Monday, August 17, 2009

Cute and Tasty Baby Heirlooms!

Posted by Picasa
On the way back from the beach, we stopped at the newish Trader Joe's in Nashville. Regrettably, we had no cooler, and in fact almost no space in the car since we were bringing a friend of Tom's daughter back to Memphis.

One of the things I always look for at Trader Joe's is the "Two Buck Chuck" which usually isn't two bucks anymore. Contrary to many an urban legend, these super-value wines began as the result of an oversupply of wine by a valued TJ's supplier. They’ve become the nation’s best-selling wines, not surprising when you consider the combination of low price ($1.99 - $3.49 per bottle, depending on the region) and great taste Charles Shaw wines offer. Depending on the season and the quality of wine available, our selection of Charles Shaw varietals will vary. I try to pick up a bottle, take it home and taste it, and see if I want to buy more. Of course, due to Tennessee laws, they can't sell wine there, but there was still a wonderful selection of fruits and vegetables.

The picture is of a box of heirloom baby tomatoes. I could just manage to squeeze that, and a couple of chutneys, into the back seat of the car. For last night's dinner, I cut them in half, marinated them with some sherry wine vinegar and olive oil, and served them on some greens. YUMMY. I'm guessing something similar might be available at either Whole Foods or Fresh Market, and I intend to go looking for them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Happy Hour at the Beach

We've just come back from a week in a beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We filled a 5 bedroom house with family so it was a little hectic. Tom and I found a great little place, Cafe 12, just a couple of blocks from our house in Avon, on Cape Hattaras. From 4 PM to 6 PM they had great spicy steamed shrimp for $.19 each. We could have a lovely quiet time and chow down as well. We didn't eat any meals there but they had great looking dishes coming out from the back to a full house about the time we vacated the bar each afternoon.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 09, 2009

They don't know how to spell "Elvis" in Philadelphia!

We are so sorry to be missing the Elvis Tribute Week in Memphis!

Summer Tomato-Peach Salad

Posted by Picasa
A couple of weeks ago, in the New York Times, Mark Bittman, one of my favorite food writers, had a story titled "101 Simple Salads for the Season." They were brief descriptions, not recipes, but certainly adequate for a reasonably competent home cook to put together something tasty.
Several appealed to me (and you’ll probably hear about some of them later this summer) but one just called my name. His formula: "Mix wedges of tomato and peaches, add slivers of red onion, a few red pepper flakes and cilantro. Dress with olive oil and lime juice. Astonishing." I had to make it, or at least my version of it.

I had a couple of white peaches that were perfectly ripened, not too soft but still very fragrant. I also had several heirloom tomatoes I’d picked up at the farmers’ market. It was a wonderful salad and beautiful as well. It would make a perfect accompaniment to almost any grilled meat or seafood. You absolutely must try it. If you are one of those who cannot abide cilantro, fresh basil would make a lovely substitute.

Bittner’s Summer Salad (Alyce’s Version)

3 peaches, barely ripe (make sure they’re freestone)
3-4 perfectly ripe tomatoes, preferably multicolored
½ small red onion, cut into slivers
1 bunch cilantro, washed and dried
3 limes
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
A couple of heads of your favorite salad green, washed, and chopped if needed

Peel the peaches and cut into thin wedges. Wash and core the tomatoes and cut them into similar sized wedges. Place in a bowl with the onion and about half the cilantro leaves, very finely minced. Wash the limes, dry them and finely grate the zests into a small bowl. Add their juice, the honey and the mustard and whisk well. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste and add salt and pepper if you think you need it. It may seem a bit tart at this point but it will go perfectly with the sweet peaches. Pour about half of the dressing over the salad Toss well and let sit at room temperature for an hour or so, or refrigerate up to several hours. To serve, divide the salad greens among 6 plates and top with the salad. Garnish with the remaining cilantro leaves, unchopped. Pass the remaining dressing at the table. Serves six as a side salad.

NOTE: I think I would love this with some chilled, cooked shrimp added as a main course salad for four.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Delicious Dinner in Knoxville

We're off to the beach for a whole week. I can't remember the last time I took a whole week for a vacation. It's been at least 5 years.

We're going to the Outer Banks on Cape Hattaras. On the way we stopped at my sister Cindy''s house for the night, and to hook up with Tom's daughter, Lisa, who was in summer school at UT.

For dinner we decided to go out instead of cooking, and we wanted someplace close to her house. Tom had been to Puleo's Grille before and Cindy agreed with him that it would be a good place for our evening meal.

The menu was broad and quite affordably priced. Everything was good but I got the best dinner: citrus marinated grilled grouper with caprese salad. The tomatoes were local and perfectly ripe, the mozzarella fresh and moist, the balsamic vinaigrette on the salad was great. The fresh basil came from the herb garden that was growing out behind the restaurant. The grouper was delicious.

I think this is only a local Knoxville chain, but for a casual and affordable meal, I recommend it.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 03, 2009

Smack them crabs and eat 'em!

I don't know how the experience has escaped me for so long, but I had my first experience with whole steamed crabs...I finally did. We were in D.C. for a family emergency, but on our last night managed to get out to the Quarterdeck in Arlington, VA. Boy! Did we have good crabs. What you see is what was ordered for four: two dozen. When we reserved, we asked for jumbo sized but they had already been spoken for, as had the large size. These mediums were pretty good sized, so I can only imagine what the jumbo ones would be. For the uninitiated, they pour them on the brown-paper covered table, and all you have is drawn butter, vinegar, a wooden mallet apiece and a giant heap of paper towels.

The bottom picture is what was left after we'd done all the damage we could: three crabs remaining unsmacked (thank goodness we didn't get the jumbos, right?) and the last of several buckets of crab shells and claws hauled away by the waiter. What I'm not showing is the white tee shirt I had on. And for a very good reason: it was covered with little crab splashes from top to bottom.

Can't wait to do it again!Posted by Picasa