Sunday, August 15, 2010

End of vacation dinner (Will’s lemon scented pasta)

A note from Holly:
(I was going to post the recipe for my lemon chicken – and then I realized that I’ve already posted it.  Brain Cramp. What I will share with you is the pasta that we served with the lemon chicken I made last night.  More of a method than a recipe, this one so simple yet so delicious.  And the really cool part – Will came up with it!  I guess he got the cooking gene!)

It seems like we just picked up Will at the airport and now his summer break is over.  Tomorrow at o'dark-thirty he and Steve will leave for a cross-country drive back to school. They’ve got a great itinerary planned – and will hit baseball games in Chicago and Minneapolis before fishing their way thru North Dakota and finally dropping into the Big Sky State. 

As moms are wont to do, I cooked up one of Will’s favorite dishes last night – lemon chicken.  And this time, he taught me a trick – scenting the pasta itself with lemon by putting both the juice and the juiced lemon halves into the salted pasta water right before you add the pasta.  Wow, was it good.

Lemon Scented Pasta

  • Large pot of boiling water
  • 2 – 3 Tbs of Kosher Salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • The actual lemon that was just juiced
  • 4 servings of angle hair pasta (or any shaped pasta of your choice)

  • Boil the water in a very large pot
  • Add the salt, lemon juice and juiced lemon halves
  • Add the pasta and cook according to package directions
  • Drain the pasta and return to the pot you cooked it in.
  • If you are serving with a dish that has a sauce, pour some of the sauce on the pasta before serving. 
  • Or you can simply toss gently with
    • 1 Tbs melted butter
    • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
    • Some chopped flat leaf parsley

To serve
  • This is great with lemon pasta, but would be equally good with shrimp, fish, or even sautéed zucchini or spring peas.
  • Dust with Parmesan cheese

Dig in and enjoy!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

It’s Tomato Time (Deconstructed BLT Salad)

Summer and tomatoes go hand and hand.  And when it comes to a summer lunch or even dinner, what can be better than a BLT? 

My mom made a mean BLT, and I still remember one that I had at a golf course in Mexico on a steamy summer day back in the 80s.  But the very best BLT I have ever had is right her in Chapel Hill, at a gas station turned lunch stop called Merrit’s Store & Grill.

Merrit’s roots go back to 1929 when original owners Ruby and Eben Merritt opened a gas station and store on Columbia St, a narrow winding road that eventually cuts right through the UNC campus and connects with Franklin Street at heart of Chapel Hill. 

Later in 1991, current owner Robert Britt bought the store and added the signature BLT to the menu.  The sandwich’s beauty is in its simplicity.  Lightly toasted bread, a thin smear of good quality mayo and a layer (or more, depending on the size sandwich you choose) each of farm stand tomatoes and crisp local bacon are topped with crisp iceberg lettuce.  The whole thing is wrapped in foil and handed to you in a brown paper bag.  Need I say more?

We had our first Merrit’s BLT the week we arrived in Chapel Hill a little under a year ago.  As we settled in to enjoy our lunch at a picnic table behind the store, there was a flash of lightning, a crash of thunder and the sky literally opened up. Just like in the movies!  We dashed to the car and had our picnic right in the gravel covered parking lot.  It was a great way to start our adventure, and a memory I will always cherish.

The other night we had a similar storm, and as luck would have it I also had some heirloom tomatoes, local bacon, and the other necessary BLT fixin’s on hand.  However, we weren’t in the mood for a sandwich, so I did a deconstructed version and called it dinner. 

Will took a great shot of the salad before we enjoyed it with a nice glass of crisp white wine. I hope you give it a try and enjoy it as much as we did. 


Deconstructed BLT Salad
(serves 4 as an entrée)


For the Dressing:
  • ½ cup non fat Fage Greek Yogurt
  • ¼ cup Best Foods, Helman’s or (my new favorite, which is available in the South) Duke’s mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small clove of garlic, grated on a micro-plane or mashed into a paste
  • pinch salt
  • 6 grinds black pepper

For the salad:
  • 4 thick slices of hearty white bread (I get a local baked farm style bread; sourdough would also work)
  • 1 very large heirloom tomato (red and yellow ones are really good for this), cut into 4 think slices
  • 2 medium sized red tomato, cut into 8 slices
  • 8 slices thick cut apple smoked bacon
  • 2 cups shredded (make nice, long shreds – not chopped) iceberg lettuce
  • Olive Oil for grilling the bread
  • salt and pepper


Make the Dressing

  • Whisk together the yogurt, mayo, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.  
  • Cover with cling wrap and chill until you are ready to make the salad.  

Cook the bacon -- I like to bake mine, which keeps it perfectly flat and drains the fat from the meat:
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Lay the bacon on a rack atop sheet pan
  • Grind some pepper on the bacon
  • Bake for 10 minutes, flip and bake 5 minutes more, or until desired doneness is reached.

Grill the bread -- I use a grill pan inside, which works just fine.
  • Brush the bread on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with a very small amount of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • Grill until you’ve got good grill marks and the bread is crispy

Assemble the saladUse nice big dinner plates since this gets a bit messy  when you start cutting into the salad.

Atop each plate layer:
  • A slice of grilled bread
  • The largest slice of tomato
  • A slice of bacon
  • Another slice of tomato
  • A slice of bacon
  • Another slice of tomato
  • A handful of the lettuce
  • A drizzle of the dressing
  • Salt and Pepper.