The iconic South, rich in tradition, steeped in history and brimming with classic Southern cuisine. New Orleans is known for their Po' Boys, crawfish, gators and beignets. North Carolina is often associated with liver mush, hushpuppies, country ham, grits and, of course, Carolina barbecue. One dish that many southern states have in common is banana pudding. Every traditional southern family at one time or another has consumed this classic southern treat.
My garden is huge! The tomatoes have all grown together to form one gigantic tomato plant. I pick up one branch and realize that I will have more tomatoes than any one family could possibly ever need. If you see me trying to give them away to neighbors, friends or even on the side of the road in a makeshift farm stand, please politely smile and wave. The tomatoes may have taken over, but the zucchini is just getting started. I was able to go out and pick a few the other day. While flipping through magazines and websites for culinary inspiration, I stumbled upon a delicious recipe for zucchini muffins. Perfect! Zucchini muffins are delicious on their own, but the addition of fresh picked blueberries and a tart and creamy cream cheese glaze pushes them over the top.
The Florida Mangoes are in season and they are delicious! Fragrant, large and brightly colored, the Tommy Atkins mango is the most popular variety seen in the grocery stores and at farmers markets. Mangoes are at their peak from June-September. When picking a mango, choose one that is firm but the outer skin gives when gently pushed. The aroma should be sweet and tropical, and the coloring should be consistent throughout the fruit, ranging from bright red to a deep orange. Mangoes can be utilized in many applications from a savory and spicy mango salsa to a sweet and juicy tropical fruit salad. When in season, the most delicious and unique way to let the fruit shine is in a sweet and creamy mango tart.
Rhubarb is a versatile fruit. The plant itself is nothing spectacular; huge leaves cover bright red and pink stalks. One plant can produce many pounds of rhubarb, and more than one plant can take over your garden. The leaves are toxic to humans and pets, but the stalk is beautiful and tart. The extreme tartness of fresh rhubarb begs for the addition of sugar and it is perfectly suited for sweet applications. Ginger Rhubarb compote can be utilized in a variety of ways. Here are a few of my favorites...
Saffron is beautiful, earthy and the most expensive spice in the world. Don't let that scare you away. A little bit of this earthy spice goes a long way! Saffron is traditionally used in savory dishes and is often used in dying fabrics. The bright red spice produces a beautiful red-orange color when steeped in hot water. Although the spice is traditionally used in savory foods, it can easily be adapted to use in sweets. Saffron almond cake is the perfect example of sweet meets savory. The sweetness of the almond paste is balanced by the warm earthiness of the saffron. This cake is incredible -- not too sweet, but sweet enough to subside any craving for desert. Simple to make and extravagant enough to serve to even your most discerning guest.
I come from a long line of proud military men and women. The fourth of July is the perfect time to celebrate our country's independence and the men and women who fight to continue to keep our freedom.
Growing up in Michigan was very family centric, especially when the holidays came around. Fourth of July was certainly no exception. The day usually began with a city parade, floats and candy, along with the red, white and blue decorated bicycles passing by as we sat on the curb waiting to scramble into the street to gather the treats. We sat until the last float passed us by, and proudly gathered up all of our sweets and headed to a family picnic at the lake. Hamburgers, hotdogs and potato salad were always the typical picnic fare. It was the one time of year my grandmother would bring out the two liters of soda. Weeks later she would try to convince one of her unsuspecting family members to lug home the exact same bottle of soda, only now they were incredibly flat from sitting half-opened on the picnic table.
The craft beer movement has been part of my life for more than 15 years. In my early 20's, I vividly remember consuming some of the most delicious microbrews in the Pacific Northwest, along with fresh salmon and some of the most delicious sushi I've had in my life. As life moved on, and the scenery changed from evergreens and fresh fish to wide open spaces and corn fields, our love of microbrews and craft beers evolved. The craft breweries were not as prevalent in the Midwest as they were in the Pacific Northwest, so we resorted to creating our own. A sudden move to sunny San Diego once again put us in the center of brewing innovation. Places like Stone and Firehouse Brewing changed our views on bold and unique brews.
There is nothing quite as simple or versatile as homemade vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar can be utilized in a variety of desserts; from apple pies, snickerdoodles and crème brûlée to light and airy pavlova's. Vanilla sugar can even be used in savory recipes to give a slight sweetness to acidic foods such as barbecue sauce and vinaigrettes. Add to drinks such as coffee or tea - the possibilities are endless!
Panna Cotta is a sweet, creamy and tangy custard-like dessert, minus the eggs! Panna Cotta is a quintessential Northern Italian dessert, perfect for warm summer nights. Panna Cotta can be served with fresh fruit, berry coulis, homemade caramel sauce or simply drizzled with fresh honey. Tahitian vanilla beans enhance the tangy flavor of the cream and buttermilk while lending a slight floral flavor to the dessert. This is the perfect dessert to make ahead and impress your guests!
Do you have a special place from your childhood that your mind wanders to from time to time? I do! I come from a large family of six boys and me. I am the oldest, and the only girl. Lucky me, huh?! Needless to say, this made one-on-one time with our parents difficult at times. Some of my fondest memories were the one-on-one times I spent with my father. Small moments like learning more about who my parents were beyond the everyday moments of being parents stand out in my mind. My dad was a master fly fisherman, and he also was one of the few craftsmen left in America who completely hand crafted and sold custom bamboo fly rods as a hobby. These were truly labors of love from hand planing the large pieces of bamboo that would arrive at our home, to gluing and kiln-drying the entire finished product. There were many more steps to the process, but my favorite step was when he had completed a rod and tested it in our backyard...the fluid motion of his hand combined with the whooshing sound of the lines, so graceful and fluid. When he had finished testing the rod and was satisfied with the craftsmanship, he would treat us to ice cream. This was not just any ice cream shop. This was “dad’s special” ice cream place. The ice cream tasted better than any other place I knew--soft and creamy, full of flavor. The most important part of the memory for me was, and still is, is that I got to spend time with my dad.