Spring Dinner Party Menu Featuring Fresh Dinner Salads

Spring Dinner Party Menu Featuring Fresh Dinner Salads

The secret to entertaining and still having a good time?

 

PLANNING!

Steal my very best springtime entertaining ideas that will guarantee you have just as much fun as your guests with these main course salad ideas!

Secret Squash Jorj Morgan Filming

While March isn’t quite marching away from winter, I feel Spring in the air.

Easter is right around the corner and with vaccinations occurring rapidly, families and friends may start gathering to celebrate a new season.

I have a theory about entertaining. I like to keep my eye on the prize of enjoying my party as much as my guests do. I must admit that I usually accomplish this goal!

The secret to making it all happen is to plan, plan, plan. If you spend the time preparing before-hand, when it comes to party time, everything will be ready!  

Putting these two ideas together, I have a party plan to share with you for your right-around-the-corner Spring get-together. My book, “At Home Entertaining”  (If you don’t find it on your shelf, you can still find it on Amazon), contains a plan for a Sunset Picnic Supper.

This party plan was one that our catering company created when we were asked to design a party to go with a groundbreaking ceremony on the lot that would eventually house a four-story office building. The lot was vacant, so we erected a tent and set each place at multiple tables with individual picnic baskets that held the guest’s china, linen napkins, glassware, and even a stem vase with a single fresh flower.

The meal was presented family-style with servers offering platters of main course salads. We prepared all of the pieces of each salad in advance and keep them refrigerated, assembled the dishes on-site, right before serving.

The party was a hit and I’ve served these main dish salads again and again over the years.

I used that party plan to create one for this year. It includes these dishes:

Grilled Flank Steak With Roasted Onions, Sliced Tomatoes, Blue Cheese and Poblano Pepper Vinaigrette

Here’s how: The day before I’ll pound the flank steaks with the rough side of a meat mallet and place them in marinade overnight. I’ll roast the poblano peppers and add them and a handful of spinach leaves to my favorite vinaigrette recipe to create a deeply colored, subtly spiced sauce. This I’ll chill in the fridge.

I’ll roast small (palm-size) white onions, cut into quarters, in the oven until they are golden and syrupy, and store these in the fridge as well.

On the day of the party, I’ll grill the steaks to just medium-rare. I’ll wrap them in foil and refrigerate until about an hour before the party. Removing the steaks, vinaigrette, and onions from the fridge, about an hour before gives me the time I need to bring everything to room temperature. (I like the way food tastes at room temperature instead of chilled from the fridge.) 

To assemble the salad, I cut ripe, beefsteak tomatoes into slices and lay them around the outside of a large platter. Then I’ll top these with chunks of blue cheese. I’ll lay the onions inside the ring of tomatoes. 

Then I’ll slice the steaks into thin strips and pile them high into the center of the dish. I’ll drizzle some of the vinaigrette over the top of the salad and serve the rest on the side. And

I’ll do all of this before the first guest arrives! The salad will be good-to-go for several hours.

Poached Chicken In Tuna Sauce

This is a dish based loosely on a dish called Vitello Tonnato (veal with tuna-caper sauce) and is perfect for this party because it is made the day ahead. Whole chicken breasts are poached in wine and broth with veggies and herbs.

Then these are sliced and layered onto a platter and covered in a rich sauce made with tuna, anchovies, capers, lemon juice, and mayo.

I’ll refrigerate the dish overnight which allows the slices of chicken to absorb all the flavors of the sauce. All I have to do is remove the platter from the fridge and garnish with lemon slices, capers, and fresh parsley.

I’ll add a ring of baby artichokes around the edge of the platter…. just because I can!

Secret Squash Jorj Morgan Filming

Roasted Salmon In the Grass With Cucumber Mint Sauce

This is the secret to perfectly roasted salmon….Shhhhhhh… don’t tell!

….It’s brown sugar.

Yup, I spice my salmon with brown sugar. I mix the sugar with everything else in my spice drawer and then rub it all over the salmon. Twenty minutes of roasting in a hot oven and you have the most delish salmon that you can easily serve at room temperature.

I’ll lay the salmon over barely sauteed spinach (the grass) and drizzle it with a sauce made from fresh cucumbers, sour cream, and fresh mint. Oh boy!

I’ll round out the menu with Farmer’s Market Orzo Salad from “Canvas and Cuisine” and Herbed Onion Biscuits.

Dessert will be my spring-time favorite
Sunshine Cake from Sunday Best Dishes”

Even I want to be invited to this Spring dinner. How about you?

What I’m Reading and What We’re Eating: Super Supper Book Club Menu

What I’m Reading and What We’re Eating: Super Supper Book Club Menu

I chose a veggie-forward menu for this Super Supper Book Club, Social-Distance Edition. Safely supp over a good read and prepare for what will be a roller coaster discussion and meal!  Click to skip to the recipe

 

In the months before COVID, we started posting a once a month book club guide for you to follow with your group. 

I stopped posting because we couldn’t gather.

But, in today’s environment, with some of the restrictions eased and our ability to safely gather in a socially distance approved way, I thought I would bring it back! My book club has gathered over the summer and we will convene again this week.

For those of you who are still staying home, you might consider starting a virtual book club.

A few of my besties did this over the summer as well, and we found that we gathered (virtually) more often than our in-person club.

I have included the full supper club menu here, but if you wish, just a sampling of one or two dishes works just as well.

Either way, if you are looking for a good read to share with friends (or just on your own), this one’s for you!

 

“The Family Upstairs” by Lisa Jewel

As I read, I had the same feelings that I had when I read The Goldfinch. The abuse of children is never an easy subject.

However, I loved this read because of the development of the characters from childhood to adulthood, the paths their lives eventually take, and The Baby that brings them together.

There are several twists and turns, many of which I didn’t see coming (which to me is the measure of a good suspense novel).

This is my next pick for our Super Supper Book Club.

Gather your readers, give them the title, and dole out the recipes for what will be a roller coaster discussion and meal.

There are three stories woven into the narrative. On Libby’s 25th birthday, she finds out she’s inherited a Chelsea mansion that’s been held in trust.

She soon discovers the house has a dark history based on scant decades-old news coverage. Lucy is living hand-to-mouth in France when her phone reminds her that The Baby is 25.

Without the means or identity, she must resort to some pretty desperate acts in order to get back to England after 24 years. Henry knows everything that happened in the house in the last several years when his family lived there.

He knew why there were so many extra people living there, what happened to the once-opulent residence and its contents, and how and why people were found dead in black robes on the kitchen floor.

I already cooked up some questions for your Super Supper Book Club gathering…

  • Do you think Henry’s lies and violent acts were born out of his need to survive an unimaginable situation, or do you think there is, as Clemency states, “a streak of pure evil” in him?
  • In your opinion, who is the most tragic figure in this novel? 
  • What do you imagine happens to the characters after the book ends?

I chose a veggie-forward menu for this Super Supper Book Club. In contrast to the spartan food the children were given while they lived at 16 Cheyne Walk, this menu celebrates the abundance of the garden with dishes woven into a delicious menu that all your members will enjoy.

Super Supper Book Club Menu

“The Family Upstairs”

 


Fresh Corn, Green Bean and Arugula Salad with Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette •
Canvas and Cuisine,  page 150

Cauliflower Risotto with Cinnamon-Roasted Butternut Squash • Canvas and Cuisine, page 36

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Pancetta and Toasted Breadcrumbs (Recipe below) Canvas and Cuisine, page 96

Fresh Fish of the Day in Puttanesca Sauce • Canvas and Cuisine, page 262

Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake with Thyme • Canvas and Cuisine, page 341

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
With Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Pancetta & Toasted Breadcrumbs

Best Stuffed Portabello Recipe

Spending quality time in the Farmer’s market naturally leads to veggie-forward main meals. This is one of these. There’s nothing better than meaty mushrooms, with a tangy, crunchy filling! You can serve these mushrooms as a first course, or as a late-night snack. Or you can stuff smaller mushrooms and serve these to your book club! The flavors are fantastic – everyone is a mushroom lover after tasting this dish!

Ingredients

1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus 2 more for sauce

1 (3.5-ounce) julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained but save 2 tablespoons of the oil 

4 ounces pancetta, finely diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced, about 2 tablespoons

¼ cup Marsala wine

Juice of ½ medium lemon, about 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

8 Portobello mushrooms, stem and gills removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Yields: Serves 4 for a Veggie Main or 8 as an Appy

Time:   30 Minutes

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Preheat the oven to 350°. Mix the breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons of melted butter in a small bowl. Spread the crumbs onto a baking sheet. Toast the buttered crumbs until they begin to crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes into a skillet over medium-high heat. And the pancetta and cook until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta to a platter lined with paper towels. 

Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and simmer until most of the wine has disappeared, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice. Season with some of the salt and crushed red pepper. Turn off the heat and swirl in 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the parsley.

Heat a grill pan on high heat. Brush the mushrooms with olive oil on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the mushrooms, turning once, until they are just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the mushrooms to a platter. Spoon the sun-dried tomatoes into the mushroom caps. Top with pancetta and toasted breadcrumbs.

Fancy Dress Dinner in the New Normal

Fancy Dress Dinner in the New Normal

If you’ve been living in your Lulumons, this Fancy Dress Dinner Party is for you! Prepare a feast for your “bubble friends” or family this Social-distance Summer.

Click to skip to the recipes

 

When was the last time that you dressed up? 

For that matter, when was the last time that you got out of your sweats? 

We discussed this during my walking group’s morning trek the other day. The answers were startling. No one had dressed up in months!

I mean, “fancy- dressed-up”, like sparkles and heels and ties and pocket squares. 

The occasions that we dress for have all gone away.

No more business dinners, charity events, or milestone birthday parties. Weddings are postponed and black tie events are canceled. I’m not even sure that this year’s fall fashions haven’t been hanging in my closet since last spring!

I decided to change things up a bit in my bubble.

I’m planning a fancy dress party that fits with the new normal.

I’ll host a smaller group of friends, maintain a socially-distanced table in an open-air space and absolutely, expressly forbid hugging and kissing.

But there will be place cards and flowers on the table. We’ll be served on real china plates and crystal. Places will be set with linen napkins and a printed menu.

And yes…There will be FOOD.

Really, really good food.

Here’s my fancy-dressed dinner menu:

 

Spinach Salad Topped with Heirloom Tomatoes and Salt and Pepper Fruit

Beef Wellington with Red Wine Demi Glaze

Pommes de Terre Chantilly

Chocolate French Silk Pie

 

Sounds daunting, yes! Well, it’s not. Let me tell you how.

You can make the pie the day before. I’ll tell you a secret. 

I use Ina Garten’s pie crust recipe.

And Ree Drummond’s recipe for the filling. 

I topped the pie with whipped cream and dust with salted caramel sugar from Spice and Tea Exchange.

It’s not only yummy, but it’s also pretty!

 

The salad is created by tossing baby spinach leaves and thin slices of onion with a bit of vinaigrette. I top this with slices of ripe tomato with a dribble of olive oil.

What makes this salad so special is the fruit. I dice watermelon into very small cubes which I spritz with kosher salt. 

Next, I cut strawberries into the same size pieces and sprinkle with pepper. I scatter the “salt and peppered” fruit cubes on top of the tomatoes and chill the salad.

 The bite is crunchy, sweet, and surprisingly refreshing.

 

The Beef Wellington recipe is right out of my book, Fresh Traditions

Seared tenderloin filets are topped with a slice of pate and a spoonful of creamy, sherried mushrooms. Then they are wrapped in pastry and chilled until you are ready to bake. 

Twenty minutes in the oven creates an over-the-top main course, especially when served with a red wine reduction.

But my favorite dish on the menu is the potatoes.

Imagine a mashed potato souffle and you will get your mouth watering for these Chantilly potatoes. Named for a region in France that creates wonderous cream, these potatoes can be prepared in the morning and baked off in the same oven as the beef. Success!

My party is coming soon, and I hope it inspires you to get out of those pj’s and back into the worldAt least a little step towards getting back into the world!

Pommes de Terre Chantilly

Breakfast Skillet with Glazed Eggs

Ingredients

Whipped potatoes meet whipped cream in this most delicious version of mashed potatoes. It’s a fussy presentation which requires a bit of work but is really worth the effort.

4 (1 ½ to 2-inch thick) beef tournedos (center cut fillet of beef)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

Course ground pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 large shallots, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

8 ounces Baby portobello mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons cup sherry

1/3 cup cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 (1-pound) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

4 to 6 ounces pate, preferably duck mousse, cut into 4 slices

Serves:   4

Time:  30-minute Cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Peel the potatoes and cut them into ½-inch cubes. Place the potato cubes into salted, boiling water. Cook until the potatoes are very soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Use a colander to drain the potatoes. Place 3 tablespoons butter and milk into a large bowl. Use a potato ricer to smoosh the potatoes into the bowl. Stir the potatoes into a smooth puree.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Divide 1 tablespoon butter into four individual baking dishes. Place these onto a baking sheet. Place the dishes into the oven and let the butter melt onto the bottom of each one.

Use an electric mixer to whip the cream into soft peaks. Place about ⅓ of the whipped cream into the center of the potatoes. Gently stir the cream into the potatoes. The potatoes will be soft and light. Scrape the remaining whipped cream into the bowl. Gently fold this cream into the potatoes. You don’t need to overwork the potatoes. You want these to be light and airy. 

Spoon the potatoes into the baking dishes. Sprinkle each dish with Parmesan cheese. Bake until the potatoes are warmed through and the tops begin to turn golden brown on the edges, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Beef Wellington

Ingredients

This renowned dish is easy to make and a super way to show off in front of your guests. The good news is the beef packages can be prepared in advance and baked 30 minutes before you seat your guests. Talk about “fast food”!

4 (1 ½ to 2-inch thick) beef tournedos (center cut fillet of beef)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

Course ground pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 large shallots, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

8 ounces Baby portobello mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons cup sherry

1/3 cup cream

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 (1-pound) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

4 to 6 ounces pate, preferably duck mousse, cut into 4 slices

Serves:   4

Time:  60-minute Cuisine (Plus chilling)

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush the beef with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Heat a skillet over high heat.  Place the steaks into the skillet and sear until well browned, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Turn until both sides are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes more.  Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature.  

Heat the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the shallots in the pan until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the sherry, cream, and tarragon to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 3 to 5 minutes more.  Cool this mixture to room temperature.

Roll out the puff pastry sheets to about ¼-inch thickness.  Cut into 4 rectangles.  Coat a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.  Place a beef slice onto a pastry rectangle.  Brush the edges of the dough with a beaten egg. Place a slice of pate on top of the beef.  Top with sautéed mushrooms and the tarragon cream sauce.  Wrap the layered beef with the pastry.  Crimp the top ends together to seal the package.  (Form the bundle into a purse, trimming off the excess pastry.)  Repeat with all the filet slices.  Place each bundle onto the prepared baking sheet.  Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush each package with a beaten egg.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 375°.  Bake until the pastry is golden, about 20 minutes more.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve with red wine sauce.

Overboard Tip

To make red wine sauce heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook 2 large minced shallots until soft.  Pour in 1 cup dry red wine.  Reduce until ½ cup remains.  Pour in 1 cup beef broth.  Reduce until 1 cup remains, about 15 minutes.  Stir in 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh

Corny Corn Corn: My Best Corn Cake & Corn Salad Recipes

Corny Corn Corn: My Best Corn Cake & Corn Salad Recipes

Corny Corn Corn!  It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy. Try corn two ways with my corn salad and best corncake recipe.

Click to skip to the recipes

 

 

This is the time of year that you want simple, fresh suppers that are leisurely served on the veranda or back deck.

Picture a pitcher of frosty strawberry lemonade, a vase filled with flowers plucked from your garden, and a basket of cornbread swimming in honey butter.

The scene is set!

…and so is the supper.

This one features corn on the cob.

First, I grill it and blend it with sweet baby tomatoes, cucumbers, and green onions. Then it’s tossed with a lemon balsamic vinaigrette. Shaved Parmesan cheese tops off this simple summer salad.

The second dish begins with salmon (I had some leftover) that turns into delicious salmon cakes. Corn kernels in the cakes, cornbread crumbs both for binding and for dredging and corn-spike tartar sauce take these cakes way, way over the top!

This easy summer supper is so good that even if your veranda is invaded by mosquitos or the flowers in your garden have wilted, or you feel the need to spike your lemonade, summertime will shine through!

Enjoy!

Grilled Corn Salad With Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

Breakfast Skillet with Glazed Eggs

Ingredients

This simple salad comes together in minutes and is a perfect outdoor supper side dish.

For salad:

6 fresh ears of corn

1 English cucumbers, cut into ½-inch chunks

1 bunch green onions, diced, about ½ cup

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

For vinaigrette:

1 bunch basil leaves, about 1 cup

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

Juice of 1 lemon, about ¼ cup

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

½ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved, about ½ cup

Serves:   A crowd

Time:  20 minutes

Remove the husks from the corn and grill over medium heat, turning often, until the kernels are golden brown. Cool to room temperature. Cut the kernels from the cobs into a bowl. Add the cucumber, green onions, and cherry tomatoes.

Place the basil leaves into a blender or the bowl of a food processor. Add the mustard, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and honey. Pulse to combine. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle some of the dressing over the corn salad. Toss to just coat the veggies. You want just a bit of dressing; you don’t want it to be soggy. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Salmon and Corn Cakes With Fresh Corn Tartar Sauce

Ingredients

Adding fresh corn to the cakes and dredging in fresh cornbread crumbs adds a true Southern twist to this everyday staple. And then….. we put corn in the sauce. Now that’s FUN!

For salmon cakes

2 cups cooked salmon, flaked

2 garlic scapes, chopped, about 2 tablespoons (you can substitute with 2 garlic cloves, minced)

¼ medium red onion, peeled and finely diced, about 2 tablespoons

½ yellow bell pepper, finely diced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

½ cup cooked corn kernels (you can use grilled corn)

2 cups fresh cornbread crumbs, divided 

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 large egg, beaten

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Olive oil for sautéing

For creamed corn tartar sauce:

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons

3 tablespoons, cooked corn kernels, chopped

2 tablespoons finely diced red onion

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Yield:   18 bite size cakes and about 6 large cakes

Time:  45 minute cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Place the salmon into a bowl. Add the garlic, 2 tablespoons diced red onion, yellow pepper, 2 tablespoons each of dill and parsley. Add the corn kernels and ½ cup of the cornbread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together ¼ cup mayonnaise, egg, and mustard. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl and toss everything together. 

Place the remaining corn breadcrumbs into a shallow plate. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out balls of the salmon mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. For bite-size cakes, use a 1-inch scoop. For main course cakes, use a 3-inch scoop. Flatten the balls into patties. Dredge each on in the corn breadcrumbs and return to the baking sheet. Place the cakes into the freezer to chill for 15 minutes.

For the tartar sauce, stir together ½ cup mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, chopped corn kernels, 2 tablespoons red onion and 1 tablespoon dill. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a skillet. You want enough oil in the skillet to just coat the bottom of the pan. Remove the cakes from the freezer and carefully place into the hot oil. Cook until the bottom of the cake is golden brown. Use a spatula to turn the cakes and cook until golden on the other side. The amount of time will differ depending on the size of the cake. It will only be a few minutes for bite-size cakes and about 5 to 7 minutes total for larger cakes. 

Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of the sauce. Garnish with fresh dill.

Make-Ahead Tip:

You can make these ahead and freeze them until you are ready. Bring them to room temperature before you cook them.

Overboard Tip:

This recipe calls for leftover salmon. However, you can bake salmon in just a few minutes in the oven and then cool to room temperature. I sprinkle the salmon with lemon juice and olive oils and then coat in a rub of 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon each of chili powder, onion powder, cumin, and garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper and bake at 400°for 20 minutes for every 1-inch of thickness.

4th of July Party, Safely: A Socially-Distanced BBQ Get-Together Plan

4th of July Party, Safely: A Socially-Distanced BBQ Get-Together Plan

Host a social distancing get-together this July 4th with tips to stay safe and recipes to make it delicious!

Click to skip to the recipes

With so many large-scale activities canceled for the 4th of July holiday, small gatherings with appropriate social distancing are the sign of the times.

This year, my family barbecue is trimmed down to immediate family with only a few (very close) family friends. I will miss the annual get-together of friends and neighbors. Mostly, I will miss seeing the kids that grow from children to tweens to teens to young adults each year.

But, with my “glass is always half-full” vision, I appreciate the opportunity to spend more time with loved ones and less time preparing for a big bash. After all, those glow-in-the-dark bracelets will last ‘til next year!

We are who we are, and we Americans will celebrate! Trying to plan for my slimmed-down annual party, I started by putting my caterer’s hat on.


Back in the day, when my pals and I were planning a Memorable Occasion’s (the name of my old catering company) party we would lay out the menu and then come up with some clever way to serve it. We were always short of staff, so serve-yourself food was a great solution when feeding a crowd.

This strategy works perfectly when you are planning an appropriate socially distanced backyard Fourth of July barbecue. Allowing your guests to choose their own items from individual containers is smarter in today’s climate.


Here are some pointers for a safe and social distancing get-together:

 

  1. Fresh air is best for this year’s celebration. If it’s possible sit outside. Sit on your back porch, in your back yard, even in your driveway.  If you are rained out, or don’t have enough space, open the windows to let the fresh air in. 
  2. It’s still okay to ask your guests to bring a dish. No one says you, the host, must do it all. But we’re going to ask either that the dish is brought in individual portions, or that you dish it up in the kitchen before serving. This is not the time for a buffet supper. 
  3. Serve right from the grill. For example, let guests bring their bun to you when grilling dogs and burgers! Condiment packs are key here for mustard and ketchup, but you can also be safe by providing several bowls of condiments and allowing each guest to use his or her own spoon for scooping diced onions and peppers.
  4. As much as you can, serve everything individually. Use whatever you have around the house as containers. My plan this year is to serve scoops of potato salad in metal cups, shrimp on skewers, and stuffed mushrooms on porcelain tasting spoons. A homemade milkshake served in a mason jar, dripping with chocolate and nuts, or doused in sprinkles is the best of the best when you’re talking personal desserts. Get creative with what you have, but also take a look at all the clever paper goods that are available to hold sides and desserts. 
  5. Don’t forget to get the kids involved. Kids can pass around trays of individual appys and help prepare those decorative shakes. The more people involved, in the safest way… the better!

There are lots of ways to celebrate what is a most important American holiday, but there’s only one way to make it perfect. And that is by sharing it with your friends and family who you love and who love you back! 

Happy Fourth, everyone.

And here are a couple of my favorite recipes for you to try.

Spicy Potato Salad

Ingredients

Potato salad is a picnic and cold supper staple. When spiced up with a little hot sauce, it becomes a devilish addition to most everyday meals. Feel free to make this day a day in advance to allow the spicy flavors to marry with the potatoes.

5 pounds small red creamer potatoes, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 bunch (6 to 8) green onions, chopped (about ½ cup)

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon paprika

4 to 6 drops hot pepper sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Servings:   6 – 8

Time:  30 minutes, plus chilling

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Drain and place into a bowl.

Add the onions to the bowl. Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard paprika and hot sauce.  Pour this mixture over the potatoes. Toss the potatoes with the dressing.

Season with salt and pepper and if you like with additional hot pepper sauce.

Chill the salad for 1 hour or overnight.  Sprinkle the salad with fresh cilantro.

Beer Basted Baby Back Ribs with Jack Daniels Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients

This is a foolproof way to prepare moist, tender, and never over-cooked ribs. By steaming the ribs in a slow oven, the meat cooks in advance of grilling; therefore, the time spent grilling is significantly reduced.

For ribs:

6 pounds baby back ribs

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Garlic powder

1 (12-ounce) can beer

For sauce:

1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 cup cider vinegar

½ cup dark molasses

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup Jack Daniels whiskey

2 tablespoons prepared mustard

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 or more drops hot pepper sauce

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Servings:   4 – 6 

Time:  Several hours in the oven and about 20 minutes on the grill

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Season the ribs with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Place them onto a rack in the bottom of a large roasting pan.  Pour the beer into the pan.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Place the pan into the oven.  Cook until the ribs are quite tender, but not falling off the bone, about 2 to 3 hours.

For the sauce, bring the tomatoes, vinegar, molasses, canola oil, whiskey, mustard, chili powder, cinnamon, and as much hot pepper sauce as you like, to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the ribs to an outdoor grill over medium-high heat.  Cook, turning often until well browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Baste the ribs with sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Transfer the ribs to a board and slice into individual servings.

Invite guests to bring their plates to you and serve with a drizzle of extra sauce on the side.

Shoots and Sprouts and Other Market Finds

Shoots and Sprouts and Other Market Finds

There’s nothin’ that says “South In Your Mouth” like tomato pie and this one says it all! Also, learn how to make a melting, fragrant, nutty pesto that is delicious as a condiment on summer sweet corn, pasta, and atop your avocado toast!  Click to skip to the recipe

 

In the age of “New Normal”, strolling the early Saturday morning Farmer’s Market takes on new character.

Gone is the plucking of a purplish tomato, brought to the nose for a quick sniff. The mask gets in the way!

The lines at the veggie stands are a little longer, now that we queue up six feet apart.

Displays of fresh baked goods are abandoned and replaced by take home bake-it-yourself wrapped containers.

It can all be a tad disheartening.

Except that if you spend a slower amount of time strolling, you may just see something you’ve missed during your past visits.

And that, my friends, happened to me this past weekend. I discovered Sunshine Cove Farm.

Sunshine Cove Farm is a small-scale farm with a big mission. They are working to build local resilience in the mountain community by finding ways to grow A LOT of nutritious food with a limited footprint.

They specialize in produce that packs BIG nutritional value into a little space. Their harvest includes microgreens, shoots, edible flowers, and specialty vegetables.

I was drawn to the stand because of their unique marketing. Gourmet packets held mixes with names like Pico de Gallo and Immunity Mix.

Well, I just couldn’t resist.

I bought a couple of packages and slipped them into my basket with my other goodies and headed home.

Since my Pico de Gallo Mix included cilantro, onion, and lime basil, I decided to incorporate these shoots and sprouts into my garlic scape pesto.

It was YUM!

Pesto is great on veggies or pasta, but I slathered some on a rack of lamb the other evening and it was beyond delish.

When company came a-calling for a little Sunday night potluck, I topped my utterly Southern Tomato Pie with some of the shoots and sprouts from the Market Mix and the edible flowers were the perfect garnish.

If you can’t make it to the market, you can order from Sunshine Cover Farms online. It’s worth the effort! (So, is the pie!!)

Enjoy!!

Tomato Pie

Tomato Pie

Ingredients

There’s nothin’ that says “South In Your Mouth” like tomato pie and this one says it all!

1 pre-baked pie shell (see note)

4 large tomatoes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces Mozzarella cheese, grated, about 1 cup

4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated, about 1 cup

1 cup mayonnaise

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

½ teaspoon black pepper

4 to 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Assorted microgreens for garnish

Servings:

Time:

6 to 8

40-Minute Cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Preheat the oven to 350°. Slice the tomatoes and place them into a colander. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and let them sit for 10 minutes.

Mix together the cheeses and mayonnaise in a bowl. Fold in the green onions. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the bacon over the bottom of the pie crust. Layer the tomatoes on top of the bacon. Sprinkle the tomatoes with basil and green onions. Spoon the cheese topping over everything.

Bake the pie until the topping begins to turn golden and is melty and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and cool. Spread the microgreens over the top of the pie. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make-Ahead Tip:

Get a head start on this delicious dish by using a refrigerated pie crust. To prebake the crust, preheat your oven to 400°. 

Place the pie dough into a pie pan and crinkle the edges. Pierce the bottom of the dough with the tines of a fork. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the pie shell. Fill with pie weights or dried beans.

Bake until the edges begin to turn golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pie shell from the oven. Remove the parchment paper and the weights.

Bake until the bottom of the shell is just golden, about 5 to 8 minutes more. Remove the shell from the oven and reduce the heat to 350° to continue the recipe.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Ingredients

In the early summer market, you can find long, green, circles of thin stalks that are garlic scapes. These are the flower bud of garlic plants. They are cut off the plant so that the bulb grows fatter and fatter. These strands of garlicky goodness can be used in the same way as garlic cloves with no peeling of course! I use them to make pesto and then I spread that pesto on everything. Melting, fragrant, nutty pesto is delicious as a condiment on summer sweet corn, pasta, and atop your avocado toast!

Yield:

Time:

About 2 Cups

20-Minute Cuisine

2 bunches garlic scapes (about 20 shoots)

1 bunch fresh basil leaves, about 4 cups

Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons

4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about 1 cup

1 cup toasted pine nuts

1 package Pico de Gallo shoots and microgreens  (substitute with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro)

1 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Place the garlic scapes into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to finely chop.

Add the basil, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. Pulse to combine. Add the microgreens and pulse one more time. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil. The result will be a smooth paste. Stop the machine and season with salt and pepper. Pulse one more time.

Transfer to a mason jar with lie, or resealable container and store in the fridge for up to 1 week or store in ice cube trays in the freezer for up to 6 months.