to make this a side salad
Maldon sea salt or other good quality sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese, or more to taste
Raspberry vinaigrette, recipe below

Combine baby greens, cherries, and chicken in a large salad bowl and toss well. Drizzle with the raspberry vinaigrette, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste the salad and correct seasonings if necessary. Serve on individual plates or in shallow bowls, garnish with the crumbled cheese, and serve right away.

Cook’s note: If you are working with light colored cherries such as Rainier, pit and slice them at the last minute, otherwise they may darken around the edges.

Raspberry Vinaigrette
My Carolina Kitchen, Sam Hoffer – serves 4
Printable Recipe

4 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
4 tablespoons walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons crème fraîche or good quality sour cream

Combine ingredients in a small jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. Use right away or make ahead and store in the refrigerator for several days.



From the archives, here are three more of my favorite cherry recipes, just in time for cherry season.




Spicy fresh cherry salsa with peaches, served with sliced pork tenderloin, link to post and recipe here.




Boozy cherries with lavender, an easy version of Cherries Jubilee, served over toast or vanilla ice cream, link to post and recipe here.




And another salad, this time with Rainier cherries, creamy goat cheese and crunchy pistachios over greens, link to post and recipe here.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.  

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mediterranean Salmon Salad


This Mediterranean salmon salad is an interesting combination of part green salad and part pasta salad, neither of which overwhelm nor dominate the other. Flaking the salmon allows a rather small amount of fish to go a long way in this recipe, which is nice if you consider the price of fresh fish today. Other kinds of seafood such as crabmeat, chopped shrimp, and grouper would work equally well if you wish to stay on the seafood theme. Or I know I would like this salad with chunks of white chicken.


Have you ever forgotten an ingredient in a recipe and found it worked better without it? That’s exactly what happened here. The first time we made this salad I completely forgot to garnish it with the feta cheese. As I downloaded the pictures I noticed something was missing and discovered it was the cheese. A few days later we made the salad again and to our surprise, we thought the cheese dominated the salad and was better without it. Mistakes sometimes work out for the best and it’s your choice as to whether to include the feta or not.

Salmon is on the menu frequently at our house so instead of cooking the salmon especially for this salad, we used left-over broiled salmon. In the instructions below I’ve included my tried and true method of how to broil salmon that works perfectly every time. Using left-over salmon works great and it makes putting together the recipe go even faster, but just be sure to let the salmon come to room temperature. Don’t be tempted to leave out the red bell pepper. It gives the salad a nice crunch. As summer approaches, this salad is perfect for a main course lunch or a light dinner.


Mediterranean Salmon Salad
Adapted from My Recipes, serves 4
Printable Recipe

2 (6 ounce) salmon fillets, about 1” thick in the middle
Grape seed oil, or other neutral tasting oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup uncooked orzo
2 cups torn baby greens or baby spinach leaves
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped scallions
6 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese, optional – I did not use the cheese

Place salmon on a plate, rub with oil, then season with salt, oregano & freshly ground black pepper and allow to sit at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes.

Cook the orzo according to package instructions, omitting the fat if you wish. Drain, rinse and set aside covered while salmon cooks. In the meantime, preheat the broiler.

Arrange the salmon, skin side down, on an unheated sheet pan lined with heavy duty foil for easy clean-up. Place the salmon under the broiler about six to seven inches from the source of heat. Broil 8 to 10 minutes or just until the pieces are cooked through. It is not necessary to turn the salmon. If salmon starts to get too crispy on the top, change from broil to bake and bake at 400 degrees until done. Do not overcook or the salmon will be dry. Allow to rest for a few minutes, then flake with two forks, leaving behind the skin to discard.

To assemble the salad, combine the drained orzo, lettuce, flaked salmon and remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Garnish with crumbled feta cheese if using.


This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes.  

Have a great weekend everyone.