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AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2012

IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON

High schools, colleges and the pros are revving up for football season. I am making a list and checking it twice to be sure I have lots of things stashed in the freezer for tailgating or watching the games on television. You too should consider gathering a supply of appetizers and party food for your gatherings as well. Cajungrocer.com offers everything from mini crawfish and shrimp pies, to stuffed mushrooms and stuffed jalapenos, which I call poppers – you know, they can be popped in the mouth AND they give you a good pop of flavor!

Another item that has caught my attention is Randol’s crabmeat stuffing, which I consider quite versatile since it can be used for stuffing everything from fillets of fish to large shrimp. Having the ready-made stuffing can save time and effort, but if you want to make stuffed shrimp from scratch, here is a recipe that you might want to try.

STUFFED SHRIMP
  • Makes 48
  • Stuffing:
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ cup finely chopped bell pepper
  • 1 ½ pounds crabmeat
  • 2 pounds small shrimp, boiled and peeled
  • 4 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 8 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • To assemble:
  • 4 dozen large shrimp, peeled and butterflied
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • Oil for deep-frying

Make the stuffing by melting the butter in a large skillet. Saut̩ the onions, celery and bell pepper until transparent. Add the crabmeat, shrimp, green onions, parsley, salt and pepper and cook for two to three minutes, stirring to combine well. Remove from heat and add the eggs and breadcrumbs and mix well. Allow to cool. Place about a tablespoon of the stuffing in the split of the shrimp, molding the stuffing with your fingers. In a small bowl combine the eggs, milk and water and mix well. In another bowl, combine the corn meal, salt and cayenne. Roll the shrimp in the cornmeal, then dip in the egg mixture, then again in the cornmeal. Deep fry for 5 to 6 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm with tartar sauce Рyou might want to try our tartar sauce (Louisiana Tartar Sauce).

OYSTERS

When September rolls around, I anxiously await the first cold front to blow through so I can dig into some freshly shucked oysters. There’s nothing better in my book, than icy cold oysters dabbed with cocktail sauce washed down with an equally cold brew! But, there are other things I like to do with our Louisiana oysters.

OYSTERS MOSCA

This is made in a small casserole pan but can be adapted to put in oyster shells or small ramekins.
  • Makes 4 Servings
  • 2 dozen raw oysters; shucked
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 4 chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 8 artichoke hearts, mashed
  • Salt and cayenne to taste
  • 1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Arrange the oysters in a single layer in a baking dish. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they are just soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and cayenne.

Spoon the mixture over the oysters and top with mashed artichokes. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees until the cheese melts completely, 10 to 15 minutes.

CREAM OF ARTICHOKE AND OYSTERS
  • Makes 6 to 8 servings
  • 1 stick (8 ounces) butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups chopped onions
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 cups chopped and drained artichoke hearts or bottoms (packed in water)
  • 6 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 pint (or more freshly shucked oysters), drained (or if you like, add the liquor as well)
  • Salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour. Whisk for three to four minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until just clear, about 5 minutes. Slowly add the stock, whisking, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the artichokes. Add the cream and simmer for about five minutes. Add the oysters and simmer until the edges curl, three to four minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Serve hot.

DUCK, ANDOUILLE AND OYSTER GUMBO

Makes about 8 servings
If and when the ducks hunters come in with their limit, make this gumbo, freeze and pull it out for a dinner during the holidays.
  • 2 mallards, cleaned and cut into serving pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped bell peppers
  • 6 to 8 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 pound andouille, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 dozen oysters, shucked, with their liquor
  • 3 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Season the ducks pieces with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large, heavy pot (preferably black iron) over medium heat. Add the duck pieces and brown, stirring often. Remove the duck and set aside.

To the same pot add the remaining 1 cup vegetable oil and the flour. Stirring constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, make a dark brown roux. Add the onions and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft.

Add the water or stock (the amount will depend on how thick or thin you like your gumbo). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the duck pieces and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 1 1/2 hours.

Add the andouille and simmer for 30 minutes. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. Add the oysters and their liquid and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the edges of the oysters curl. Remove from the heat. Add the parsley and serve immediately over steamed rice in gumbo bowls.


July/August 2012

BE COOL!

Think cool, eat cool and be cool! There is no reason to let the hot, hot, hot days of summer get in the way of enjoying the languid days of summer. When the heat seems almost unbearable I stock up on lemons, lime a cucumbers. A squeeze or two of citrus juice in my tea, lemonade, cola, or gin and tonic seems to cool me off. A salad of thinly sliced cucumbers and onions tossed with mayonnaise and yogurt is a favorite dish as is chilled cucumber soup.

My potted herbs, especially mint and basil, will brighten up vegetables and salads. Lemon thyme and rosemary will be delightful to season fish and pork.

Come with me then, and sit in my kitchen cooled by the ceiling fan and we’ll whip up some cool things to enjoy after the sun goes down.

Tomato-cucumber salad
  • Makes about 8 servings
  • 1 head Boston lettuce
  • 4 medium-size tomatoes cut into wedges
  • 1 medium-size cucumber, scored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small purple onion, sliced and separated into rings
  • Yogurt-herb dressing (recipe follows)

Line salad plates with lettuce leaves and arrange the tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions on top. Drizzle with the dressing.

Yogurt-herb dressing
  • Makes about 1 cup
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dillweed
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh chives
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a jar and shake to mix. Chill for about one hour before using.
Cool cucumber soup
  • Makes about 4 servings
  • 6 medium-size cucumbers, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (green part only)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 1/4 cups plain yogurt
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

Puree the cucumbers in a food processor or blender. Add the green onions and garlic and process again until smooth. Add the yogurt and process until the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with the mint leaves.

Once the sun goes down and the cool of the evening sets in, bring out the grill. If I’m lucky, there might be a few fillets of speckled trout or redfish hanging around the freezer. Those fillets are ideal for slapping on the grill to make a great summer sandwich. Ice down some beer or chill a cold crisp white wine and you can have a refreshing supper in no time.

GRILLED FISH SANDWICHES s
  • Makes 4 sandwiches
  • 4 fillets of fish, each about three-fourths inch thick, about one and one-half pounds
  • Lemon-soy marinade (recipe follows)
  • 4 toasted whole wheat buns, or bread of your choice
  • Mayonnaise or tartar sauce for serving
  • Lettuce and tomato slices

Place the fish in the marinade, cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Remove the fish from the marinade and arrange in a fish basket or place directly on a grill over a medium-hot fire. Cover and grill the fillets until they flake easily with a fork, about 8 minutes on each, side, brushing with the marinade two to three times. Spread the buns with mayonnaise or tartar sauce, arrange the lettuce and tomato slices and top with the grilled fish.

Lemon-soy marinade
  • Makes about 2/3 cup
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Combine the lemon juice, soy, pepper and hot sauce in a food processor or electric blender. Process for 15 seconds. Gradually add the olive oil with the motor running.

Here’s another idea for a quick cool meal. Whenever my husband fires up the grill, we cook a little extra. For instance, boneless skinless chicken breasts or a couple of pork tenderloins marinated with fresh lemon juice and fresh herbs can be stored in the refrigerator after they come off the grill. During the week, both can be thinly sliced to put on sandwiches. Or, serve them at room temperature with grilled fresh vegetables. You can use more or less the same idea for the pork tenders as the chicken. Sometimes I use fresh sprigs of rosemary for the pork, or even lemon thyme.

Lemon chicken
  • Makes 6 servings
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or lemon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Put the chicken in a large shallow glass dish. Combine the melted butter with the mustard, lemon juice, tarragon, salt, black pepper and hot sauce. Mix well and pour over the chicken. Grill or bake in the oven.

During the summer I try to keep a couple of cool spreads or dips in the ‘fridge – they are ideal for putting on sandwiches or for dipping boiled or fried seafood.

AIOLI SAUCE
  • Makes about 1 1/2 cups
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil or olive oil (or a combination of both)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Put the egg yolks, salt, pepper and vinegar or lemon juice, mustard if using, and hot sauce in a food processor or electric blender. Process for about 30 seconds. With the motor running, stream in the oil through the feed tube until the mixture thickens.

In a small bowl, mash the garlic with the salt to make a paste. Add to the mayonnaise mixture and pulse two to three times to blend. Season with the black pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

DIP FOR SEAFOOD
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

MATT’S TARTAR SAUCE
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
  • 1 large pod garlic, mashed
  • 1 large sweet pickle, minced
  • 5 drops of Tabasco sauce
  • 3 good shots of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion

Mix all the ingredients together and chill for about one hour before serving.

YOGURT DILL SAUCE
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh dill
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 dashes of hot sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk to mix. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

ICE CREAM TREATS
Also to keep you cool, I offer these cooling ideas.
BLUEBERRY ICE CREAM
  • Makes about 1 quart
  • 2 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed well and picked over
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • zest from 1 lemon removed in long strips
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt

In a medium saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, water and zest. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries start to fall apart and the syrup thickens, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the lemon zest. Carefully transfer in batches to a food processor or blender and puree on high speed. Pass through a fine strainer into a large bowl, pressing against the solids with the back of spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Whisk in the remaining ingredients, cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours.

Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a plastic container and freeze until firm and ready to serve.

CINNAMON ICE CREAM
  • Makes about 1 quart (serves 6)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 egg yolks
  • Cinnamon sticks for garnish

Heat the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot. Remove from the heat.

Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl. Slowly add one cup of the cream mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly until smooth. Slowly pour the egg mixture back into the cream mixture, whisking constantly. Place the saucepan back over medium heat. Stirring constantly, cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Do not boil. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl. Chill to form a custard.

Pour the custard into the canister of an ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. To serve, place a cinnamon stick in the top of each serving.

CAPPUCCINO ICE CREAM
  • Makes about 1 quart (6 servings)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 1 cup brewed espresso
  • 3 tablespoons creme de cacao
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Beat the egg yolks, sugar and brown sugar in a bowl until blended. Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling. Pour the cream in a stream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat to make a light custard, about five to seven minutes. Do not boil. Remove from heat.

Dissolve the instant coffee in the espresso. Stir in the creme de cacao, vanilla and cinnamon and whisk into the custard. Refrigerate covered until cold. Freeze in an ice cream freezer according to manufacturer’s directions.

JULY/AUGUST 2011

I have a sign in my kitchen that says “If you’re lucky enough to live on the water, you’re lucky enough.” Well, I do live on the banks of beautiful, languid Bayou Teche, which is pretty great, but I do LOVE going to the powdery, white beaches of Alabama and Florida and enjoy the azure waters and pounding surf.

And in fact, my husband, a couple of friends and I are heading out to Gulf Shores, Alabama in a couple of weeks, and I’m already planning menus. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but at the same time fast food doesn’t appeal to me either. I try to plan the week’s menu thus eliminating too may trips to the supermarket and too much time getting meals together. I’m a big fan of casseroles and one-pot dishes which I can prepare ahead of time, freeze, then pack them in our trusty old ice chests. Then when meal time rolls around, all I have to do is throw together a salad of mixed greens or fresh fruit, heat up a French bread and chow down. This is a great plan especially if there’s children involved. Desserts can be as simple as ice cold watermelons, popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, store-bought cookies, or pound cake topped with fresh berries. Voila!

SPAGHETTI SUPREME

Makes about 12 servings

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 (1-pound) cans whole tomatoes, mashed with can liquid
  • 2 (7-ounce) cans sliced mushrooms with can liquid
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • Salt and cayenne to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 pound grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 pound grated American cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring often, until all pink disappears. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they are very soft, about six to eight minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomatoes, mushrooms, and red wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Add the oregano and basil. Simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.

To assemble, lay about one-third of the pasta on the bottom of a large casserole dish. Spread one-third of the tomato evenly over the pasta. Then sprinkle with one-third of the Cheddar, American and Parmesan. Repeat the process until all of the pasta, sauce and cheese is used. The casserole can be frozen at this point.

When ready to serve, thaw the casserole. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly and hot throughout.

This next recipe is a south Louisiana version of goulash. It’s similar to the previous recipe, but no one seems to tire of this kind of food on vacation trips. Do what I do. Serve the spaghetti recipe early in the week and the goulash at the end of it. I guarantee no one will complain. Oh, by the way, this recipe makes enough to serve about 20. You can freeze the goulash in two casseroles (one to take with you and one to use another time), or simply cut the recipe in half.

MIL’S GOULASH

Makes about 20 servings

  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
  • 2 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 3 (10 3/4-ounce) cans tomato soup, undiluted
  • 1 (10-ounce) can Ro-tel tomatoes
  • 2 (7-ounce) cans sliced mushrooms, with can liquid
  • Salt and cayenne
  • 1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 2 1/2 (14-ounce) packages (#4) spaghetti, broken into 3 to 4 inch pieces (cooked and drained)

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven oven medium heat. Add the pork and beef and cook until all pink has disappeared. Drain off any excess fat. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, parsley and green onions. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, or until very soft. Add the tomato soup, the tomatoes, and the mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and cayenne. Cook, uncovered, for one hour.

Stir in the cheese and cook until it has completely melted. Add the spaghetti and mix well. Pour into casserole dishes. The goulash can be frozen at this point.

When ready to serve, thaw and bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven until bubbly, about 30 to 40 minutes.

If you like Mex-Tex food, try this casserole. Accompany it with avocado slices drizzled with a little olive oil and fresh lime juice and seasoned with a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

MEXI-CHICKEN CASSEROLE

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups cooked chopped chicken
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch or two of cayenne (to taste)
  • 6 corn tortillas, cut into fourths
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Cook the onion in the oil in a Dtuch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for about five minutes, or until tender. Add the tomatoes, chicken, broth, chili powder, salt, ground cumin, oregano and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes.

Layer half of the chicken mixture in the bottom of a lightly oiled baking dish. Then layer half of the tortillas and cheese over the chicken mixture. Make another layer of chicken and another of the tortillas. The casserole can be frozen at this point.

When ready to serve, thaw and bake, covered, in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake an additional five minutes.

But, hey, we are on the Gulf coast, so we also allow a couple of nights to enjoy either a night out to enjoy fresh seafood, or better yet find a local seafood purveyor. There is always grouper (a favorite of mine), shrimp and crabmeat to bring back to the condo for a leisurely supper.

Barbecued shrimp is messy to eat, but heck, we’re on vacation!

BARBECUED SHRIMP

Makes 4 to 6 servings

  • 6 pounds large shrimp, heads on (don’t peel them)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 3/4 cups olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • juice of three lemons
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco® (or more, according to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon oregano leaves

Rinse the shrimp in cool water and drain. Spread the shrimp in a large shallow baking pan. In a saucepan, melt butter, then add the rest ofthe ingredients. Mix well. Pour sauce over shrimp and marinate for one hour. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir a couple of times with a spatula. Do not overcook. Serve in a soup bowl with lots of hot French bread to sop up the sauce. Be sure to have some trays around on which to put shells and such. Be forewarned – this can only be eaten with your hands.

Fish is easy to cook. You can use grouper, redfish, trout or any other white, firm fish fillets.

PERFECTLY GRILLED FISH

Makes 4 servings

  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 4 (6 to 8 ounce each) fillets of fish

Combine the butter, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, salt, cayenne and hot sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and cool for several minutes. Put the fish in a shallow bowl and pour the butter sauce over the filets and let stand for about 30 minutes. Remove the fish from the marinade. Reserve the marinade. Place the fish either directly on the grill or in a grill basket, over a medium fire. Close the lid. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. Turn, then brush with the reserved marinade and cook for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve immediately.


JUNE/JULY 2011

Summertime, my favorite season of the year, is here! It’s time for spending time in the great outdoors, get in some fishing, loll around in a hammock, enjoy sno-balls, read a book, lounge on the beach and EAT!

During the summer, most of my meals originate on the grill—steaks, burgers, chicken, fish, shrimp, vegetables, and yes, even fruit. Lucky me, my husband and I live on the banks of Bayou Teche and many evenings we take a cruise on our party barge when the sun begins its western descent. When we return home, we get the grill ready on our lush patio and enjoy our evening repast listening to the frogs and cicadas chirping in chorus.

Ah, life is good

Let’s begin with grilled vegetables.

MIXED VEGETABLE GRILL

Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • 4 baby artichokes, trimmed
  • 2 whole heads of garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 Belgian endives
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, trimmed
  • 12 asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 large red onion, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
    • Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro, salt, black pepper, hot sauce and soy sauce. Whisk to blend.

      Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the fennel bulbs and cook until just tender, about eight minutes. Remove and drain. Drop in the baby artichokes and cook until slightly tender, about eight minutes. Scoop them out, drain and cut in half lengthwise.

      Blanch the garlic heads for about five minutes in the boiling water. Remove and drain. Blanch the endive for about one minute. Remove and drain; cut in half lengthwise.

      Prepare a fire in a grill. Position an oil rack four to six inches above the fire. Arrange the vegetables on the rack. Brush the vegetables with the oil mixture. Grill the fennel, artichokes, garlic heads and onion slices for about 12 minutes; the mushrooms for six to eight minutes; the endive for about eight minutes; and the asparagus for about five minutes. Brush the vegetables several times with the oil mixture while grilling.


      GRILLED EGGPLANT WITH FONTINA CHEESE

      Makes 6 servings

      • 1 large eggplant, cut into 12 slices
      • 3/4 teaspoon salt
      • 1/3 cup olive oil
      • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
      • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
      • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme leaves
      • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
      • 6 thin slices Fontina cheese


      Put the eggplant on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with one-fourth teaspoon of the salt. Cover with more paper towels. Let stand for an hour. Rinse with cool water and pat dry. Combine the oil, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, the remaining one-half teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Whisk to blend.

      Prepare the grill. Position an oiled grill rack four inches above the fire. Arrange the eggplant slices on the grill. Brush with the oil mixture. Turn them once or twice and cook until lightly browned, about eight minutes total.

      To serve, arrange six slices of the eggplant on a platter. Top each with a slice of the Fontina cheese, then top with the remaining eggplant slices. Serve immediately. (They can be kept warm in the oven if necessary.)

      If you really want to jazz the eggplant a bit more, try grilling thick slices of tomatoes and whole Portobello mushrooms. Brush them lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper and grill quickly. Then make stacks, alternating with the eggplant, cheese, tomato, and Portobello. (You can also grill thick onion slices also.) Spoon fresh pesto on top of the stacks when serving!

      I’ve been also experimenting with kabobs that include chunks of fresh or smoked pork sausage, porcini mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and big green olives. One evening I served the kabobs over rice pilaf; another time over baked cheese grits! Do some experimenting yourself…walk on the wild side!

      BLUE CHEESE BURGERS

      Makes 4 to 6 servings

      • 2 pounds lean ground beef
      • 1/2 pound lean ground pork
      • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
      • Salt and black pepper to taste
      • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
      • 1 tablespoon olive oil
      • 4 to 6 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
      • 4 to 6 toasted buns

      Combine the beef, pork, chives, salt, pepper, soy sauce and olive oil in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Shape the mixture into patties. Then, make a pocket in the center of each patty and fill each with a tablespoon of the blue cheese. Close the pocket by pinching the meat together. Grill for five to six minutes on each side, or until all pink disappears. Serve on toasted buns.

      Top sirloin is ideal for grilling and is also a good choice with which to make kabobs. This Mediterranean rub combines spices as well as coffee, which makes for a rich, robust flavor.



      MEDITERRANEAN SIRLOIN
        Makes 4 servings
      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • 1 tablespoon crushed rosemary
      • 1 ½ tablespoons chopped thyme leaves
      • ½ tablespoon brewed coffee
      • ½ tablespoon sea salt
      • ½ tablespoon cracked black pepper

      1 (2-pound) top sirloin (Certified Angus Beef preferred) Brush the steaks evenly with the olive oil. Combine the rosemary, thyme, coffee, sea salt and black pepper. Rub the mixture onto the steaks.

      Prepare the grill.


      Grill the steaks until medium-rare and slightly charred around the edges, 5 to 6 minutes on each side. I have long been a fan of flank steaks as I find it flavorful and very economically priced. It’s best when served cooked to medium-rare and cut thinly sliced against the grain of the beef.

      GRILED FLANK STEAK

      Makes about 6 servings

      • 1 flank steak, about 1 ½ pounds
      • ½ cup olive oil
      • ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
      • ½ cup soy sauce
      • ¼ cup dry red wine
      • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
      • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

      Score the steak on both sides. Place the steak in a large shallow dish or heavy-duty plastic storage bag. Combine the oil and the remaining ingredients, stirring to mix well. Pour the mixture over the steak. Cover or seal and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or as long as 3 hours, turning occasionally. Drain the steak and reserve the marinade. Put on the grill with a medium-hot fire. Close the grill and let cook six to eight minutes on each side, basting with the marinade. Discard the remaining marinade. To serve, slice the steak across the grain into thin slices.

      SUMMER TOMATOES During the time of year, I can’t get enough of tomatoes. I’ll eat them for breakfast with an omelet, put thick slices on white bread slathered with mayonnaise and use them in salads. No matter where you live, tomatoes will be in season for most of the summer so enjoy them while you can!

      CREOLE TOMATO CASSEROLE

      Makes 6 servings

      • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
      • 2 cups chopped onions
      • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
      • 1 cup chopped bell peppers
      • 1 cup chopped celery
      • 2 cloves garlic, minced
      • 1 pound ground beef
      • 6 Creole tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
      • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
      • 1/2 teaspoon dried sweet basil
      • 1 cup fine breadcrumbs
      • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
      • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

      In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, green onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Saute for about five minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring often, until brown. Add the tomatoes, salt, cayenne, oregano and basil. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low fire, stirring occasionally, for one hour.

      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the bread crumbs, then drizzle with the butter. Sprinkle the top with the cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese melts.

      SAVORY TOMATO PIE

      Makes 6 to 8 servings

      Pastry:

      • 2 cups all-purpose flour
      • ½ teaspoon salt
      • 2 teaspoons baking powder
      • 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
      • 2/3 cup milk
      • Filling:
      • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and sliced thick
      • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
      • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
      • ¾ teaspoon salt
      • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
      • Hot sauce to taste
      • ¼ pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
      • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make the pastry: Sift the dry ingredients together and cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the butter pieces are the size of small peas. Stir in the milk. Turn out on a floured board and knead a few times. Divide in two and roll out half. Line a 1-inch pie pan with one half and set aside.

      Make the filling: Mix the tomatoes, herbs, salt and half the cheese. Spoon into the pie pan. Spread with the mayonnaise, and sprinkle with the balance of the cheese over all. Roll out the remaining dough and cover the top, sealing around the edges. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm.


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