I have a confession: I’m a closeted Southern food fanatic. And not because I’m ashamed or embarrassed. Quite the opposite actually! I say I’m closeted because, despite my in-depth search, I continue to find it difficult to access Southern food. Think about it, how many Italian restaurants are available within a 10 mile radius from your home? Or what about Thai food, or Mexican, or a classic French restaurant? I bet most of you could name 5 restaurants in your town and not one would be Southern. And I bet you don’t come across many Southern inspired recipes like my Old Bay Black Eyed Peas, Peach Chow Chow, and Collards recipe often. That needs to change. There needs to be more Southern food!
Here’s a question for ya: how many of you think Southern food is basically fried chicken and biscuits? I dont blame you for thinking so! I used to as well!! But Southern food is SOOOOOO much more than that. What I love about Southern food (other than the delicious flavors) is the immensely rich history is originates from. Southern food is rooted in hundreds of years of storytelling. It comes from African, European, Appalachian, and Native American traditions (to name a small few). It’s one of the most powerful storytellers of our nations past. Each recipe is built from family history, American history, and cultures that helped shape the way Americans utilize agriculture.
A major component of Southern cuisine revolves around fresh fruits and vegetables, typically grown from heirloom seeds passed down from generations before. A 300 year old bean might be a key component on your modest looking plate of hoppin john. Southern cuisine may seem simple compared to most culinary techniques, but it’s history is far more complex than anything you could put on a plate.
This Old Bay Black Eyed Peas, Peach Chow Chow, and Collards recipe is not too innovative. Because Southern food is so rich with tradition, I wanted to keep this recipe pretty close to the original. I did take a few creative liberties where I could- I added a Southern favorite, Old Bay Seasoning, to black eyed peas. The celery salt in the seasoning played perfectly with the celery seed in the peach chow chow (my quick take on a Southern pickled condiment). The biggest change to my recipe is that it’s 100% vegetarian. While collards and black eyed peas are typically made with some kind of smoked pork product, this recipe uses my favorite smoked ingredient hack: smoked paprika!
So even though we (outside of the South) may not be as comfortable with Southern food as other cuisines, hopefully this Old Bay Black Eyed Peas, Peach Chow Chow, and Collards recipe will show you a piece of this richly diverse and powerful cuisine. My hope is that we’ll start seeing more chicken bog and field peas on menus across the country. Until then, we can always visit restaurants like The Grey or anything created by Sean Brock.
I used to hate corn. My only positive memory of it comes from meals spent with my grandparents. My grandfather ate corn like it was going out of style. Anytime it was on the menu, he passionately devoured that cob of corn so ferociously that it was inevitable to spot one or two (or 10) kernels on his face… which was hilarious to 6 year old me. I think we even found kernels in his ear once. But even though I could see how much he loved corn, I still couldn’t understand why. My disdain for corn was matched by his love of it.
But as I grew up (specifically as my palate grew up) I learned just how delicious corn is. And let me tell you, this lime scented corn recipe is one of my absolute favorite ways to enjoy it. In fact, its one of my all time favorite recipes! It’s the perfect accent for my Blackened Pork with Lime Corn and Avocado Salsa recipe.
This recipe is all about the corn. I dont know how or why but this lime-scented corn side dish is crazy good. Like, it should be illegal how good it is considering how easy it is to make and how few ingredients go into it. And the blackened pork and avocado pico de gallo dont disappoint either. Every component adds a new spicy layer to an incredibly deep flavored dish. I guarantee that this Blackened Pork with Lime Corn and Avocado Salsa recipe will be a summertime fave.
If you remember yesterday’s post, I’ve started to sift through our kitchen pantry in an attempt to jump start packing for our move to Maine. It’s quite amazing how much stuff actually piles up in those dark crevices. But the upside is that I’m scoring a bunch of interesting ingredients that I forgot I had! This Chilled Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Shrimp and Blueberry Nuoc Cham came to fruition after discovering some tasty rice noodles that were hanging out next to the soba (future post?). So thanks to that great find (and Chef Stephanie Izard), here is today’s easy and refreshing recipe.
But before we dive into this easy recipe, first: blueberry nuoc cham with shrimp?? I know, sounds bizarre at first. I mean, fish sauce irks some people on it’s own. But combining that pungent sauce with sweet blueberries and sauteed shrimp just seems like a bad idea. But ohhh let me tell you, that statement is SO wrong.
The incredible combination of the salty fermented fish sauce with spicy jalapeno, zesty lime juice, and sweet blueberry juice takes that already umami-packed sauce from zero to a million in seconds. There’s something about the sweet earthiness of the blueberries that makes the nuoc cham more balanced, more salty, and believe it or not, more fishy… in a good way. In fact, if the sauce’s color didn’t scream blueberry you wouldn’t know it was in there! You’ll be amazed at how intensely flavored this Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Shrimp and Blueberry Nuoc Cham is.
Still dont believe me? Maybe Chef Izard from Chicago’s Girl and Goat will help. Her recipe for blueberry nuoc cham has been a fave of many for years. Give it a try and let me know what you think. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how amazing and versatile this dish is. It’s perfect for lunch, dinner, on a warm, sunny day, or eaten as leftovers.
Since returning from our house scouting trip to Maine I became increasingly aware of how much stuff we have. As excited as I am for this next adventure, I am equally dreading the act of packing our house. But it’s happening, hafta do it, so might as well start. And since the kitchen is my domain, I decided to start there. And what better way to use up leftover items than throw it into a dinner. Thus this Seared Salmon with Lentil Pilaf and Mint Yogurt Sauce came to be.
One of my favorite dinner pairings is salmon with lentils. Both are so versatile and play off each other so well. This dish came together when I started digging through forgotten items we had stashed in our pantry. This Seared Salmon with Lentil Pilaf and Mint Yogurt Sauce dish is so easy enough to pull off on a week night, yet could pass for a dinner party entree. Plus, it’s a great dish to use up any extra veggies you have lying around. Cut them up into small pieces and sauté them before adding your lentils!
Ceviche has to be one of my favorite go-to meals during the warmer Spring and Summer months. Because it is a 100% “raw” preparation meal, I not only get more time to enjoy the outdoors but I dont have to turn on the stove/oven when the temps are already uncomfortably warm in the house. AND with its unlimited options of flavors and ingredients, it’s an easy meal to make everyone in your household happy. Take this Japanese ceviche: I bet it will be a go to in your house as well.
Ceviche comes in all shapes and sizes. With influences predominantly coming from tropical climates (like Peru), the bright and light flavors of ceviche pair so perfectly with toasty weather and swimsuit season. My Japanese inspired ceviche combines a little of that Peruvian tropical zest with the deep aromatic flavors of Japan. This ceviche definitely has a Peruvian sushi type of vibe… and I totally dig that. The difference between this ceviche and standard sushi is the ceviche-style “cooking” technique in citrus juice. Instead of tossing it solely in a soy-sesame dressing, the fish is marinated in lime juice too, breaking down the proteins in the fish so that it’s no longer considered “raw”. It’s citrusy, full of omami, a little spice, and packs quite a punch considering the fish is handle so delicately. Feel free to play around with your favorite Japanese ingredients when preparing your own version. Your Japanese ceviche doesn’t have to look like mine. That’s the beauty of ceviche: it’s all up to your own creativity.
I remember first discovering how versatile, complex, and exciting food could truly be. I was amazed when I first tried a dish similar to this Green Tea Poached Fish with Carrot-Ginger Sauce. Poaching a protein in anything other than stock was so foreign to me at the time and yet, when I learned about this interesting technique, it was a major light bulb-kind-of-moment. Well, duh! Of course you should poach delicate fish in an herbal tea! I always knew I wanted to be a chef, but that dish certainly set the stage for my culinary career.
This dish is a funny one, meaning I find it difficult to describe. The delicate white fish is poached in a light green tea broth. Then its served with an assertive carrot ginger sauce and a spicy papaya salad. Both sides appear to not play with the others… and yet, it all does somehow. The nuances of the green tea supports the sweetness in the carrot sauce to balance out the spiciness of the salad. And although the fish plays a more supportive role in the dish’s profile, it’s creaminess is a wonderful contrast to the rest of the dish. Make sure you check out my Green Papaya Salad recipe here to complete this beautiful dish.
This Strawberry Basil Welsh Cake recipe may seem simple. But these simple pastries hold so many personal childhood memories that it was on the “duh, of course I should make them” baking list this past weekend.
I was lucky enough to have grandparents who lived in a beautiful house minutes away from the lake in Tahoe, California. We would spend every winter on sleds and in kid-made igloos. And every summer was spent running around the deck, tossing horseshoes, and eating all kinds of yummy treats with my sisters and cousins. And one of the most iconic treats from that era (aside from the fudge) were these welsh cakes. Well, not this strawberry basil version but the original cakes my grandmother grew up eating. I’m sure that particular recipe is over 120 years old.
What I like about these welsh cakes (we called them scones) is that they’re sweeter and chewier than standard scones. And they’re griddled! The griddled exterior extenuates the soft inside making them a perfect handheld treat for morning, noon, and night. Traditionally, welsh cakes are made with currents or raisins, but my take adds dried strawberries and fresh basil. Even this strawberry basil welsh cake twist on a classic takes me back to that house in Tahoe with every bite.
Bonus recipe: Try these welsh cakes with my gingered rhubarb compote! It paired perfectly with the strawberry and basil!
This dish is all about the chicken skin. It’s a highly sought after snack in my house. I’ve heard the skin can be a major point of contention in others. Family wars have been fought over Thanksgiving turkey skin (not proven but sounds legit, right?). And let’s be honest, no matter what your dietary preferences are, there isn’t anything quite like crunching into a salty piece of chicken skin. Which is why this Poached Chicken with Honey-Mustard Chicken Skin dish needed to exist.
I heard once about a restaurant that serves chicken skin as the chip component in a dip recipe. Because I thought this was genius and wanted to try this flavor combination myself, I wanted to come up with this entree-sized version. The chicken is slowly poached in beef stock, giving it a deeper, richer taste. The soft poached chicken pairs beautifully with the crispy chicken skin and the roasted cauliflower and fennel. And the honey, mustard seed, and lime is a bright and energetic seasoning that lifts this dish to new levels with every bite. Poached Chicken with Honey-Mustard Chicken Skin is a must try immediately.
I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not sure where the inspiration for this smoked chicken with preserved lemon-sweet potato risotto and artichoke came from! I’m not one of those chefs who’s obsessed with smoking things. And unless thrown into a salad, I could leave canned artichokes alone. But for some reason, these ingredients came together so harmoniously I just had to share!
Don’t have a smoker for this recipe? No worries, I dont either! A fabulous not-so-secret trick I learned years ago was to use smoked salt or smoked paprika to impart that delicious smokey flavor into your dishes. It’s actually a wonderful technique to use in vegetarian cooking!! The taste mimics that of bacon! So next time you make a vegetarian split pea soup or “pork” and beans use a smoked spice and you’ll think it’s the real deal!
The smoked salt I used in this smoked chicken with preserved lemon-sweet potato risotto and artichoke recipe came from my new home so I had extra reason to be excited about this dish. The salt gave the chicken an incredible smoked flavor without overpowering the dish. It’s the perfect supporting flavor for the bright preserved lemon sweet potato risotto and tangy artichoke sauce. (Also did ya know you could make risotto with ingredients other than rice??) It was a perfect dish of contrasting and supporting flavors.
Remember that secret news I said I was going to share? I’m so excited to share that my family is moving from our bustling life in Boston to beautiful coast of Maine!! As of September, we will be Mainers!! It’s time to celebrate! Want to toast us with a Maine Blueberry Fizz?
Why is this news so exciting (to us at least)?? For so many reasons: My hard working wife finally received her doctorate this year and was in a strong position to choose anywhere she wanted to work; I am a creative foodie-chef with a passion for the homegrown, organic, from-the land ingredients; and our outdoorsy 3 year old would live in the dirt and sand if we let her. So naturally the sea side, forest covered, food-centric, slow paced vibes of southern Maine seemed like a no-brainer for this little family who’s ready to put down some legit roots (both figuratively and literally). And because I come from a family that finds ways to celebrate any occasion, you know I had to come up with a fun cocktail to toast my wife’s job offer that confirmed our move.
This Maine Blueberry Fizz combines all of the wonderful flavors Maine is known for. This bourbon cocktail has blueberries, maple syrup, and kombucha. Kombucha may not be the first thing you think of when you think of Maine but when in Portland, it’s hard not to find a kombucha maker on every corner. It’s sweet, fizzy, tart, and packs a good hit of alcohol. It was the perfect cocktail to toast our move. Cheers!