Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Grill Medley

I fired up the Weber tonight and added some hickory chunks. I banked the fire on two sides, placed an aluminum drip pan in the center, and prepared a vegetable medley for the grill.


purple onion, peeled and sliced 3/8 inch thick
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, washed and dried
one thick carrot, cut into 1/2" by 3" sticks
2 sweet red peppers, cut into quarters and cleaned of seeds
1 green bell pepper, quartered and cleaned


Wash and cut vegetables. Lightly coat with canned olive oil cooking spray. Sprinkle with Chef Paul's No-Salt Seasoning. Place on grill over indirect heat. Test veggies for doneness after about 20 minutes.

Wait a few, and test veggies again. Vary veggies as desired. Try calabasita squashes cut into spears, sliced egg plant, or anything else that's fresh and available. Have fun!
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Corn Pudding

The food service people at the university did this one for a party at the president's house. It was such a hit, that they shared the recipe.


2 cups of corn (fresh, canned, or frozen)
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup Monterey Jack Cheese (grated)
½ cup of Cheddar Cheese (grated)
½ cup of red or green bell peppers
1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
3 teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of ground chipotle pepper
1 cup of milk
1 cup of heavy cream
Garnish with chives


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl combine corn, eggs, and grated cheeses. In another bowl mix together flour, sugar, salt, chipotle pepper, bell pepper and add to egg mixture. Stir in milk, heavy cream and melted butter. Pour into a lightly oiled gratin dish. Place dish in a larger pan and add water to halfway up the side of dish. Place in oven and bake for one hour or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Garnish with chives. [See also Corn Souffle].
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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Decadent Peanut Butter Pie


• 1 cup creamy peanut butter, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
• 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 (12 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided
• 1 prepared chocolate pie crust
• 1 (11.75 oz.) jar Smucker's® Hot Fudge Spoonable Ice Cream Topping, divided


1. BEAT together 1 cup peanut butter, cream cheese and sugar in large bowl with an electric mixer on medium, until well combined. Gently mix in 3 cups whipped topping until thoroughly combined. Spoon mixture into pie shell. Using a spatula, smooth mixture to edges of pie.

2. RESERVE 2 tablespoons of hot fudge topping into the corner of a resealable food storage bag; set aside. Microwave remaining topping on HIGH (100% power) for 1 minute. Stir. Spread topping over pie, covering entire peanut butter layer. Refrigerate until set. Spread remaining whipped topping (1 1/2 cups), over hot fudge layer, being careful not to mix the two layers.

3. CUT a small corner from bag containing topping. Squeeze bag to drizzle topping over pie. Place remaining 2 tablespoons peanut butter in a resealable food storage bag; cut bag corner and squeeze to drizzle in opposite direction from topping. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield: 1 pie (6-8 servings)
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Turkey Times - with Oven Bag

If you lose the instructions that come with those oven cooking bags, this might come in handy. Click on image to enlarge.
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Turkey Times - with Oven Bag

If you lose the instructions that come with those oven cooking bags, this might come in handy. Click on image to enlarge.
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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oyster Pie

I asked my good friend, Nikki Merritt, for her "Oyster Pie" recipe. This is what she wrote.

"So tasty - It's a recipe from Will's side of the family and once I had it, it became a staple for our Thanksgiving dinners. You mix up some margarine and 2 cups crushed up oyster crackers & breadcrumbs and then sprinkle in the bottom of a baking dish. Add a layer of oysters, then more breadcrumbs, more oysters. Sprinkle with S&P [salt & pepper], then pour milk about 3/4 of the way up the oysters (not enough to cover them) and bake 350 until bubbly. Enjoy!"

She tells me that she uses a quart of oysters and does this in a 9" by 9" pan. Thank you, Nikki. :)
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bobbie's Chess Pie

Mother used to make this when we were children. I always loved this. By the way, the name supposedly is an adaptation of what ladies in the old south used to call "Just Pie."


1 stick of butter- melted
2 cups of sugar
2 Tablespoons of self-rising flour
4 eggs
1 Tablespoon of Vanilla
dash of salt
2/3 cup of buttermilk
2 thawed pie crusts - any kind (Pet Ritz shallow pie shells -not deep dish)


Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and use a whisk or beat low with a mixer

Pour evenly into two pie shells and bake at 350 for 40 minutes - the top should be brown and crusted - serve hot or cold.
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Margaret's Turkey Chili

My friend, Margaret Wallace, served this "chili" to our vestry. I saw several people going back for seconds. Thank you, Margaret, for sharing this recipe.


2 # ground turkey (Originally called for beef. Margaret also suggests buffalo.)
Large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can great white beans with liquid
1 can white corn with liquid
1 can saukraut WITHOUT the liquid
1 small can tomato sauce (or a good homemade spaghetti sauce)
1 canned chipotle in abodo sauce (add at the end)


Margaret didn't provide instructions, but I'm guessing it would go like this. Brown the ground turkey and set aside. Cook the onion and garlic until softened. Add the tomato sauce, beans, corn and sour kraut; then simmer for a while. Add browned turkey and blend well. Add the chipotle, and simmer a few more minutes.

Cook the day before to allow the flavors to marry. I suggest serving with tortillas, sour cream, cilantro, a green salad, and a cold Mexican beer.

Thank you, Margaret. I hope I got the instructions close to right.


I don't drain the sour kraut; plus I make sure to use the "Bavarian Style" with caraway seeds. Also, I cut back on the meat to 1.5 pounds. Plus, I've used a can of diced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce. This is tasty and easy to prepare.
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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chapati Bread


2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt


Mix flours in food processor; add salt and, with machine running, pour in one cup warm water. Process for about 30 seconds, then remove cover. Dough should be in a well-defined, barely sticky, easy-to-handle ball. If it is too dry, add warm water a tablespoon at a time and process for 5 to 10 seconds after each addition. If it is too wet, which is unlikely, add a tablespoon or two of flour and process briefly.

With floured hands, shape dough into a ball, cover with plastic and let rest for at least 30 minutes. (At this point, you may wrap dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate it for up to a day; bring to room temperature before proceeding.)

When ready to grill, pinch off a piece of dough and roll as thin as is practical. Dust lightly with flour to keep from sticking and cover with plastic or a damp cloth while you roll out remaining dough. (It is OK to overlap them a bit, but do not stack them.) Or just roll as you grill.

Grill chapatis until they start to blister, char and puff up a bit, about a minute or so. Turn and repeat. Serve immediately.

Consider adding garlic, chopped onion (add by hand), herbs, etc.
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Friday, August 15, 2008

More on Pizza

Yes, I admit it. I stole this directly from the Washington Post as a service to my loyal readers.


1 1/4 cups warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees), plus more as needed
1 small packet active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups flour, plus more as needed and for the work surface
10 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the bowl
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper
Toppings (see related story)


Combine the water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl, stirring to mix well; let sit for 10 minutes to allow the top to foam and become frothy (indicating that the yeast is active). If it does not do that, discard and start again with more water, yeast and sugar.

Lightly flour a work surface; lightly grease a mixing bowl and a rimmed baking sheet with a little olive oil.

Combine the flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of the oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Beat on low speed for 1 minute until well incorporated, then add the water-yeast mixture in a slow, steady stream. Beat for about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until a dough forms and pulls cleanly from the sides of the bowl. Add a few tablespoons of water or flour if the dough is too dry or wet. Transfer the dough to the prepared work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, adding a little flour if it starts to stick, so the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

Transfer to the oiled bowl, cover with a clean, dry dish towel and let sit for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature, until the mixture almost doubles in size. Form the dough into 4 equal-size balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. (Alternatively, the dough may be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)

To roll out the dough balls, lightly flour a work surface. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, and have ready additional large sheets of the paper for stacking the rounds of dough.

Shape or roll one of the balls into a thin round between 10 and 12 inches in diameter. Brush the top side with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and flip the oiled side over onto the lined baking sheet. Brush the new top side of the dough with 1 tablespoon of the oil and cover with a piece of parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining 3 doughs and the oil. They may be held at room temperature for about 1 hour in this manner (or refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to 3 hours. If the dough has been refrigerated, let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour, so it will be easier to stretch).

When ready to grill, build a two-zone fire. Heat the back 2 burners on a gas grill on HIGH and the front burners on LOW, or light a large charcoal fire and push most of the coals to one side of the grill, leaving a sparse layer of coals on the other side. When it has reached the right temperature, the hot zone of the fire should be so hot that you can hold your hand a couple of inches above the grill for only about 3 seconds (about 500 degrees, if using a surface thermometer). Clean the grill grates well and oil them lightly with a wad of paper towels.

Using both hands to hold the top of one of the dough rounds (as if your hands were at 10 and 2 on a steering wheel), gently lay the bottom part of the hanging dough on the far side of the hot zone and stretch the top toward you to the other side. Cook, without touching, for 1 minute, so the dough bubbles and starts to get good grill marks. Rotate 90 degrees and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, or until the dough is uniformly browned and crisp but has not burned.

Pull the dough to the cooler zone of the charcoal fire or to the front of the gas grill and reduce the heat on the middle zone of the gas grill to medium-low. Flip the dough over so the seared side faces up. Sprinkle toppings evenly over the pizza (remember, less is more; see related sidebar for topping suggestions).

Once the toppings are in place, cover the grill (with the vents open on a charcoal grill lid). Cook for 3 to 7 minutes, checking every minute or so to rotate the pie 90 degrees so it cooks evenly, until any cheese toppings melt. Transfer to a large cutting board to slice. Top and grill the remaining doughs in the same manner. Serve hot.

Recipe Source:

From food writer Tony Rosenfeld.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How Hot Is That Fire?

In The Barbecue! Bible, Steven Raichlen recommends the "Mississippi test" for those who don't have grill thermometers. Hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals or gas fire and count "one Mississippi, two Mississippi," etc., until the heat causes you to pull away. The number of seconds you can hold your hand above the heat roughly corresponds to these temperatures:

• High heat (650 degrees) = 1 to 2 seconds
• Medium-high (400-450) = 4 to 5 seconds
• Medium (350) = 6 to 7 seconds
• Medium-low (300) = 8 to 10 seconds
• Low (250-275) = 12 to 15 seconds
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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mike Kirkpatrick's Slaw Dressing

Back in the old days, when we were working our way through college, we used to gather at friends' houses each Friday night for pot luck, music, and good old fashioned adult-dose partying. As Grace Slick used to say, . . . Well, on second thought, maybe I better not go there.

Anyhow, a good friend, Mike Kirkpatrick, had a real love and talent for cooking. This is a recipe he gave us. Mike, wherever you are, my friend, thanks.


1/2 cup white vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 cup sugar


Combine ingredients and bring to a boil. Cook for one minute, then pour over slaw. Chill for 4 hours.
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Monday, August 4, 2008

Boudin Stuffed Bell-Peppers

Okay, I know that we usually see it spelled "Boudin," but for some reason, Zummo's spells it "Boudain." I got this recipe off a package of their smoked "Boudain," and it's a real winner. Well, I modified it a bit by adding onion, chopped pepper parts, and egg. Plus, I smoke mine on the Weber rather than cooking in the oven. I hope you enjoy.


12 ounces good Boudin Sausage (I use Zummo's Smoked "Boudain.")
2 eggs beaten
1 small onion finely chopped
1/2 pound shrimp (optional)
cayenne pepper
white pepper
black pepper
garlic powder
butter for pan frying shrimp
4 sweet bell peppers (Don't be afraid to experiment with Poblanos or other varieties.)


Fire up the Weber. Stoke with hickory chunks.

Cut the tops off the bell peppers and clean out the seeds and membranes. Trim the tops, and then chop finely. Combine the chopped pepper tops, onion, and egg. Remove casings from sausages, and mince the sausages finely.

Peel and devein shrimp. Season with cayenne, white pepper, black pepper, and garlic powder. Pan fry the shrimp until barely done. Chop shrimp into bite size pieces. Stir into the sausage mixture. Fill the peppers with mixture. For a special touch, try topping with a couple of spoons of peppers and onions.

Place the peppers in a grill-safe pan (I use disposable aluminum pie pans.) with about an inch of water in the pan. At this stage, you can put the pans on the grill like I do, or you can pop in a 450 oven. Oh, and we're smoking these -- over indirect heat. That is, I bank the fire on two sides of the Weber, and place the peppers over the middle "cool" part.

Sometimes I top the stuffing with a pat of butter or with a couple of black olives. Bread crumbs might be a good touch too. Cook until the topping is browned, and the peppers are tender. Serve with a cold beverage.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Shrimp Stock

I don't know why it took me this long to get around to this. But I just discovered tonight how MUCH better this green sauce is when made from shrimp stock. Don't get me wrong - these enchiladas are delicious either way. But if you can get good "head-on" shrimp," make a stock, and use it instead of the chicken stock -- you'll be glad you did.
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Southwestern Cornbread Salad

Our friend, Kathy, brought this to our vestry meeting in June. She got the recipe from Southern Living Magazine. It's delicious!


1 (6 ounce) package Mexican cornbread mix
1 (0.4 ounce) envelope Ranch-style buttermilk salad dressing mix
1 small head romaine lettuce, shredded
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ¼ ounce) can whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, drained
1 (8 ounce) package shredded Mexican four cheese blend
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
5 green onions, chopped


Prepare cornbread according to package directions; cool and crumble. Set aside.

Prepare salad dressing according to package directions.

Layer a large bowl with half each of cornbread, lettuce, and next 6 ingredients; spoon half of dressing evenly over top. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients and dressing.

Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings.
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Friday, July 11, 2008

Fig Preserves

This fig tree is in our back yard. We cut it all the way down to the ground once, and it came back even bigger than ever. Each summer around late June, we begin racing the birds to get the figs. They get some, and we get some. [Click here for larger view.]


Fresh figs


When our figs start coming in, we pick them twice daily. We wash them and hold them in the refrigerator until we have a few quarts. Then, we can them in Mason jars.

We cut the stem off the figs and then slice each fig in half. You might prefer to cut them into quarters. Use 1/2 to one cup of sugar for each cup of cut figs. Place into a heavy dutch oven. Add a bit of water (1/2 cup or so) to prevent scorching. (The USDA recommends adding a bit of lemon juice. It's probably a good idea to follow their instructions.)

Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently until well combined. Simmer for about 3 or 4 hours.

In the meantime, prepare the jars, lids, and bands. We use a 5 gallon stock pot. Place jars and lids in the pots and fill the pot with enough water to cover the jars by 1 or 2 inches. Bring to a near simmer and cover the pot. Allow the jars and lids to steam this way for at least 20 minutes.

We also sterilize our ladle and a canning funnel, as well as our tongs and a "mechanic's magnet*." When ready to can, carefully remove a jar to a dinner plate set next to the fig mixture.

Ladle preserves into the jar filling to about 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. With the mechanic's magnet, retrieve a lid and place in position on the jar. Tighten the band snugly. Set aside on a towel. Repeat until all the preserves are canned.

Return jars to the water bath, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and process at least 45 minutes. Carefully remove jars and set on towel to cool. Do not re-tighten the bands. You will hear the lids make a "popping" sound as the jars cool, and the resulting vacuum pulls the lids tight.

When cool enough to touch, test each lid by pressing with your finger. Any lid that moves up and down under finger pressure is not sealed properly. Either use immediately, or reseal and re-process. Date each jar with a magic marker.

*We have a tool that is a telescoping car radio antenna with a strong magnet on one end and an alligator clip on the other. The magnet end is what you need. Check at kitchen specialty stores or at the local auto parts store for a similar tool. If you can't find one, you can use the long tongs to retrieve the lids.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Apple Custard Pie

Mother made this up from a bunch of apples we brought up on our visit to Tennessee. It's delicious. I'm not much on making desserts, but this one is so good, I thought I'd share it. Mother got this recipe from a cookbook published by First United Methodist Church of Munford, TN. Clara Fiveash contributed this recipe. She was crazy about Mother.


2 cups grated apples (peeled first)
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon


Mix and put in unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 until light brown or until done (about one hour).

Special Note: I emailed the good people of First United Methodist Church of Munford to let them know of their presence here. They thanked us and invited us to drop by anytime.
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Saturday, June 28, 2008

More Figs

We did another 8 pints of fig preserves today. That makes 25 for this season.
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Friday, June 27, 2008

Fish Tacos - with Corn Meal

Okay, I know. Here we are blogging about fish tacos again. Well, it's like anything else that's good; it's worth revisiting. I may have hit on the "Power Taco" tonight.

Like before, I cut the fish into little-finger size strips (Thinner than that really. Let's say a SMALL little finger.) Instead of making up a beer batter, I seasoned the fish with onion & garlic powder, black pepper, Nu-Salt, Chef Paul's No-Salt Magic Seasoning, and some Old Bay. Then I sprinkled on corn meal, and stirred to coat the fish evenly.

Not satisfied with that, I decided to whip up an egg wash. I beat one egg. Then rather than dipping the fish in the egg wash, I just added the egg to the fish and stirred to evenly coat. Then I stirred in yet more cornmeal.

I fried the fish strips up in hot corn oil; drained on paper towels; then built tacos out of whole wheat tortillas spread with mayo, a dash of hot sauce, and a tablespoon of finely chopped cabbage.

I think I'm in love.

Oh, did I mention that I love music?
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Fig Preserves Again

We did another 10 pints of figs last night. I'm getting pretty good at this. I didn't make nearly as big a mess as I did the first night. That makes 17 pints in 2 nights, and we still have a couple of dozen left over from last year. I'm thinking all the priests at church should get a pint. And an extra for Sharon T.
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fish Tacos

Long ago in a small-town mission church in Arkansas a priest (who is now a bishop) told me about the CASE method: Copy And Steal Everything. The following is from the San Francisco Chronicle. For a look at how WE do Fish Tacos here in our household, go here and here.

South to North: Baja meets bayou in a fish taco

Jacqueline Higuera McMahan, Special to The Chronicle

Fish tacos, much like margaritas or salsa and chips, are one of those Mexican entities that changed as soon as they crossed borders and became popular.

A legend then developed that they had to be made a particular way to be authentic - or as authentic as mass marketing could make them. Part of the legend associated with fish tacos is that no one could get the recipe for the "secret sauce" always drizzled over the genuine dish.

The first time I ate a fish taco was during a snorkeling trip to Isla Mujeres off the Yucatan Peninsula 30 years ago with my husband. The two guys running our small boat caught a sea bass, and cooked it on a remote beach over an improvised grill made of crisscrossed green palmetto sticks.

Our fingers were our utensils as we broke off pieces of fish nicely charred around the edges, wrapped them in warm corn tortillas, squeezed on fresh limes, and even added droplets of the lethal-looking homemade hot sauce. I'll always remember this as one of the best meals of my life. Even the sand tasted good.

A few years after the beach-grilled fish, I was told in San Diego that the only fish taco to have must be deep-fried in a casing of beer-batter and doused with that infamous "secret sauce" that Baja vendors used and actually turned out to be mayonnaise thinned out with water or milk and maybe a tiny bit of vinegar.

Who would have expected the "secret sauce" to be more complex than plain old mayonesa? After all, the popular fish tacos were cooked in shanties and in makeshift deep fryers and then hawked along the beach.

Now I have come to a compromise with my fish tacos. I still love a grilled piece of fish and am always trying to approximate the Caribbean taste over a wood fire (lacking palmetto sticks) when we have the time.

But I have found that by dusting chunks of firm fish with corn flour (not cornmeal) and sauteing them in a small amount of oil, I can have golden pieces of fish to wrap in warm corn tortillas - a delicious alternative.

Using corn flour is a Cajun trick I learned in New Orleans. It adds more delicate crustiness to the fish without the mess of beer batter and deep frying.

Good salsas are a must. Aficionados of Baja-style fish tacos also insist that no lettuce is allowed inside fish tacos. Only shredded cabbage, seasoned or not. You need the crunch. This is one rule I agree with, but hold the "secret sauce."
Halibut Fish Tacos

Serves 4

Use any firm fish like rock cod or sea bass but halibut fillets are my favorite. Prepare the cabbage just before the fish is cooked so it does not become too wilted.

* 1 cup corn flour (Bob's Red Mill is good)
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 teaspoon ground red chile
* -- Freshly ground black pepper
* 1 1/4 pounds halibut fillet, cut into 2-inch pieces to easily fit tacos
* 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
* 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
* 1/4 cup minced cilantro
* 4 cups thinly sliced white cabbage
* 1/4 cup canola oil + more if needed
* -- Salsas (see recipes)
* 1 dozen corn tortillas, warmed just before serving

Instructions: Pour the corn flour out on a large sheet of waxed paper and combine with the salt, red chile and pepper. Dust the pieces of fish so all surfaces are coated. Let them sit on the remaining seasoned flour while you prepare the cabbage.

Just before you cook the fish, combine the mayonnaise with the vinegar and cilantro. Toss with the cabbage. You want the cabbage to be barely moistened but enough to be a slaw. Set aside.

Redust the fish pieces with the remaining corn flour mixture. The damp fish absorbs the coating, so a second coating will help create a better crust. Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish pieces, a few at a time, and pan fry until golden on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add more oil, a tablespoon at a time, as needed. Remove the fish to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the rest of the fish pieces.

Bring the golden fish, cabbage, warm tortillas and salsas to your table, and let everyone assemble their own tacos.

Per serving: 515 calories, 36 g protein, 45 g carbohydrate, 22 g fat (3 g saturated), 47 mg cholesterol, 461 mg sodium, 6 g fiber.
Favorite Green Salsa

Makes 1 1/2 cups

This is the quickest green salsa I have in my repertoire but also my favorite. I even use it for sandwiches. This is not a chunky salsa; it should have a hot-sauce consistency.

* 1 pound tomatillos (about 10)
* 1 jalapeno
* 1 serrano
* 1/4 small yellow onion
* 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
* 1 tablespoon light-flavored olive oil

Instructions: Run warm water over tomatillos to help loosen the dry husks. Peel or rub them off and warm tomatillos with paper towel to help remove sticky residue. Place tomatillos in a saucepan and cover with water. Add the jalapeno and serrano chiles. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for just 5 minutes.

Remove tomatillos and chiles to a blender jar (not a food processor). Add the onion and puree. Add the cilantro, salt, vinegar, 2 teaspoons water and the olive oil. Puree to a hot-sauce consistency.

Place in a bowl and serve with tacos. I like to store the remainder in clean, emptied clear olive oil bottles or even Corona beer bottles. I use a whole jalapeno chile (fresh) as a stopper for the bottle.

Per tablespoon: 10 calories, 0 protein, 1 g carbohydrate, 1 g fat (0 saturated), 0 cholesterol, 89 mg sodium, 0 fiber.
Favorite Red-Hot Salsa

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This is the perfect salsa to add heat by dashes; it's not for dipping chips. I have cut the amount of arbol chiles to half of what is typically used in Mexico but it is still hot. Add by droplets to tacos and sandwiches. I even use it to add heat to freshly chopped pico de gallo if I cannot get it hot enough with the over-cultivated wimpy jalapenos now on the market.

* 10 arbol dried chiles, cut in half, stems removed
* 1 clove garlic
* 2 plum tomatoes
* 2 teaspoons white vinegar
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Instructions: Heat up a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add chiles and toast for just a minute. Do not burn. Remove immediately and set aside. Add garlic and tomatoes to pan.

Toast for 5 minutes over medium heat until garlic is slightly softened and tomatoes are blackened in spots. Remove.

Place arbol chiles in blender jar. Add garlic, tomatoes, 1/3 cup water, vinegar and salt. Puree to hot-sauce consistency. Add more water by the tablespoon to thin to desired consistency.

Serve with your fish tacos.

Per tablespoon: 5 calories, 0 protein, 1 g carbohydrate, 0 fat (0 saturated), 0 cholesterol, 46 mg sodium, 0 fiber.

Jacqueline Higuera McMahan's family lived on one of the last Spanish land-grant ranchos in the Bay Area. She has lived in Mexico and now resides in Southern California, and is the author of "California Rancho Cooking" (Sasquatch Books, 2003). E-mail her at

This article appeared on page F - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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Fig Preserves

We have a fig tree in our back yard. It begins "coming in" around late June each year. A few years ago, while I was home visiting Mother, Sherry took a notion to make fig preserves. Between the Joy of Cooking and several phone calls back to west Tennessee for tips from Mother, Sherry did a great job. Her preserves were wonderful that year, and the next year, I helped her make another big batch.

Yesterday, we made our first batch of this year. We got 7 pints, and could have made more, but that was all we could fit in our big kettle. Harvesting figs twice daily, I'm sure we'll have enough for another 7 pints soon. [Making a mental note - don't fill the kettle to the brim next time.]
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fish Tacos in Beer Batter

Our neighbor brings us fresh caught sea trout now and then. They almost melt in your mouth when cooked this way. Other times I've used catfish or ocean perch.


1 lb catfish fillets or nuggets (or other fish if desired; ocean perch works nicely.)
1 cup flour (plus an extra 1/2 cup for coating fish)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup beer
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder (optional)
onion powder (optional)
Chef Paul's Salt-free Magic Seasoning (optional)
oil for frying
8 corn or flour tortillas (We like whole wheat.)
2 cups fresh garden salad (lettuce, tomatoes, jicama, fresh turnips, etc.)
mayo or salad dressing to taste


Cut fish pieces into strips the size of a little finger. Season with salt & pepper and/or other seasonings if desired. Set aside.

Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium size bowl. Combine beer and egg; then add to flour mixture. Stir briefly; don't worry about lumps.

Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in heavy frying pan. When a pinch of flour dropped into the oil sizzles, the oil is ready. Roll fish pieces in flour; then dip in batter. Place a few pieces of battered fish into the pan and fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove to paper towel covered plate to drain. Continue until all of the fish is cooked.

Warm tortillas either in the microwave or in a dry skillet. Spread a bit of mayo on a tortilla, and top with fish pieces and a bit of salad. Roll up like a burrito, and serve with plenty of cold beer.

This recipe is simple and delicious. Don't be afraid to experiment with different fish, different salad makings, or more exotic dressings or salsas. I recommend this piece I "borrowed" from the San Francisco Chronicle. Have fun with this delicious treat.
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Memphis Style Pulled Pork

When I moved away from Memphis, finding real BBQ became a challenge. I stopped in a little roadside BBQ and ordered a chopped smoked pork shoulder sandwich, and they didn't have a clue what I was talking about. "You ain't from 'round here, are ya'?" said an old Gabby Hayes type seated at a picnic table near the counter. Well, I guess I gave myself away. This recipe reminds me of what we used to get at Top's BBQ back in Memphis - only better.


2 TBS Memphis Style dry rub *
4-6 lb Boston Butt pork roast
1 batch of Bobbie's BBQ Sauce


Rub roast well with dry rub. And allow roast to come to room temperature. Rub can be applied night before if desired.

Build fire on the grill. I do mine on a Weber, but use whatever you have. But whatever you use, you must be able to maintain a low temperature and arrange for indirect smoking. I use a method similar to this one. Have plenty of hickory chunks on hand (or chips, if you can't find chunks). My cooking grate has the hinged ends to make it easy to flip up and add fuel without disturbing the meat.

Bank the fire on the far side of the Weber, and position the drip pan on the near side. Place roast over the drip pan (with a bit of water in the drip pan). Sometimes, I put a can of water directly over the fire to maintain humidity in the cooker.

Cover grill so that the upper vents are opposite the fire. Adjust upper vents wide open and lower vents half open. Check every 30 minutes or so, adjusting the lower vents as needed to balance temperature at around 225-250 F. Once the heat has balanced out, you can relax a bit and check less frequently. Add hickory chunks or chips now and then as smoke diminishes.

It takes about 1.5 hours per pound to achieve the desired tenderness. Be patient. You might turn the roasts around every couple of hours if desired to evenly expose all sides to the hot side of the grill.

Continue cooking at 225-250 until interior temperature of meat reaches 180 for at least an hour. Remove from smoker and wrap in foil. Allow to rest for 30 minutes or until cool enough to "work" with either fingers or dinner forks.

[If it's getting late, and you just can't tend to the fire any more, you can move the meat to a crock pot or to a slow oven for finishing out. Here's an account of how I did just that.]

Pull the pork into shreds, and drizzle with BBQ sauce to moisten (several tablespoons - use the reserve at the table).

Serve on toasted hamburger buns with extra sauce and mayo if desired. Top with Memphis Style Cole Slaw. Get down with your bad self!

* We use Chef Paul's Salt Free Magic Seasoning since we're limiting our sodium intake. There are plenty of dry rub recipes out there. Here's an example.
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Friday, June 20, 2008

Vietnamese Southern-style Catfish in a Clay Pot

I haven't tried this one yet, but I grew up on wild Tennessee River Blue Channel Catfish. We used to harvest them ourselves daily off the face of the Pickwick Dam near Savannah, TN. And I'm not so sure about this clay pot business. I'm thinking cast iron.

From Mai Pham's Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table (William Morrow, $27.50). Making caramel (burnt sugar and water) as a base for a savory dish is a classic Vietnamese technique. Although the dish is traditionally made in a clay pot, "it's also delicious cooked in a regular pot," Pham writes. For a spicier version, add red pepper flakes with the fish sauce.


2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2/3 pound fresh catfish fillets, cut in halves or thirds
1 green onion, cut in 1-inch lengths
4 sprigs cilantro, cut in 1-inch lengths
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place the sugar in a 1-quart clay pot and add just enough water to barely wet it. Heat over moderate heat until the sugar starts to turn brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir once, then add the oil and garlic. Stir for 1 minute, then add the boiling water, fish sauce and catfish pieces. Turn the pieces so they are evenly coated with sauce. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, until the catfish is firm and almost done, about 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. (If the sauce is too thin, you may want to pour it off, boil it down in another pot, then pour it over the fish.)

To serve, garnish with the green onion and cilantro and season with pepper. Serve directly from the clay pot.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nikki's Ravioli & Tortellini Salad

My good friend, Nikki Merritt, served this at one of our vestry meetings. It was a hit! Thank you, Nikki.


1 (19 oz) pkg frozen cheese tortellini
1 (19 oz) pkg frozen cheese ravioli
1 ½ cups canola or olive oil
½ - ¾ cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 TBS oregano
1 ½ TBS basil
1 tsp Nature’s Seasoning
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
3 green onions, green parts only, finely chopped

Optional: mushrooms, artichoke hearts, red/yellow bell peppers (chopped), boiled shrimp or chicken (chopped)


Boil tortellini and ravioli according to package directions, less 1 minute. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk oil and next 4 ingredients. Drain and cool pasta. Add tomatoes, onions and any optional ingredients to cooled pasta. Toss gently with dressing and refrigerate several hours before serving.

Note: Salad is best if made one day in advance. If prepared in advance, mix the salad well before serving. You may use fresh, whole tomatoes, broken apart well instead of canned tomatoes.
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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Pizza Tales

Well, finally I got around to it -- after four days of saying I was going to make a pizza, on the fifth day, I did it.

Next time, I'm going to make a smaller but thicker crust. I will NOT try to stretch a quarter of the recipe over one dinner plate. That results in a too-thin crust, which is also too wide to handle conveniently with a spatula on the grill.

Click on the image for a larger view.
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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pork Roast (Continued)

The roast turned out great. I put it on at 6:45 am, and didn't look at it again until around 12:30 pm. In the meantime I decided to pick up two chickens for beer-can-chicken since I had a fire going.

So about 2:00pm, I checked the roast again. It wasn't yet done to the falling-off-the-bone stage. I wrapped it in foil and placed it on a steamer rack in a slow-cooker set to about 200 degrees F (with a couple of inches of water).

To the Weber, I added the two beer-can chickens.

Along about 10:00 pm, I checked the roast in the slow-cooker, and the meat literally fell off the bone when I pulled it. Perfect.

I made up Bobbie's BBQ Sauce to flavor it a bit. I'm very pleased with how it turned out.
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Memorial Day Pork Roast

Just started a fire --- 6:13 am. For a 4 pound shoulder, bone-in butt roast. I banked the fire on the opposite side away from the top vent. For more on slow-smoking on a Weber Kettle, go here.

[To see how this turned out, go here.]
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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beer Can Chicken

I did a beer-can chicken yesterday. Didn't have a beer can, so I used an empty mushroom can. I added water, and half of a lime. It turned out fantastic!
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