Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday Night Summer Supper

Broiled Dorado with Lemon
Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Balsamic Ginger Vinaigrette
A simple meal made special by the salad, which I found in Beans, Greens and Sweet Georgia Peaches by Damon Lee Fowler. I make Craig Claiborne's Black Eyed Peas Vinaigrette each New Year's, but I this recipe may replace it - the ginger in the vinaigrette gives the salad a fresh kick.
Here is the recipe as it appears in the cookbook. My notes are in parentheses.
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
serves four generously

2 cups (12 oz.) dried black-eyed peas
3 ham hocks (my version is vegetarian, see instructions)
1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 small Vidalia onion, chopped
1 tbsp. chives, chopped
1 recipe Balsamic-Ginger Vinaigrette
8 to 10 fresh basil leaves

1. Rinse and sort the peas and soak overnight. Drain them and set them aside. Put the ham hocks in a 4-quart pot. (Instead of ham hocks, I cooked the peas with a couple of bay leaves and a whole onion studded with four whole cloves). Add 2 quarts water and bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour.

2. Add the peas to the pot and raise the heat to bring the liquid back to the boiling point. Reduce the heat once more to low and simmer (covered) until the peas are tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The peas should remain covered with water, so keep a teakettle of simmering water handy in case more water needs to be added to the pot. (Mr. Fowler must have access to non-foaming peas. I skimmed the gray scummy stuff frequently, just like with stock, and kept the fire at a gentle simmer. This method yielded pretty, clean peas.)

3. Drain the peas, discarding the ham hocks. Allow the peas to cool, then mix them with the red and yellow peppers, shallot, onion and chives. (I used a single red pepper and skipped the chives.) Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until well mixed. The salad can be made a day or two ahead of time. Chill it until you are ready to serve it. (I think it's best at room temp.)

4. Just before serving, cut the basil into chiffonade (fine shreds) and strew it over the top of the salad. Serve cold. (I skipped the basil as well and it turned out fine.)

Balsamic-Ginger Vinaigrette

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp. finely minced fresh ginger root
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine the two vinegars, ginger, mustard and sugar in a glass or stainless mixing bowl. Add a small pinch of salt (to help the oil emulsify). Whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, a few drops a a time, until it is all incorporated and emulsified. Season to taste with more salt, if needed, and a few liberal grindings of black pepper. (I used chopped crystallized ginger instead of fresh, which gave mine a milder, white girl heat).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In the Stacks

A selection of titles borrowed from my local library:

1. Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen by Naomi Moriyama. The title grabbed me.

2. The Nasty Bits by Anthony Bourdain. I used to watch No Reservations; I'll see if his writing hooks me.

3. Being Dead is No Excuse: Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gayden Metcalf and Charlotte Hays. Another great title. There should be a chapter on Funeral Casseroles.

4. Cooking with Jamie by Jamie Oliver. I really enjoy the "Jamie's Table" show on Food Network and like what I've read so far in the book (I'm only through Equipment and Salads), but this title is definitely going on my Amazon Wishlist.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Front Porch Tales

Summer Supper on the Front Porch
Hummus & Flatbread
Greek Salad with Patatosalata
Peel & Eat Shrimp
Grilled Flat-Iron Steak
Berries with Almond Scented Whipped Cream
Responsible for the care and feeding of 6 adults and 4 kids, I turned to my summertime standby, a Greek Salad with Patatosalata (potato salad), a dish commonly found on the Gulf Coast of Florida, particularly Tarpon Springs, and made famous by the restaurant Louis Pappas'. I used the Pappas recipe for the potato salad, but went another way for the dressing, using Evelyn/Athens' Ultimate Greek Salad vinaigrette and instructions for assembly.
Here's the Pappas recipe, found all over the net:

Greek Potato Salad
6 boiling potatoes
4 whole green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup whole green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt to taste

Make potato salad (makes 3 cups): Cook unpeeled potatoes in unsalted water until tender, about 20 minutes; cool until you can handle them. Peel potatoes; cut into chunks in large bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar and salt; add chopped green onions; toss. In small bowl combine parsley, sliced green onions, mayonnaise and salt. Add to potatoes; mix well.
Ultimate Greek Salad
Here's Evelyn/Athens recipe for Ultimate Greek Salad. She can be found at Recipezaar and on the Cookstalk message board at

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mediterranean is best)


1 head lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (I use Romaine)
3 large plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 English cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped (the long, thin, almost seedless ones)
1 medium red onion, cut into thin rings and soaked for 10 minutes in a small bowl of ice water to make it less sharp
1 small green pepper, cut into thin rings
3/4 cup kalamata olive


1. Whisk dressing ingredients together until blended.

2. Season to taste.

3. Drain onion from ice water and pat dry with paper towels.

4. Combine all salad ingredients, except cheese, in large bowl.

5. Toss with dressing.

6. Sprinkle cheese over and serve.

Friday, June 6, 2008

I think I'll Name My Child Salmon Patty

After all, if Charlie Brown can have Peppermint Patty, why can't I have Salmon Patty?

Salmon patties are so hopelessly old-fashioned, my best hope is that the food snobs would consider them retro rather than plebeian. I must confess here that I always have a can of salmon in the pantry and when I fry up salmon patties for supper, my fussy eaters gobble them up. It's a cheap, nutritious, tasty and filling entree and I really shouldn't have to apologize for that, now should I?

I've tried a few recipes over the years, mostly from the back of the can, but I always go back to the late 80's Pillsbury Cookbook version. Pillsbury was my bridal shower cookbook, and my beaten-up, stained copy is missing both covers, but thank goodness the recipes still work.

Salmon Patties

Yield: 6 patties
1 (15 oz.) can salmon, undrained
2-4 cups fresh bread crumbs from white sandwich bread, divided
2 eggs
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
canola oil for frying

1. In a bowl, place salmon. Pick through fish, pulling out skin and icky dark stuff. Mash the bones between your fingers (the bones are supposed to be good for you - all that calcium).

2. Add remaining ingredients, using about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of bread crumbs, until you have a fairly wet mixture. Pour remaining bread crumbs into a pie dish. Shape mixture into 6 medium patties, about 1 inch thick and 3 inches across. Place in bread crumbs and gently coat with crumbs on both sides.

3. Pour oil into medium skillet and heat until it comes up to frying temperature. I drop a few bread crumbs into the hot oil to see if they will sizzle.

4. Fry the patties in the oil until golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes on the first side, and less on the second side. Drain on paper towel-lined plate.

My standby "fridge is empty and I don't want to go to the grocery store" menu is salmon patties, macaroni and cheese (blue box is acceptable in our house) and green beans (everybody knows that good Southern cooks use Allen's Seasoned Southern Style). I just hope the food snobs don't drop in on those nights.

I Always Judge Books by Their Covers

With a sniff and a sigh, I just finished "On Agate Hill" by Lee Smith. I've been away from novels for several years, but I've always loved Lee Smith and when I saw the book in trade paper, it all but jumped off the shelf into my hands. This was in Nashville at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, so my girls played contentedly with the Thomas the Tank Engine train table while I read the back of the book. Curled up in a mission-style rocker, which I coveted, I read the author's notes in which Smith describes the death of her adult son and her difficulty returning to writing while still grieving. I was wiping tears from my eyes when I put "Agate Hill" on my stack of "must buys."

Molly Petree is the heroine of "Agate Hill," and the story traces her life as an orphan in North Carolina following the Civil War clear through her adult life at the turn of the century. Molly is familiar in that she's the spitfire Southern girl I've always wanted either to be or have as my best friend. She reminds me very much of Cean in Caroline Miller's "Lamb in His Bosom" or any of the spunky heroines of Edna Ferber, or even Catherine Marshall's "Christy." The rural, pre-industrial North Carolina setting and characters spark to life like flint to steel.

Years ago, I attended a luncheon at which Lee Smith spoke. She told her albino squirrel story, which I would repeat, but I'm afraid I wouldn't get the details right. The story has to do with an albino squirrel that she wrote about on her very first day as a reporter for a small town newspaper. I laughed as tears of familiarity ran down my face. If you've answered phones at a small town newspaper, and interviewed the local citizens, the somewhat normal and the flat-out crazy, you'd know why I laughed.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Words I Wish I Had Written

"A perception exists among many young women (like me) that motherhood is a vocation reserved for certain types of people. The words organized, nurturing, crafty, and patient come to mind. But the mystery of parenthood is far deeper than our trifling categories.

Disorganized, anxious women who get lost on their daily commute, drink too much coffee, and stay up too late make terrific moms. I know from experience.

The unexpected transformation that takes place in a woman when she carries a child in her womb and gives birth is an act of both life and death.

Something in us dies - a certain sureness and aloofness, confidence that comes from taking care of only ourselves. In its place real love is born - naked, weak and true."

From In Touch magazine, May 2008, an article written by Tonya Stoneman.