Archive for June, 2009

DSCF8443Monday – Pea and Lima Bean Soup, Honey Pecan Oven-fried Chicken

Tuesday – Homemade Pizza, Fresh Mixed Greens with the best male cooks’ Anchovy Paste Vinaigrette

Wednesday – Mediterranean Fish Soup, Whole-wheat Israeli Couscous Salad

Thursday – Leftovers

Friday – Started a blog vacation. Will have more updates on What We Ate Last Week on July 7th.


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July 4th Recipes

DSCF8209Next Saturday, July 4th is the first official food holiday of summer. Today I share my favorite recipes for this hot, hazy holiday.  Both the Red Beans and Rice with Chili Vinaigrette and the Coca-Cola Cake travel well, so they’re good recipes to make for a potluck picnic. Enjoy the day and be safe with fireworks, especially if children are running around the yard.

Guacamole – Plain and Simple

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Kentucky-style Slow-Cooker Pork Barbecue (if you don’t have time to hang out by the grill)

Flat Iron Steak with Brown Sugar Rub

Red Beans and Rice with Chili Vinaigrette

Mojitos and Blueberry Mojitos

Nina’s Coca-Cola Cake

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DSCF8427Monday – Curried Chickpeas, Basmati Rice, Mixed Greens Salad

Tuesday – Hamburgers, Skillet-fried Corn, Applesauce

Wednesday – Spaghetti and Meatballs, Green Beans

Thursday – Garden Burger Sandwiches with Broccoli Sprouts, Carrots and Dip, Fresh Pineapple Chunks

Friday – Meatball Subs, Fresh Sauteed Kale and Spinach, Potato Chips

Saturday – Grilled Shrimp and Pineapple, Fresh Zucchini (first of the season from a farmer friend)

Sunday – New York Strips, Oven Roasted Potatoes, Green Beans and Garlic with Almonds, Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing, Strawberry Shortcake

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Fresh Blackberry CakeMakes one 10-inch tube or Bundt cake

This dark, spicy cake is adapted from a Kentucky Proud recipe. For a sweeter taste, and a  moister, pudding-like cake, add 1/2 cup sugar to the blackberries and let them stand 30 minutes before adding to the batter. I’ve baked this recipe with both walnuts and pecans, but I’m quite confident black walnuts would boost the flavor profile.

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup raisins – optional

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube or Bundt pan. In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and allspice. In another bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the flour mixture and beat just to combine.  Fold in the undrained blackberries, pecans or walnuts, and raisins. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Run a thin knife around the edges of the cake to loosen from the pan. Place a plate, or cooling rack, over the cake and carefully turn to cake over and onto the plate or rack.  Let cool completely. If desired, frost with caramel icing, a powdered sugar glaze, or simply sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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2007_0714FarmersMarket0022Say the word blackberry to my mother and I’m 100 percent sure she’ll reminisce about one of the few fresh fruits she ate while growing up as a “city” girl in Lexington. Around my grandmother’s kitchen in the late 1930’s and 40’s fresh fruit was rare except from late April to October when fresh rhubarb plants sent up stiff pink stalks, blackberry bushes, and cherry, peach, and apple trees brimmed with fruit, and the neighbor’s grape arbors hung heavy with Concord grapes. Neighbors shared the abundant, but limited varieties of, fresh fruit with each other and all worked hard to pick, wash, eat, and preserve the fruit while it lasted.

On a hot July morning my mother and grandmother picked a pail-full of berries. For a few days they’d eat fresh with sugar all the berries they could stomach without getting a belly-ache, and proceed to bake a cobbler, or two. Then my grandmother preserved blackberry jam in small glistening jars topped with paraffin wax. Her intent, of course, was to extend this short-lived flavor of summer into the fall where blackberry jam was spread on hot biscuits, and into the Christmas holiday where the jam reappeared as an ingredient in a tall cake spread thick with soft caramel icing.

Say the word blackberry to one of my older, baby boomer sister’s and I’m 50 percent sure they’d follow along the same thought process, remembering the times we picked fat, thumbnail-sized berries from the same prickly bushes hanging over the back fence behind my grandmother’s house. Blackberry picking time was the hottest time of summer, but we helped my grandmother harvest the berries before the birds did.  After our short, but fruitful, picking session we relaxed on Mamaw’s sleeping porch with our purple-stained fingers wrapped around a sweaty glass of iced tea. Later in the evening, we listened to the Red’s game on her transistor radio, ate cobbler and ice cream, and brushed frosty pink fingernail polish on our itchy chigger bites.

Now for the heartbreaking part of this story: Say the word blackberry to my college-aged niece, my teenage nephew, or my children, and I’m 98 percent certain the first thing they’ll mention is the small hand-held device used for talking on the phone, checking e-mail, or posting a status update to Facebook. To them, blackberries are electric, portable, and come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. And they can’t be baked in a pie.

For my Mom picking blackberries meant fresh fruit. For me picking blackberries was a memorable part of July. Sure, we all returned hot, stained, and insect bit, but summer wasn’t summer without picking blackberries. As far as my kids go, we, nor their grandmothers, have a blackberry bush to perpetuate this summertime memory. When we want the traditional blackberry-taste of summer we buy berries at a farmer’s market or go to a u-pick berry farm. (Although when I mentioned this to the best male cook I know he stood ready to go buy and plant some cultivated blackberries. Time will tell.)

Depending on where you live, blackberries typically start to ripen near the end of June or the 1st week in July, and because they wait for no one, and the birds wait for them, you have to be ready to pick when they ripen. (Check out www.pickyourown.org for a location near you.) If you are lucky enough to do some blackberry picking , handle the berries gently and pack them in shallow containers to avoid squishing. Refrigerate for up to two days. Just before you cook or eat them, rinse in a gentle stream of cool water. 

Sit down and share a cold beverage with someone who remembers blackberry-picking days and you’re bound to hear a few hot, juicy stories. If you have youngsters in your life, find somewhere to pick, or buy, fresh Kentucky blackberries so they can enjoy this short-seasoned, summertime fruit. If you have blackberries that need to be picked, give me a shout. I’ll gather some kids who need to taste this experience, stained fingers, chigger bites, and all. I can’t expect them to fully understand what fresh fruit meant to their grandmother and great-grandmother, but connecting them with fresh blackberry bushes will help them appreciate the fruits of their labor, and create summertime memories they can tell their friends about even though they’re too young to own a BlackBerry.

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2006_0617April-June20060028Monday – Flat Iron Steak Fajitas, Cole Slaw, Roasted Sweet and Red-skinned Potatoes

Tuesday – Tortellini with Marinara Sauce, Green Beans (We ate at 9:30 pm. No joke. Must be summer.)

Wednesday – Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Spinach Salad, Sweet Spicy Brussels Sprouts with Almonds

Thursday  – Chicken Sausage, Baked Beans, Salad

Friday – Pimiento Cheese (“pate of the South”, or “peanut butter of my childhood”), Triscuits, leftover 5-way Cincinnati Chili from lunch

Saturday – Baked Grouper with Olive and Capers, Sauteed Garlic Kale, Green Peas

Sunday – Grilled Chicken Breasts, Bowtie Pasta with Spicy Tomato Basil Sauce, Green Beans (again), Mixed Greens Salad

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Mint, Bourbon, May, and Kentucky go hand in hand.
Mint, Rum, June, and Kentucky can walk the same path, but not for the same reason.
With a little imagination,  and a copy of Old Man And The Sea, I transport myself from Kentucky to Havana right in my own backyard.
In order to properly mix a Mint Julep, or a Mojito, you first need to make  mint sugar syrup. It’s quite “simple” and leftover syrup sweetens everything from herbed lemonade to sweet tea. If desired, wet the lip or edge of the highball glass with fresh lime juice and dip in granulated sugar. This will add a touch more sweetness to the drink.  I recommend a true sugar cane rum such as the Brazilian brand, Ypioca Cachaça, sold in a wicker wrapped bottle, sort of the Brazilian equivalent of Chianti wine in a basket-bottle.

Mint Simple Syrup
Makes 2 cups

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh mint leaves

In a small saucepan bring water to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Add mint and stir. Let steep for at least 30 minutes. Cool and store in a glass jar or pitcher in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 tall mojito

2 ounces rum
Juice of one lime
2 ounces mint simple syrup
about 4 ounces club soda
fresh mint leaves for garnish

Fill a tall highball glass with ice. Pour in the rum, lime juice, mint syrup, and top off with club soda. Stir to combine. Garnish with fresh mint, sip, and enjoy. Repeat only if you’re not driving anywhere.

Blueberry Mojito
Makes 1 tall, blended drink

about 2 cups ice cubes
2 ounces rum
2 ounces mint simple syrup
Juice of one lime
about 4 ounces club soda
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Put ice in a blender. Pour in the rum, mint simple syrup,  lime juice, club soda, and blueberries. Blend on high speed until frothy. Pour into a glass and garnish with fresh mint.

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