Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Summer is Officially Here!

When they declare "Yippee!  Summer is officially here!" what that  means here in Columbia SC is 100+ temps, 200+% humidity, frozen up a/c compressors, soaking wet clothing and afternoon storms that cause our (crumbling) roads to steam.  

Yep, you can actually see the steam rising. My sister can tell you first hand never, ever, walk home on a steamy road with nothing on your feet except pantyhose #burnedthecrapouttamyfeet #wontdothatagain...But, that's a whole other story! It also means we avoid using our dryers and ovens as much as possible because it just heats up the whole house. 

So, with all that in mind, let me share the ultimate summertime side dish that I got from a friend.  It's one of Ina Garten's recipes and it is the most awesome salad to have on a hot day. 

Cool, delicious fresh corn, red onion, basil. The cider vinegar is the trick.
Take it to your next cookout, block party, potluck, or just whip it up at home for a weeknight side.  Any day now, our famous Silver Queen corn will be hitting the markets and Silver Queen would reign supreme in this recipe.  When you read it, it doesn't sound all that exciting, but trust me.  It is delicious, it's cold, it requires minimal talent and minimal cooking.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Rosewood Crawfish Fest 2016!

I have a bit of a sentimental side for the Rosewood Crawfish Festival.  The first one we went to was about one month after my daughter was born. Neil and I dressed her up, got the stroller outfitted with all we would need and walked up there to show off our beautiful new baby. And to get crawdads.  Of course.

We've been going ever since.  There is something to be said for having a city-wide festival right in your own neighborhood.  Come park at our house and walk on over.  Go early with the kids, get crawdads with no lines, ride rides, listen to the bands from your front porch in the afternoon.  It's pretty daggum perfect.   

So, how was this year's festival?  Let's get right to it:

Upon arrival selfie, or is it an "us-ie?"
Bags and bags of crawfish

Have crawdads, will travel.
Quite a cooking operation
Start by getting your crawdad tickets
Trade your ticket for one of these babies
Join all the other crawfish aficionados
This is what $18 gets you; a little high, but it's fun
Decide which one to keep as a pet.  Not.
What?  Neil's smiling?  Yes, crawdads make Neil smile.
Get in my belly!
After our crawfish feast, we headed out to check out the rest of the festival.  There is really something for everyone at Rosewood's fest: morning 5K, live music, rides for the kids, Crossfit exhibitions, arts & crafts, tons of food and lots of good beer.  

Make sure you don your crawdad gear
Rosewood Market serving shrimp burgers, watermelon, amongst other things
Wacky food display. Gyros, funnel cakes, homemade chips, sausage dogs
Food truck action: Pawley's
Neil couldn't resist the monster turkey legs
Icy treats
I think she rode this contraption about 6 times
Festivals: they're not just for Budweiser anymore!
The first time I've drunk a beer in a can in a VERY long time!

We had a great time at this year's festival.  I think the Rosewood Merchants Assn has done a really great job of creating a family-friendly (without being dorky and boring) festival that is truly part of our community.  Living in Rosewood/Shandon is like living in a village.  Our kids walk to school, thanks to our Rosewood Drive corridor, we can hit the grocery store, local coffee shop, Dairy bar, gas station, local market, delis and restaurants, meat market, all in one trip, we have block parties and we know all our neighbors.  The Rosewood Crawfish Fest is just another cool component to our village. If you haven't come over to our neck of the woods for this event, go ahead and pencil it in for early May of next year.  Let the good times roll!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Craving Crab

In my constant quest for variety, I've learned to obey my cravings. It usually leads to something good. A few days ago, I got a great deal (surprise, surprise) on avocados at Aldi.  They were perfectly ripe, so I needed to use them before they turned the corner. As I contemplated those little dark green orbs, crab entered my mind.  The idea was born.  Crab Louis.

Mayo, green olives, chili sauce, horseradish & lemon make a tasty dressing. Capers for garnish and tang.

 I made a dressing with chili sauce, mayo, chopped green olives, a little horseradish and lemon juice. Then, I just piled crabmeat into the cavity of the avocados, added some boiled shrimp over shredded lettuce and drizzled with dressing. I topped it all with some capers because everything is better with capers. 

Crab, shrimp, avocado and Louis sauce on a bed of lettuce. Parfait, n'est ce pas?
Super fast, super easy, super delicious. We're still in April, but the temps are already getting close to the 90 degree mark, so cold food is certainly welcome this time of year. With my leftover crab, we are looking forward to crabcakes and/or bisque later in the week.  Poor us!  Crab all week long.  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Strawberry Season!

It's Springtime here in the South and that means it's strawberry time!  Honestly, this is really the only time of year that I even like strawberries.  There is just something different about locally grown fruit. 

Near our house is Cottle Farms, which has been growing strawberries in Columbia pretty much my entire life. Maybe even longer than I've been around, I'm not sure.  It's a huge operation and our kids love going out to the farm to pick their own berries.  If you've never gone, you should.  A word of caution though.  Don't let yourself get carried away and bring home 3 buckets full. It's easy to get all excited and keep on pickin' but remember, the berries go bad if they hang around too long and you can always go back to the farm when you need more!

We went out after school on Monday and the strawberries are gorgeous.  Bright red, glossy and plentiful.  Years ago, I came across one of the kookiest recipes ever.  It was in a magazine, although it's been so long now, I couldn't even begin to tell you which one it was. It was for a turkey and strawberry panini.  I know, I know.  Sounds insane, right?  Well, it's not.  It's been years since we made these sandwiches, but when I saw this year's crop, I decided it was time to bring back the panini.

Here's the skinny...Get a loaf of fresh Italian bread from the bakery.  Give it a layer of pepper jelly. Yes, you heard me.  Then layer really smoky, sliced turkey with some brie, sliced strawberries and fresh basil leaves.  Press and grill it with a panini press, waffle iron, in a pan, whatever your usual grilled cheese-technique is.  Prepare to be amazed.  It's the craziest combination of flavors and IT WORKS.  I told our friend Dottie about the sandwich and when I saw her yesterday in the school yard...well, suffice to say, she was raving about it.  Her husband loved it, kids loved it, she loved it.  I'm so glad she tried it because in the past when I've told people about this recipe, I get that sideways "okaaaay, right, Elizabeth" look. 

Dear readers, food fanatics, culinary daredevils, good food consumers, take my advice on this one.  Get thee to the farm!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Happy Birthday, Babs

This is my sweet, loving and beautiful dog Babs.  When she was a puppy, she got into a bottle of Advil.  We rushed her to the vet but since she was so small, her little kidneys had already started to malfunction.  Over the course of a couple weeks, we were at the vet every day for IV fluids and we returned her to health. They told me that when she got older, she may end up with renal problems so I was (kind of) prepared for that.  About three weeks ago, I noticed she wasn't eating as much and was losing weight.  Last Friday, bloodwork confirmed that her kidneys were in trouble.  Renal failure set in and she declined extremely rapidly. Yesterday I had to make the heartbreaking decision to put her to sleep.  Today would have been her 11th birthday.

My daughter has been handling this situation with remarkable maturity and clarity.  She turns 10 next week.  Today, she decided that we still needed to celebrate Babsy's birthday and the fact that she is no longer sick and uncomfortable.  The child baked a cake.  All by herself.  She made chocolate buttercream frosting.  All by herself. I'm so proud of her, on so many levels.  Here is her masterpiece...

And, so, today we celebrate despite our sadness and our overwhelming feelings of loss and longing.  Babs was a very important part of our family and it will be a difficult adjustment.  We just take comfort in knowing that because we loved her so, we were able to help her and stop the sickness.  We had 11 years together and we are thankful.  And if she were here, we'd let her eat cake. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Free Range from a Friend

When you give yourself the luxury of a few minutes of quiet time to just think, you realize just how cool this life is. We all meander in and out of each other's lives; sometimes only once in a blue moon, sometimes daily. But, regardless of frequency, these relationships are truly what life on this planet are all about.

Neil and I live in an awesome neighborhood with neighbors that we've known for many years. Yeah, it's that kind of place. We move here, get to know each other and we never leave. We are Rosewood lifers.  One such neighbor is Sharon.  She and her sig-other James decided a few years ago to become farmers.  They still live around the corner but they operate Carolina Bay Farms over in the Hopkins area. As I remember, it started with fresh eggs.  But, just a few days ago, Neil ran into her and became aware that they are now raising heritage meats. He came home with a bag full o' pork chops!

Tonight we cooked those little babies. Neil is big on really tasting the flavor of meat, so all we did was salt & pepper them. I seared them in my grill pan for about 2 minutes/side on high heat then transferred them to a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, I made a mushroom/white wine sauce to serve alongside.

In a word...perfect.  The pork is so flavorful without a lot of "flavoring."  No need to marinate, is what I'm saying.  The time and method of my cooking resulted in a perfectly cooked yet moist pork chop, which you all know can be quite a challenge at times. I toasted some good Italian bread and served our chops with mushroom sauce over the bread and green peas on the side.  As Wayne & Garth would say, SCHWIIING!

So, if you have not heard about Carolina Bay Farms, please check them out.  Thankfully, Columbia is hot and heavy (finally) on the farm-to-table and eat local movement. Sharon and James are doing good things just 20 minutes from town. Seek them out, support them and eat good pork chops!  


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