Spoiler alert! I love Mermaids! After all, I’m from Florida where mermaids were first discovered! (Ok…not true. But if you’ve ever visited Weekiwatchee you know what I mean!) I also think I’m married to a “merman” but that’s a story for another day.Continue reading
Summer’s Perfect “Send Off” Meal ~ Panko Encrusted Swordfish with Southern Field Pea Relish
Still reeling from a sun and fun filled Labor Day Weekend on Smith Lake with friends, my mind keeps nagging me that our frolicking days of summer will soon dim into the short, crisp days of fall. My heart actually grimaces a little when I consider that very soon, summer vegetables like our beloved tomato, will disappear from the farmers market and be replaced by it’s boring cousin…the dull and lifeless grocery store variety shipped from God knows where. And then there’s the disappearing field peas and sweet corn that my family and I have lapped up all summer long with great enthusiasm. Yes…I “put up” a few bags of peas and tomatoes in the freezer…but who am I kidding? Those will be consumed by the end of September! So what is left to do but embrace the fact that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the changing colors of a Tennessee fall and all its beauty…that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, football season with tailgates and boiled peanuts and “football food”!…and that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the baked goods and holiday fare that I will soon be preparing and enjoying with wild abandon?!!! There! Done. I feel better.
But before I start carving a pumpkin or making a spice cake, I must share with you a meal that I served for a couple dinner parties over the summer. The first time I made Panko Encrusted Swordfish with Southern Field Pea Relish, we had just returned from Gloucester Vineyards (my childhood home), with a bushel or so of freshly shelled White Acre field peas. I had employed my son and husband, along with mom and dad, to help me shell the said peas, thinking it would be fun for all of us to sit in rocking chairs beneath my parents’ covered porch and talk while the whippoorwills sang us a pretty melody, just like I remember as a child. Hahaha! For two city boys, the talking and bird listening was great…but the shelling? The finger blisters? The slow moving pace of the peas falling into a large, seemingly bottomless bowl? LOL!!! But for me? Sheer bliss. It reminded me of a sweet time…a slower time…a time before cyber space and social media check in’s…and it was heaven. And I knew those peas would taste better for the effort. Growing up, I really don’t think we enjoyed a Sunday lunch without peas making an appearance at the table. We never tired of them…ever! And my grandma Berta, being the saint that she was, made sure she froze enough peas to get us through all of winter’s Sunday lunches! Glory be!!! They were always served in a pretty painted flower laced bowl with bits of salted pork swimming in the broth. Occasionally, and especially in the summer when okra was fresh, a few pods would have been placed atop the boiling peas to add their own earthy flavor to the mix. These days, when summer tomatoes are at their peak, I enjoy peas alongside freshly cut ‘maters with sea salt and bits of crumbled bacon. Talk about the ultimate main course salad!
I make my peas very simply…start with enough water so that when peas are added (you can buy frozen peas at your local grocery…they’re quite good!) they will only be slightly covered by water. Now add your salt pork…you can use smoked jowl, bacon, country ham…whatever you have available. I usually use about 8 ounces of smoked pork and I allow the pork to boil for about 10 minutes before I place the peas in the boiling water. Add peas and return to a boil…now taste. The water will not be salty enough…even with the salt pork. So begin with teaspoon increments and add salt to the peas, water and pork. Continue to taste until desired saltiness, being careful not to over season. The salt from pork will continue to be released as you cook. Continue cooking on medium for 30 – 45 minutes. This beautiful, simple field pea dish is the building block for the relish that you will make for the Panko Encrusted Swordfish.
…Getting back to my story. We had returned from Florida with a bushel or so of peas…
I had invited a few couples over for dinner that week and knew that I wanted to serve something slightly more elevated than a bowl of field peas and ham. That’s when I remembered a recent article I had read in Garden and Gun that had incorporated peas into a relish. My mind started running and I suddenly knew exactly what I wanted to serve! My family cannot get enough of my Panko Fried Chicken so I thought to myself, “what if I lightly fry Mahi Mahi or Swordfish the way I fry my chicken?…then top it with field pea relish?”…and that’s exactly what I did. As it turns out…the meal was a huge hit with our guests! The field pea relish with its lightly sweet and acidic notes, made the perfect complement to the crunchy, buttery fish. Served alongside creamy Gouda Grits and a simple Spinach Salad, this elegant summer meal is worthy of your fanciest dinner party menu or presented casually the way I did. Either way…it’s a show stopper!!! And a recipe you will want to Pin and return to summer after summer! (Psst! While it’s still “summery” outside…make this dish this week! Heck! I break the rules about wearing white after Labor Day ALL the time!)
SOUTHERN FIELD PEA RELISH
- 1 tbsp. minced shallot
- 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
- 2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups cooked field peas (lady peas are pictured)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp. chopped parsely
- 1/2 tbsp. chopped chives
- 1/2 tbsp. chopped oregano
- 1/2 tbsp. lemon zest
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
In a saucepan, simmer minced shallot and garlic in 2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar over medium heat until softened (about 5 minutes). Place mixture in a bowl and combine with peas, olive oil and chopped herbs and zest and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
PANKO ENCRUSTED SWORDFISH (Serves 4)
- 8 – 4oz swordfish fillets…2 fillets per guest (I have also used Mahi Mahi!)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
- 1 1/2 cups peanut or vegetable oil or enough to cover bottom of frying pan to 1/4″
- salt and pepper to taste
The breading of the fillets is a 3-part process using three bowls for dredging and dipping. I like to season and bread all of my fish before heating the oil.
- Place flour, buttermilk and panko crumbs in three different bowls. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper to the flour and panko crumbs; stir to combine.
- Wash and dry fish fillets; lightly salt and pepper each side of the fish
- Dredge each fillet in flour; shaking off excess
- Dip floured fillet in buttermilk and coat
- Dredge and fully cover the floured and buttermilk’d fillet in panko crumbs; set aside on tray
- Repeat for all fillets
- Place oil in frying pan and heat on high, watching carefully
- When oil has reached frying temperature, place the fillets into the pan; be careful not to overcrowd
- Fry on each side about 3 minutes or until golden brown
- Remove to lined plate or warm oven until ready to serve; top with Field Pea Relish
Bon Voyage Summer!!! See ya later Field Peas and Tomatoes! Until next time!!! We love you! Peace Out!
Autumn…we’re comin’ for ya!!!
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Field Pea Relish recipe courtesy of Garden and Gun Magazine, June/July 2016
Three Saucy Babes You Can’t Live Without ~ Part One
Sound like rock stars, don’t they? That’s because these Three Saucy Babes are culinary rock stars!!! And with not a single “walk of shame” between them! They bring the kind of giddy “sauciness” to my cooking life that I simply can’t live without in my kitchen! Spiciness, sweetness, piquantness, freshness…each one adding their own fascinating and lively taste to the food I serve. And with such great variation! Are you in love yet? You ready to turn them up to 11 and rip off the knob??? (Ha!…my attempt at humor has me cracking myself up.)
Introducing Three Saucy Babes:
- Salad Sauce (aka, my go-to salad dressing)
- Good Goo-ka-moo-kee Sauce (aka, my favorite BBQ sauce that also doubles as a marinade)
- Green Sauce (aka, “Holy Moly that’s awesome sauce”…not to be confused with Chimichurri Sauce)
PART ONE (of a 3 Part Mini Series)
SALAD SAUCE – The “salad sauce” is really a beautiful vinaigrette especially designed for a Greek Salad. I first became obsessed with it after seeing the recipe on the “How Sweet Eats” blog (her post is here) and have made it a staple in my fridge ever since! Hear me loud and clear when I say this is EVERYONE’s favorite salad sauce in my circle of friends and family! I’m always asked about it…by children, adults, parakeets…all walking and talking things really. So make it tonight…and “I told you so!”
There are nine very humbling, very beautiful ingredients in this salad sauce (aka, dressing) that will elevate ANY salad you make from here until eternity. Sure…you’ll wander off and flirt with the Green Goddess Buttermilk Dressing or dance with the Caesar Dressing…but you’ll never make those dressings your “go-to” salad sauce…your main squeeze…and this one, you will…
Salad Sauce Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- Juice of one large lemon
- 3 tbsp. good honey
- 4 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed
- 1 tsp fresh dill weed (it’s ok to use dry dill if you don’t have fresh)
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients, except olive oil. Continue to whisk while streaming in the olive oil at the end. I have also been known to pop the ingredients in a bottle and simply shake them up. The salad sauce will be good to go sealed, in the fridge, for a week or so.
Use it with any salad combination your heart desires. I love the simplicity of this one made up of butter lettuce, radishes and shaved white carrots. This salad literally “sings” when combined with my salad sauce! Fresh, crisp, light and full of flavor!!! Think about it? Lemons, garlic, honey, a little vinegar and good oil and spices are the perfect summer playmates for your favorite bouquet of garden greens and veggies. Not to mention how quick and easy it is!
You may recall that I declared this dressing as a staple or “go-to” for me? You might even call it a building block in my kitchen. Almost every salad variation I make like my Orzo Salad (my niece, Cally’s, favorite) or my Shrimp Salad, uses this dressing as its “sauce”. What about grilled veggies mixed with crisp greens and crumbled candied bacon? Marinate the cut grilling vegetables like onions, squash and red peppers in some of the salad sauce before putting them on the hot grill; after grilling, toss them in more sauce and add to the crisp greens and bacon! I do this all summer long!!!! Don’t worry, I’ll share some of these salads recipes, as well as others, in upcoming blog posts…
Up next?…Saucy Babe #2! Good Goo-Ka-Moo-kee Sauce! Your barbecue will never be the same!!!!! This sauce will make sure of that!!!
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Pinterest!!! Insta: @peachandthewillow
My Favorite Pound Cake (Dressed up for Easter!)
When you grow up in the South as I did, you find that pound cake is in a food group all to itself. You’ve had pound cake with strawberries and cream, pound cake with peaches and cream, with blackberries and cream, just whipped cream or your favorite ice cream. You’ve had dry pound cake, melt in your mouth pound cake, TOO buttery pound cake (yes…there is such a thing), too dense pound cake, toasted pound cake, week old pound cake and on and on! Pound cake is not seasonal for southerners, although we oftentimes pair it with fruits of the season as mentioned before. And it always shows up on the Easter buffet…right along with the deviled eggs and potato salad seasoned with bacon fat. My table will be no exception…but this year My Favorite Pound Cake will be getting “dressed up” in Easter finery with a flowery adornment of halo mandarins…an Easter Bonnet, if you will!
Reminiscent of the pineapple rings on a pineapple upside-down cake, the slices of fresh mandarin orange give this cake a sort of old world charm. It’s rustic but beautiful…with the look of sunny spring flowers. And the taste??!!! A nectarous cake that is super moist and laced with a hint of citrusy sweet bitterness that comes across as very…hmmm…the best way I can describe it is sophisticated and clean. Not too fussy…not overdone…not trying too hard cake. Just simple and delicious. And the look of the cake is stunning. Halo mandarins are in season until April so including this particular pound cake for Easter should be no problem! If for some reason you don’t like halos, just don’t include them in the recipe. This pound cake is delish either way.
The recipe for My Favorite Pound Cake is adapted from a Southern Living recipe published in 2006. However, I have tweaked it over the years using tricks of the trade handed down by friends and relatives who are GREAT pound cake bakers (Shannon Lollie and Connie Melzer to drop a couple names). It is fail proof and amazing!!!
SOUR CREAM POUND CAKE
- 1 1/2 cups butter, softened (hint…throw in a dollop more)
- 3 cups sugar
- 7 large eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour ( I use organic and unbleached)
- 1/2 tsp. salt (I add a pinch more)
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
- 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
- 1/4 tsp. almond extract
- (If making the mandarin orange version, include a couple Tbsp. of Cointreau Liqueur if you have it on hand)
- If making the Halo Mandarin Version of cake…start by slicing halos in four thin slices and assembling at bottom and side of greased and parchment lined tube pan. You will use from 8 – 10 halos. See picture for assembly tips. If you are making “My Favorite Pound Cake” without fruit…forego step one.
- Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until the yolk disappears.
- Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture (this is important). Beat batter at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in extracts. Pour into a greased 12-cup tube pan. I also line the bottom and part of side with parchment to assure that the cake will come out clean.
- Bake at 325 Degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely on wire rack.
Should you want a nice whipped cream to accompany the Mandarin Orange version…this one would be perfect!
Makes about 2 cups (Prep: 5 Min.)
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp. orange Liqueur
Beat whipping cream at low speed with an electric mixer until foamy; increase speed to medium-high, and gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Stir in Liqueur.