Sunday, July 30, 2017

Easy Breezy - Summertime Mexican Rice


It’s been unseasonably cool the past few days - high 70s and breezy. Perfect for tennis, golf and grilling on the deck. Between Steve and me we checked off all three boxes yesterday, and topping the day off with a fun cooking session with friends.  

Fresh uncooked corn and tomatoes plus defrosted
 frozen peas bring summertime freshness
to this Mexican Rice
While our respective Steves (seriously the most common name for guys our age!) played golf, my friend Amanda and I tested and updated a favorite recipe of mine — Some Like it Hot Fish Tacos, with Salsa Blanca.  You can find the updated version at this link.

I also tried out a new recipe for Mexican Rice.  This one has been on my mind for a while - traditional flavors, but freshen up with uncooked corn and tomatoes and a squeeze of fresh lime.

If I do say so myself, this one is a serious winner, so I’ll share the recipe with you here.  It goes great with the tacos, but would be a nice side dish for any summertime meal.


Summertime Mexican Rice
Serves 6-8 

Ingredients
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup  cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed but not cooked
  • 1/2 cup fresh uncooked corn cut off the cob, basically one ear’s worth (or frozen if you don’t have fresh corn)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced sweet onion (Vidalia, Maui, or the like)
  • spice blend, see below
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 a lime


Spice blend
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt.



Method
  • Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium sized lidded sauce pan
  • Add the rice, stir gently as it comes back up to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat, fluff the rice with a fork.
  • Pour the cooked rice into a large bowl
  • Add the tomatoes, peas, corn, cilantro and rice, stir to combine
  • Add the spice blend, stir to combine
  • Right before serving add the lime juice and zest, stir to combine



Enjoy!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Summertime Summertime (BLT Crostini and Summer Squash Crostini)

Ready for the dinner party: two summertime apps inspired
by two of our favorite local haunts, Merrit's and Picnic
Summer in North Carolina means two things:   Bacon Lettuce & Tomato sandwiches and Barbecue. So when I was asked to bring a appetizer to a Saturday evening dinner party this weekend, I decided to create a couple of crostini recipes using inspiration from two of our favorite local recipes — Merrit’s in Chapel Hill, home of the a simple and straightforward BLT that defines that iconic summertime sammy; and Picnic, an up and coming Durham BBQ restaurant that is co-owned by a local heritage pig farmer and raising the bar for succulent whole hog Q.

The Merrit’s BLT rift was pretty simple. Crusty bread, a touch of mayo, and bright red juicy tomato slices topped with crisp applewood smoked bacon and shredded lettuce.  I jazzed the mayo up a tad by adding chives from the garden and a touch of garlic, salt and pepper. The beauty of a Merrit’s BLT is its simplicity, no need to guild that lily too much.

The Picnic influenced crostini was a bit more of a challenge. I didn’t want go the smoked and pulled piggy route.  Way too filling for a pre-dinner app. Instead, I took inspiration from a refreshing squash side salad you often find on the Picnic menu when the prolific veggies are in season.

BLT Crostini
Following are the ingredients and methods for these tasty treats.  I hope they inspire you to come up your own new favorite start to a summertime meal.

BLT Crostini
(makes 8 pieces, two per person)

Ingredients
  • 8, 1/2 inch slices of a crusty baguette.  (I used ciabatta baguette from Trader Joes)
  • 1/2 cup of Dukes or Best Foods Mayonnaise
  • 1 small clove of garlic, worked into a paste on a cutting board, with a bit of coarse salt and the side blade of a chef’s knife
  • 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped chives (optional)
  • 4 slices of thick sliced bacon (I used uncured applewood smoked bacon from Trader Joes), cooked crisp, blotted dry with a paper towel and broken into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 pieces of sliced tomato, about the same size as the bread, drained on a paper towel. Pick the best and brightest red tomatoes you can find. 
  • 1/2 cup of shredded romain lettuce - make it as thin as you can, and moisten slightly with a bit of oil and vinegar
  • Kosher salt and course ground pepper to taste
  • Olive oil spray, or a bit of olive oil and a brush


Method
  1. Spray or brush the bread slices with olive oil and grill on a grill pan until slightly crispy. 
  2. Mix the mayo, garlic and chives in a small bowl and set aside - it’s nice to do this a bit ahead of time so the flavors can come together 
  3. To assemble, use an offset spatula or butter knife to spread a bit of the mayo on each piece of bread, top with a slice of tomato, then dab two or three pieces of bacon with a dot of the mayo (like glue) and press them atop the tomato, then put a bit of the lettuce atop the bacon.
  4. Enjoy.

Summer Squash, Zucchini and Corn Crostini
(makes 8 pieces, two per person)
Summer Squash, Zucchini &
Fresh Corn Crostini

Ingredients:
  • 8, 1/2 inch slices of a crusty baguette.  (I used ciabatta baguette from Trader Joes)
  • 1/2 zucchini, sliced into ribbons, using a vegetable peeler
  • 1 large summer squash, sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
  • 1/2 corn cob, kernels removed with a chef’s knife
  • 1 Tablespoon walnut oil (you could substitute another mild oil, like canola or grape seed)
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon
  • 1/2 cup creamy goat cheese (I used a log of herbed goat cheese from Trader Joes)
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons milk or half and half
  • 2 Tablespoons roasted, salted sunflower seeds
  • Kosher salt and course ground pepper to taste
  • Olive oil spray, or a bit of olive oil and a brush


Method
  1. Spray or brush the bread slices with olive oil and grill on a grill pan until slightly crispy. 
  2. Use a fork to mix the goat cheese and milk / half & half until smooth and spreadable. 
  3. Combine the squash ribbons, corn, oil, vinegar, basil, tarragon, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside. It’s nice to do this a bit early so the flavors can meld and the squash can soften
  4. To assemble, use an offset spatula or butter knife to spread a bit of the goat cheese on each piece of bread; then top each piece with a few kernel of corn, two to three squash ribbons and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds, salt and pepper.
  5. Enjoy.






















Sunday, April 16, 2017

Indoor Easter Picnic (Cole Slaw and a lesson that we don't care for sweet tea brined fried chicken)

One of the things a SoCal Ex-Pat needs to learn when they move  to North Carolina is to remember to order your iced tea “unsweetened.” Unless you want something closer to a soda than the iced tea you grew up drinking, that is. 

Sweet tea brined fried chicken: Picture perfect, but
not blog-worthy.  Sweet potato biscuits don't rise
like normal ones but are amazing!
Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not judging. But I’m not a sweet lover, so I learned this one quickly. 

Sugar aside, the iced tea in the South is the very best. Amber brown and clear as the Pasadena sky on New Year’s Day (which is when thousands of people freezing their tails off in the midwest and northeast watch the Rose Parade, pack their bags and add to the LA traffic just in time for the winds to shift and the smog to settle back into the valley).  Wow, I am full of rants today!
This crisp and refreshing Coleslaw
never fails me

Why the tea discussion?  Well, today is Easter and we are just the two of us for dinner.  So I thought I’d make a little indoor picnic complete with Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken (a first for me) served with my go to side, a crunchy cole slaw made with mayo, Greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar and celery seeds. Oh.  And biscuits.  Sweet potato biscuits. Because we can.

But here's the deal.  The chicken was good, but you know, I really don't think the sweet tea brining is up my alley.  Not blog worthy.  So, I'll post the pretty pictures, but skip the recipe.  

I will share my cole slaw recipe and a link to  Bobby Flay’s sweet potato biscuits.  They are absolutely relish. So VERY tender.  They don't rise quite as high as a normal biscuit, because of the moisture in the sweet potatoes but, dang, they are good. 

Holly's Cole Slaw Method
I love love love to dice. And this 
method makes it super easy.
This is a staple in the Barnett household.  I change it up lots of ways - lemon or lime juice rather than the vinegar, chopped cilantro or parsley, green onions or chives in place of the diced onion. And often I go straight mayo rather than mayo and yogurt.  Any way you do it, it’s refreshing and a great accompaniment to meat, fish, poultry, burgers, lamb… or with canned tuna mixed in for lunch.

Make the dressing - to a large bowl add:
  • 1/4 diced onion - I like a sweet onion like the Visalia onions we get in here NC and the Maui onions we got in SoCal.  
  • 1/4 cup Best Foods/Helmans or Duke’s Mayonnaise 
  • 1/4 cup plain, fat free Fage Greek Yogurt
  • 1 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • pinch salt 
  • a bunch of grinds of black pepper
  • Mix thoroughly and taste.  Adjust the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
Quick & Easy Cole Slaw -
fresh makes it best
Add the crunchy stuff:
  • Toss in1/4 of a large head of cabbage, sliced thin and then cropped.  You can also use a bag of pre-shredded cabbage.
  • Stir and check the seasoning again, and add salt and pepper if needed.  If it is too dry, add some more mayo and/or yogurt.  
Cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly.  Stir and serve. 

Enjoy!