Saturday, October 1, 2016

Don't Skimp on the Shrimp

One of the perks of living in a coastal state is that fresh, wild seafood is just a car ride away. This fact does make me scratch my head, however, when I see seafood in our grocery stores from other places.  Why?  Why?  It's just two hours down the road!

One of Neil's friends is from Beaufort, SC and he and his dad are avid fishermen.  On a recent visit to Columbia, Rick brought up tons of shrimp that he'd just caught.  Beautiful, South Carolina shrimp, already bagged up in 1lb sizes for us...and getting the "friend price" is always nice as well!  The thing about shrimp is, it's just like Bubba said in Forrest Gump; you can make a million dishes out of it.  Endless possibilities.

I needed some lunch, so here's what I did about it.  Shrimp salad on a flaky croissant.  Yeah, I said it.  I made a simple salad by gently poaching the shrimp in some homemade vegetable stock.  As they cooled, I mixed some light mayo, sliced green onion, salt, pepper and dill weed.  Stir, stir, stir and there's my shrimp salad. 

It was light, fresh and hit the spot.  In a restaurant, this would likely be a $15 sandwich.  Here at my house, about $2.50.  Hmmm, I think I got the better deal.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Dad's Kiwi Shrimp

My mom began selling real estate in 1979.  Back then, agents were taught to drop everything when the phone rang, jump when a "potential" client said jump, run out the door the moment someone wanted to kick the tires of a house for sale. (By the way, in today's world, we don't operate that way.) But, back then, that was the insane teaching of the real estate schools, so I can't tell you now many times my mom would leave the dinner table to take calls or even leave to meet someone.  But, it wasn't all bad. Consequently, my dad, sister and I learned to cook because of this wacked out phenomenon. (Don't think I'm "dissing" my mom.  When I came to work with her in 1999, she is the one who taught me to make appointments with myself and my family and keep them.)

Anyway, back to the cooking.  My dad became quite the chef in the '80's. He had a fondness for veal, so he started serving up dishes to us like veal piccata, veal Oscar (my personal fave!) and veal marsala.  But, he didn't stop there.  Old school Columbians will remember the classic Greek restaurant "The Elite Epicurean" on Main St.  We went there for special occasions, proms, after the ballet, etc.  The Epicurean was THE place for lamb in Columbia.  But, they also served this crazy dish called "Shrimp, Island of Scorpios" which was shrimp in casserole with feta, tomatoes, onion and ouzo.  Dad figured it out, started making it at home and then none of us ever ordered it again because his was better. 

One day, he came across a recipe for shrimp, presumably from a magazine because it was the '80's.  We had no Internet, no Google. He is a HAM radio operator, but those guys rarely discuss cooking :-)  This is the nuttiest recipe ever and quickly became one of our family favorites. I wish I could tell you where it came from, but after all these years, there's no way for me to give credit where credit is due.  Therefore, in our family, we simply refer to it as "Dad's Kiwi Shrimp."

It's important to note:  SHALLOTS are not the same thing as SCALLIONS

Having a sous-chef who peels shrimp is a PLUS!
Sauteing proscuitto, shallot and crushed red pepper 


Shrimp, kiwi and cream going in
OMG: This is getting intense!

It's amazingly easy and everyone will think you are some kinda genius when you serve it.

2    Tbs olive oil
1.5  oz proscuitto or country ham, cut into strips
1/3  cup chopped shallot
1/2  tsp crushed red pepper
1/2  cup white wine
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2     med kiwi fruit, peeled & cubed
1    cup cream
1/4  tsp salt
1/8  tsp pepper

Heat olive oil over high heat. Saute ham, shallot and crushed red pepper about 30 seconds. Add wine & boil until reduced by half (about 2-3 minutes). 

Add shrimp, kiwi & cream.  Reduce heat to medium low and cook until shrimp turn pink. Remove them from skillet.

Boil sauce 2.5-3 minutes. Add shrimp back in, with salt and pepper. Serve over rice.
Final product!  Dad's Kiwi Shrimp

Yes, I know.  It sounds completely crazy, but you're going to have to trust me here.  It is simply divine.  The kiwi gives it a fresh, yet tangy citrus note.  Cream...oh, lovely cream.  Salty proscuitto, spicy pepper.  And SHRIMP!  I wonder who it was who discovered how delightful these wacky little creatures taste? 

So, friends, go out on a limb and try my Dad's dish. Unless you're completely out of your minds, you'll want to send me flowers. Or wine.  Or money. Your choice.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Zippity Doo Dah!

Have you ever seen one of these?  
Do you know what it is?

It's an awesome little tool called a corn zipper.  Look how he smiles at you.  He zips corn off a cob in one stroke and it makes him happy to do such a great job for me.  

You just pull him down your ear of corn, and voila, here's the result...

 It takes no time at all and you don't run the risk of taking off the top of a knuckle or the tip of a finger with your knife.

 The little Zipster gets pretty messy, but he's still smiling!

You just give him a quick rinse and he's all cleaned up and ready for next time.  Always so happy to help!

Helping me make stuff like this makes him happy &  super proud of his work.  The corn zipper.  
You need one.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


As y'all know, I can't and won't pass up good pizza. Frankly, I love pizza so much, I probaby wouldn't pass up a mediocre one either.  Recently, MOD Pizza entered the Columbia scene.  It's a similar concept to Uncle Maddio's...choose your toppings like you do at Moe's and watch as they build your masterpiece for you.  But, at MOD, there's one big, major difference.  The price.  Whether you order one of their specialty pies, or build you own, the price is the price.  One ingredient or ten, all one price. This is true for their pizzas and their salads.

After golf today, Viv and I needed a snack so we headed over to check out MOD.  It's very open and dare I say it?  Mod. I love this huge collage wall.  
We both opted to build our own "mini" which is a 6" pizza.  MOD features thin crust and they have a gluten-free option.  The price of the mini pie is only $4.97.  Can you believe that?  I chose pepperoni, bacon, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and a sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles.  Observe...

Vivian went with mild Italian sausage and black olives.  The pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven and it doesn't take but a few minutes to get your order.  

We both were very pleased with our food.  The choices are great.  There are several sauces, proteins, tons of veggies and fruits, other cheeses, drizzles, and herbs.  You can check out their menu here.  The folks on the MOD Squad will build a salad for you the same way.  Choose your ingredients just as you would for pizza.  They also offer to build your salad on top of an Asiago pizza crust, if you wish. 

The prices are very reasonable.  The mini was more than enough for us and for just under $5 apiece, it can't be beat. Their "mod" pizza is 11" and is priced at $7.97. This may be a once a week kind of place for us! 

Vivi and I highly recommend MOD Pizza.  We loved the choices, the crust and it's close to home.  Long live the pizza pie! The world's most perfect food.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Somebody call Idgie Threadgoode

Thanks to the community church garden, I turned Casa d'Akre into the Whistle Stop Cafe tonight.  Don't worry, I'm just referring to the fried green tomatoes.  Neil is alive and well; no ribs served tonight!

So, as I told you last time, I visited the garden and plucked some perfectly beautiful green tomatoes. It's funny, growing up Southern, as I have, I never heard of fried green tomatoes until Fannie Flagg's book was made into a movie. Frankly, finding out that one of the '70's Match Game regulars was an author was the first revelation. Fried green tomatoes was the other.  In fact, when I was about 4, my first major transgression in life was when I ran inside to get mommy & daddy to take them out to see my giant pile of "green balls"  -AKA- my dad's immature tomato crop. 

Back before the great fire, the original Rockaway's had someone in the kitchen that was the fried green tomato master. After seeing the movie, I started ordering these babies.  Come to think of it, this was even before my raw, red tomato epiphany.  I still miss those fried greens. Whoever you were, I miss you, tomato frying chef master.

Tonight was a simple, yet simply wonderful, dinner of grilled ham, green beans and fried green tomatoes. It's been awhile since I've made them, but Neil and I agreed this was one pretty darn good batch! 

Take advantage of all the great produce that our ridiculously hot summers create.  Channel your inner Idgie but I wouldn't recommend sticking your bare hands into a honey hole.  Ain't nobody that lucky!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Zucchini Cakes

Summer time and the livin's hot and sweaty.  Mosquitos abound and the humidity is high...

Yes, yes, I'm quite musical. It's a gift, really.

If you don't live in the South, here's something you may not know.  We can grow the bejesus outta some squash.  You plant a couple of squash and zucchini plants and before you know it, you have more than you know what to do with.  One year, my parents were out of town and one of my jobs was to go over every couple of days to check the crop.  When we get good rain, those suckers can grow about 200% overnight.  I can't tell you how many times I pulled back the leaves to be startled by a dark green torpedo that wasn't there last time.  It can really scare you.

There's a Methodist church in our neighborhood that plants a giant garden each year...for the community.  That's right, for everyone.  I stopped by there today hoping for some zucchini because I've had my eye on a recipe for months...zucchini patties. Grated zucchini, two cheeses, egg, flour, onion.  Sure enough, I found a couple of those sneaky, lurking torpedos in the church garden. Usually, once they get this big, you don't want them because they can get tough.  But, for a recipe that requires grating them, the big boys are perfect.

So, tonight, I had zucchini loaves and fishes.  I made a batch of these killer patties and 3 loaves of zucchini bread from 1 1/2 (big) zucchinis.  What a plethora of good stuff from so little!  Took a loaf of bread to mom and dad and had part of one for dessert.  So thankful for that church sharing its bounty with the whole neigborhood!

So, if you're interested, this is a new favorite around here. Especially with Neil, because he HATES mushy squash, so finding a preparation that he likes is few and far between.  He's a big fan of these now.

Zucchini Patties
2 cups grated zucchini
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together; stir well.  Heat about 2 Tbs veg oil in a skillet over med-high heat. Drop zucchini batter in about 1/3 cup measures into skillet. Cook until golden brown; drain on paper towels. 

Place in colander, sprinkle with salt and let sit about 20 minutes; then squeeze water out.

Zucchini patty in all its glory
This is pork tenderloin that I marinated and baked; served with mustard sauce on the side
We were surprised that they actually taste more like potato pancakes than a veggie patty, so if you have anti-veggites in your house, this may be a way to get some veggies snuck in.  I mean, who can survive without vegetables?  We served these tonight with some room-temp leftover pork tenderloin, mustard sauce for the meat and some gorgeous tomato slices with salt and basil. Summertime, summertime!


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