Grill Class

This past weekend, a group of cooks joined me for my Summer Grill class.  This is a class I would normally offer in June, but with other catering events along with the Covid resurgence, late August was my first chance.

The menu included the old (Vivian Howard’s BBQ Blueberry Chicken and Corn-Jalapeno Hushpuppies) and new (Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken, Quick Pickled Fennel, and Coconut Cream Pie). 

Tomato Tart

Even CDC protocols couldn’t dampen our spirit with weather in the low 80s with low humidity, a gentle breeze off the lake, grilling and chatting while drinking glasses of tea.  Ah, this is what I call “the good life.”

These past few weeks, I have been looking to the past to regain stability and a sense of normalcy. For some reason, this recent Covid surge and my recent surgery has left me feeling a bit unsteady.   Watching BBC shows, including vintage Miss Marple series, as well as my mother’s favorite series:  “All Creatures Great and Small.”  Listening to Tennessee and Texas country classics by Johnny Cash and the Mavericks.  Preparing home-made tacos and escabeche to remind me of (THE BEST) Mexican tostados offered every Wednesday night at the United Pentecostal Church in Livingston, Texas. Anything to help me steer my ship through impending stormy seas with the threat of a resurgence of covid.

After picking 3 lbs. of jalapenos from my garden, which is currently in its death throws, I canned Escabeche.  Back in Texas in the 1950s-60s, if you went to a Mexican or Seafood restaurant, you didn’t receive salsa.  Instead, you were presented with crackers and a small bowl of Escabeche, which consisted of pickled pearl onions, carrots, cauliflower, and jalapenos.  Spicy—but so good and goes with everything.

Unlike my friend Jo Parker, I am not a canner by trade. I freeze my marinara sauce, pesto, and soups; however, I can manage 5-pepper pepper jelly, apple sauce, and pumpkin butter.

If you enjoy spicy food, I think you might enjoy this escabeche.  Serve it in a small bowl placed in the center of the table the next time you fry fish or grill steaks or roast a chicken, Peruvian style, or prepare Mexican food.


Escabeche Recipe:  In a non-reactive pot, put 1 C apple cider vinegar, 1 C white vinegar, 4 C water, and 2 tsp. salt.  Add 3 bay leaves, 5 whole cloves, 1 tsp. coriander seeds, 4 allspice berries, 1 tsp. dried oregano, and 1 tsp. mustard seeds, and bring to a simmer.

Next, add 3-4 medium carrots (peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices), 9 large jalapeños (sliced into ¼ inch rings and seeded), 4 cloves of garlic, minced, 20 pearl onions or 2-3 vidalia onions, cut in wedges, and 1/2 medium cauliflower (cut into small florets), and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, leaving vegetables slightly firm. 

Fourth of July Pan Dowdy

Happy Fourth of July!

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4th, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” – Erma Bombeck

Most July 4th celebrations have been cancelled due to you-know-what. How then shall we celebrate Independence Day 2020? Some of us will attend that big BBQ sans masks, while others will migrate to the beach, while still others hunker down at home.

Whatever you decide to do, I wanted gift you a great (and simple to make) July 4th dessert to share with family and friends this weekend. Serve with some home-made ice cream.

Blueberry and Cherry Pan /Dowdy

I found a form of this dish on a charming site–Half Baked Harvest–a blog written by a very talented you cook living in Colorado. However, there were some elements that I wanted to change and add, so we will just say that this is “adapted” from the blog’s original recipe.


2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 C fresh or frozen blueberries
4 C fresh or frozen sweet cherries, pitted
2 1/2 TB corn starch

1/4 C. honey
3 TB Brown sugar`
1/4 cup fruit liqueur (I used pineapple schnapps in the summer)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 TB lemon juice
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg, beaten (for shellacking pastry)
Sugar topping (coarse sugar, if available)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry sheets out. Cut out as many stars as you can with different size star cutters. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the fridge or freezer for 10 minutes. Note: I only used one sheet of puff pastry on this “practice” run, so you should have double the stars.

In a 10-11 inch cast iron skillet or large pie plate, combine the blueberries, cherries, and cornstarch, toss to evenly coat. Turn burner on low. Add honey, pineapple schnapps, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Gently stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.

Position the stars over the berries, leaving a few gaps so you can see some of the berry mixture. Lightly brush the stars with egg wash. After brushing with the egg wash one more time, sprinkle the stars with coarse sugar.

Place the skillet on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temp to 350. Continue baking for another 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly. If it starts turning too brown, cover with foil to help prevent burning.

Spoon the heavy cream in the open spaces between the stars, then return the skillet to the oven for about 10 minutes.

Cool for a couple of minutes. Then serve with vanilla ice cream.

Herb Webinar Recipes

Seeding to Plating: The Herbs of Summer
Plough Girls Association
July 7, 2020
Summer Herb 

Recipe:  Rosemary Shortbread Cookies.

Serve these buttery delights with a wine glass filled with locally-grown, sliced peaches macerated in brown sugar and Iron Gate’s Rustic Blooming wine.

In a medium bowl, cream together 3 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature) and 2/3 cup finely granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in 2 3/4 – 3 C flour, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1 – 2 TB finely chopped fresh rosemary until well blended. The dough will be somewhat soft. Form into 2 disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a small round or square cookie cutter (1 ½ – 2 inches), cut out cookies and place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets. If you like, sprinkle a little granulated sugar over the tops. (I don’t). Place in freezer or fridge for 5 minutes before placing in the oven.

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks, and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Recipe:  Basil Walnut Pesto

1-2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 C walnuts
3 C. loosely packed basil leaves, stems removed, leaves washed and dried
1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese (NOT KRAFT)
2 TB soft butter
1/2 C. extra virgin olive oil

In Food Processor. Process the garlic, salt, and nuts until fairly finely chopped.  Add the basil and olive oil.  When smooth, add cheese and butter and process just to combine.  Note:  If you do not have a processor, you can just finely chop everything together.

Recipe: Italian Herb-Chicken Soup

Heat a TB. of olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Sauté 1 large diced onion until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add a few sliced carrots and sauté for another minute or two.  Follow with 3 cloves minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add 6-7 C. of chicken broth and 1 can diced tomatoes (include juice). Bring soup to boil.  Add 1 lb. diced chicken.  Reduce to simmer and brew for 20 minutes.  Add a half cup of orzo pasta, 2 tsp. dried (or 3 TB freshly minced) oregano, 2 tsp. dried (or 3 TB freshly minced) basil, and, 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or some minced jalapeno).  Continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Add 2 C. (tightly packed) chopped fresh spinach and 1 can rinsed and drained cannellini beans, along with a large dollop of pesto. Simmer for a few minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Salt?  Pepper?

To serve, ladle soup into a bowl and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.
Make it your own:  If you like, add some cubed summer squash or zucchini to the soup when you add your beans and orzo pasta.  Replace the chicken with Italian sausage.

 Lucindy’s Boursin Cheese: Mix together one pound softened cream cheese, 1/3 C. mayonnaise, 4 TB. sour cream, 3-5 TB. fresh dill (or 2 tsp. dried) dill, 1 tsp. (or more) garlic powder (not garlic salt), 1/2 – 1 tsp. onion powder (not onion salt), and 1 tsp. (or more) Worcestershire sauce.  If you need to soften the spread for easier spreadability, pop it into the microwave 5-15 seconds.

Make it your own! Make this spread uniquely your own by experimenting with flavors and texture.  Add more sour cream or less mayo.  Add Italian seasoning or more garlic or mix your herbs.  Create your “signature” spread for spring and summer sandwiches to enjoy in the garden.  If you are planning on storing it for a while, go light on the garlic powder. since its flavors deepen with time.

Herbed Balsamic Vinaigrette.

This vinaigrette makes a great marinade for anything grilled—vegetables, chicken, or steaks.  In processor, combine:

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
2 TB. combination of fresh basil, parsley, thyme or 1 TB. dried, 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1 tsp. minced garlic.

Pulse to mix.  With processor running, slowly pour in 3/4 cup canola or safflower oil and 3/4 cup olive oil until emulsified.

For grilled vegetables, pour 1/2 cup of vinaigrette into a gallon size Ziploc bag. Add zucchini and yellow squash sliced lengthwise, sliced red onions and Portobello mushrooms.  Give it a shake and remove veggies from bag and grill.  Serve as a side or dice, add bowtie pasta, a little dressing and fresh herbs for a delicious pasta salad.

Grilled Salmon with Mustard and Herbs

Preheat grill to medium-high.  Place two 9-inch pieces of foil on top of each other and place on baking sheet. Arrange 2 lemons, sliced, in the center.  Spread 20 – 30 sprigs of mixed fresh herbs over the lemons.

In separate bowl, mix together:
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
1 TB Dijon or dusseldorf mustard
2 TB chopped herbs.

Spread mixture over both sides of 1 lb. center-cut salmon.  Place fish on top of herb sprigs.  Slide foil and salmon off baking sheet and onto grill.

Cover and cook until salmon is opaque in the center, around 15 minutes.  Discard lemon slices and herb sprigs, slice salmon into 3-4 portions and serve with lemon wedges.


Herb Flavor Profile


Seeding to Plating: The Herbs of Summer
Plough Girls Association
July 7, 2020

Herb Profiles & Food Pairings

Everyone and everything is a garden.  All have to be nurtured, be they of the forest or the sea.  If we are not gentle with life, the garden within us dies – Song of Waitaha (New Zealand)

Herbs, Seasonings & Spices. Season your food with little or no salt by using spices, herbs and non-salt mixtures such as Mrs. Dash, Lawry’s seasoned pepper, McCormick Italian seasoning and Club House Mixed Spice. Take note of the seasonings you use. Read ingredient lists on labels to see if salt or other sodium compounds are listed.

Add-a-spice to meats:
Beef: dry mustard, nutmeg, onion, sage, pepper, bay leaf, ginger, garlic
Lamb: garlic, curry, mint, rosemary
Veal: bay leaf, ginger, curry, paprika, oregano
Chicken: paprika, thyme, sage, parsley, curry, savory, ginger, garlic
Fish: dry mustard, paprika, curry, bay leaf, lemon juice, dill weed, tarragon, savory, basil
Eggs: pepper, dry mustard, paprika, tarragon
Pork: ginger, cinnamon, curry, onion, pepper, garlic

Add-a-spice to vegetables:
Asparagus: lemon juice, caraway seed
Green Beans: lemon juice, nutmeg, onion
Broccoli: lemon juice, oregano
Cabbage: mustard, caraway seed, vinegar
Carrots: allspice, ginger, cloves
Cauliflower: nutmeg, celery, seed
Peas: onion, mint
Potatoes: parsley, chives
Squash: ginger, basil, oregano
Tomatoes: basil, oregano, sage, thyme

Basil adds a distinctive, spicy flavor to Italian foods, tomato and egg dishes, pesto, soups, sauces, sausages and rich stews. Basil leaves (like all other herbs) should be added towards the end of the cooking process to prevent the development of a bitter taste.

tastes of pepper and marigold. Use in tomato sauce, pizza, fish and anything that takes garlic. I prefer dried oregano to fresh.

has a green grassy taste.  I prefer flat leaf parsley. Use it to enhance the flavors and decorate the dishes of soups, boiled potatoes, pasta, eggs, and salads. Try it on different dishes.

has a light lemony taste.  Use in sauces, on salmon, potato dishes, and mayonnaise based salads.

Be careful using rosemary.  Like basil, it can be overpowering. It has a piney flavor which goes well with lamb, beans, poultry and pork.

is used in French cooking and goes well with chicken, fish, sea food and mayonnaise based salads.  It is my primary herb in making Yancey House crab cakes.

Thyme has an earthy taste that enhances any chicken dish, as well as soups, beans, and stuffing.

is used in Tex Mex and Vietnamese dishes, as well as Asian soups.

are unimposing members of the onion family. Use in eggs, salads, sauces.


kale saladLast week I visited the new Caswell Farmer’s Market in Semora. There, on the side of the road, in blessed shade, were ten vendors, ranging from Catbriar Farm, which was in business long before I moved to Caswell County, to a more recent addition, Open Door Farm.

I arrived with grocery totes and a mission—to purchase and prepare late spring greens. With that end in mind, I bought Swiss chard and kale from Sara Broadwell, as well as pea shoots and fennel from Open Door Farm.

The recipes I developed during the week were simple ones. My goal wasn’t to cover up the flavors of the produce but to showcase the fresh, clean flavor of the greens. Here are the results:

Kale Salad. After rinsing the kale and spinning it dry, I removed the large stems, sliced the leaves into thin strips, and then placed them into a bowl. Next, I added a small box of raisins, halved cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, and thin wedges of red onion. Before serving, I tossed the salad with vinaigrette and topped with boiled egg quarters.

Dressing for Kale Salad. In the food processor, combine 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, juice of 1 lemon, 2 TB. combination of fresh basil, parsley, oregano (or 1 TB. dried), 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, 1 tsp. lemon pepper, ½ tsp. salt (optional), and 1 tsp. minced garlic. Pulse to mix. With processor running, slowly pour in 1/2 cup canola or safflower oil and 3/4 cup olive oil until emulsified. Store in tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Swiss Chard with Poached Egg. SWISS CHARD BOILED EGGHaving worked with the kale, the next day I turned to the Swiss Chard. My objective was to create a hearty breakfast dish loaded with iron. If you wish to replicate the dish I made, season chopped Swiss chard and sauté it with some minced shallots and a little garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, remove from heat, and gently stir in a few quartered cherry tomatoes. Arrange chard mixture in a bowl, making a slight indention in the center for a poached egg. Garnish the entire dish with a few pea shoots.

Although poached eggs can be tricky, they are worth the effort. The result is velvety and creamy . . . I hesitate to call it an egg. It is so much more than that. Continue reading