Archive for June, 2013


The menu for this evening includes a fairly standard beef brochette with some unusual accompaniments. And it’s simple as well. Grilling cubes of steak on a skewer with onions and peppers simply seasoned with salt and pepper is straightforward enough. Steaming couscous with some herbs and garlic is fast and easy because it cooks so quickly (in fact it’s the last thing you should do before being ready to eat). And roasting green beans and mushrooms in a hot oven with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper brings new life to both vegetables.

Grilled brochette of New York strip cubes with onions and red peppers served over herbed couscous
Oven-roasted green beans and mushrooms

Chocolate-peanut butter-oatmeal cookies

I am an advocate of finding new ways to use leftovers and tonight’s dinner includes components of dishes that were made earlier in the week and transforms them into something new. Orange bell pepper halves are stuffed with a mixture of leftover brown rice, slivered green beans, and caramelized onions. Mushroom caps are stuffed with leftover black-eyed pea salad that has been mashed into a puree. Baby summer squash are hollowed out, blanched briefly in boiling water, drained, and stuffed with grated pepperjack cheese. The watery flesh is scooped out of tomato halves and replaced with a mixture of herbed breadcrumbs, garlic, and parmesan. Once all of the vegetables are stuffed, they roast together on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, and dinner is served.

A further note about the squash. I first devised this utterly simple treatment to serve as an hors d’oeuvre at a birthday party I catered many years ago, and they were such a hit I was offered several other future catering jobs before the evening was over.

Orange bell pepper half stuffed with brown rice and green beans
Mushrooms stuffed with pureed black-eyed pea salad
Baby summer squash stuffed with pepperjack cheese
Tomato halves stuffed with herbed breadcrumbs, garlic, and parmesan

Peach ice cream

How do you enjoy a barbeque sandwich made from scratch without spending the time to slow-roast a pork shoulder? Chicken takes far less time and produces more than acceptable results. You can roast an entire chicken or just the parts you like best. Tonight I used a combination of breasts and thighs basted with my housemade peach barbeque sauce. When the chicken was done, the meat was pulled off the bones just as you would do for pork, and kept warm in a double boiler with a generous coating of additional sauce. Served on a housemade roll with coleslaw this was just as satisfying to me as the traditional pork sandwich.

The salad is made of canned black-eyed peas which helps save time. Look for a variety that is packed with only water and salt with no artificial additives or preservatives. A toss with both sweet and hot peppers, some finely diced spring onions and minced garlic, and a simple vinaigrette streamlines preparation of this simple side dish.

Pulled chicken sandwiches with peach barbeque sauce and coleslaw
Chilled black-eyed pea salad
Deep-fried shoestring potatoes
Bread-and-butter pickles

Watermelon wedge

The main course for this menu is an adaptation of a James Beard dish presented in his book Beard on Pasta.* I have often remembered his introduction to the recipe: “I first had this at a dreary hotel in Genoa that was tolerable only because the kitchen knew how to do a few brilliant dishes. The tiny waxy new potatoes bathed in basil kept me there long after the beds and plumbing should have driven me away.”

The recipe originally intrigued me because it involved the combination of two starchy ingredients, pasta and potatoes, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the two worked quite well together. But as is my usual practice, I have made changes to suit my own tastes. I like pesto as a “hint” in cooking, but I’m not overly fond of the sauce bathing a dish. And it’s rare that I have enough basil on hand to create it in the traditional way. So my rendition involves what I call deconstructed pesto. The pasta and potatoes are tossed with just enough extra virgin olive oil and minced garlic to achieve a light coating and then the dish is garnished with toasted pine nuts, a light chiffonade of basil leaves, and some grated Parmigiano Reggiano. I have omitted the cream that Beard calls for in the dish, preferring instead to dress the salad with a creamy buttermilk dressing.

Housemade fettuccine with roasted new potato wedges and deconstructed pesto
Salad of baby lettuces from the garden with green beans and buttermilk dressing
Yeast roll Chez Edouard

Housemade peach ice cream with pecan crisps

*Beard, James. Beard on Pasta. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1983.

I will not claim that tonight’s menu is in any way authentic, but it was certainly inspired by Asian flavors and cuisines. I love eggrolls (one of the few things that I deep-fry). As a stuffing I used ingredients I had on hand–ground pork, red peppers, cabbage, spring onions, a farm egg, and bean sprouts–and quickly stir-fried these with soy sauce, sherry, garlic, ginger, hot red pepper flakes, and sesame oil. After the filling is prepared, it’s far more simple to roll these up than most people might imagine. Served with a dipping sauce (or sauces), the rolls are perfectly satisfactory (for me) as the highlight of a main course as opposed to the appetizer status they usually constitute.

Egg rolls filled with pork and vegetables with sweet-and-sour sauce, Chinese mustard, and soy sauce for dipping
Brown rice
Steamed sugar snap peas

Dried pineapple rings

Yesterday, the local farmers’ market was brimming with the first harvest of early summer vegetables. Among them: cucumbers, summer squash, tender green beans, new potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and sugar snap peas. Tonight I used several of those offerings for this week’s vegetable plate.

The green bean and potato dish is quite different from that of my southern upbringing (in which the beans were cooked until mushy and the potatoes were added during the last 20 minutes of cooking). Instead, I reverse the order by cooking the tiny new potatoes first until almost fork tender and then the tender young green beans are added for the last few minutes of cooking with a knob of butter to season the dish. The beans retain their crisp, succulent nature and provide a wonderful, crunchy foil to the soft texture of the potatoes.

Roly-Poly summer squash benefit from a quick dunk in buttermilk before being breaded in seasoned cornmeal and oven-fried while the bread bakes. The cucumbers were transformed into bread-and-butter pickles yesterday and although they will improve with more aging, they were more than acceptable tonight. The addition of freshly-made coleslaw completed the main course.

A deviled egg
Green beans and new potatoes with a butter glaze
Oven-fried Roly-Poly squash
Coleslaw and bread-and-butter pickles
Spoonbread

Baked peach crisp with a drizzle of heavy cream

Although the main ingredient for this menu may be eaten in other parts of the south, North Carolina is famous for it. But before I offer the details, I would like to suggest that you open your mind by considering the following. It wasn’t that long ago that gourmet chefs started introducing polenta on the menus of some of the most renowned restaurants in the world. Truth be known, it had always been a part of Italian cuisine, and further it was a staple in many rural American kitchens by another name: cornmeal mush. But when the term polenta was introduced, folks who had heretofore never considered eating something remotely resembling a mush, were suddenly extolling its virtues.

So, let me introduce the uninitiated to a southern delicacy known as livermush. It’s a bit like polenta…it’s a bit like liver pate; indeed both pork liver and cornmeal are the main components along with sage and other spices. It is cooked into a loaf until very dense and then chilled until even more firm. Right from the fridge it can be enjoyed much like pate. But even better to my mind are slices that are fried in a cast iron skillet until crispy on the outside. It is most often served fried for breakfast with eggs on the side. In its “pate” state, it makes an appearance at lunch. But I don’t think I had ever encountered livermush as a dinner item until I decided to experiment with it tonight. After heating a thin film of oil in the skillet over low heat, I added thinly sliced onions which caramelized slowly until crispy. The slices of livermush were then added to the onion-infused oil which elevated the flavor of the dish.

Who knows…maybe in a few years, this rural southern favorite will become just as “gourmet” as cornmeal mush has become. Perhaps it will be renamed “liver polenta” or “polenta pate.” If you live outside of the south, you’ll be hard-pressed to find this on the shelves of your local grocer, but there are many recipes on the web for making livermush from scratch. Parting words–don’t judge a dish by its name.

Fried livermush with crispy caramelized onions
Mashed potatoes
Steamed sugar snap peas and baby carrots
Buttermilk drop biscuits

A perfect Georgia peach

I suppose if I were to subtitle this menu, it would be “Swedish Meatballs meet Stroganoff meets Chez Edouard” because the resulting main dish has elements of the first two but everything is transformed based on my own whims. The meatballs are made of ground turkey and the sauce is not typical of that for either the Swedish dish nor the stroganoff.

As a reminder, meatballs will be far more succulent and tender if you refrain from packing the meat during the rolling process and bake them in the oven as opposed to the stovetop method. Never overcook meatballs which inevitably leads to tough, unpalatable results.

Tonight I enriched the turkey with finely diced roasted red pepper along with minced shallots, garlic, and herbs. After removing the meatballs from the oven I tossed them in a pan with a sour cream-Dijon-rosemary sauce. Adding a small amount of cornstarch to the sour cream helps keep it from curdling, but even then it’s very important not to bring the sauce to a boil: simply heat it through.

Turkey meatballs and sautéed cremini mushrooms in a sour cream-Dijon-rosemary sauce served over housemade tagliatelle pasta
Steamed sugar snap peas and asparagus from the farmers’ market
Yeast roll Chez Edouard

Housemade peanut butter sandwich cookies

This week’s trip to the farmers’ market resulted in finding beautiful baby turnips with their greens still attached and equally enticing small carrots. Meanwhile, my sister’s garden is yielding the first ripe cherry tomatoes, and my father allowed me to once again scratch in his garden to find the tiny new potatoes that I love so much. (Speaking of baby potatoes, have you seen how much the grocery stores charge for the small baskets of these, marketing them as “gourmet”? I have to laugh.) I garnished them with a dollop of sour cream and a light sprinkle of bacon bits, but if you wish to have a truly vegetarian menu, omit the bacon.

The ice cream recipe is my secret. I made it for our Father’s Day feast yesterday and the entire family praised it as the best butter pecan ice cream they had ever eaten.

June 17, 2013

Steamed baby turnips with their greens
Tiny carrot coins glazed with maple syrup and butter
Sea Island red peas from Anson Mills
Boiled new potatoes with sour cream and bacon bits
Sliced cherry tomatoes with crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Cornbread muffins

Eddie’s housemade butter pecan ice cream with brown sugar pound cake

There is certainly nothing extraordinary about tonight’s menu–the main dish has been done by numerous other cooks before. But the various components add up to a satisfying and simple meal. Think bean and cheese burrito, but instead of the fillings folded into a tortilla, they’re sandwiched and layered into a casserole-type dish that can be cut into wedges. The rice is given a bit of extra pizazz with the addition of onions, roasted red peppers, and pine nuts, and the summer squash is prepared simply…blanched until tender in a small amount of spring water to which a knob of butter, salt, and pepper are added.

Dessert involves a dish of the ice cream made earlier in the week, but updated with a topping to add a new twist.

Southwestern tortilla stack en casserole with housemade refried beans, green chilies, sour cream, and pepperjack cheese served with salsa
Rice pilaf with onions and roasted red peppers
Summer squash with a butter glaze

Pineapple-coconut ice cream with a fruit and nut trail mix topping

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