Heirloom Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

Heirloom Tomato SaladFamily Heirloom
Tomatoes are kind of a thing with my family. Every summer my mother waits with baited breath for home grown tomatoes so that she can have her favorite tomato sandwich. My husband likes to eat them sliced thick with a pinch of salt. My grandmother was also a huge fan of summer tomatoes though her favorite way to serve them has become a family joke. We call it Gammy salad.

During the summer, when her tomatoes were super tasty, Gam would frequently serve her tomato salad at Sunday dinner. The “salad” consisted of sliced tomatoes and avocados artfully arranged on a platter with a large dollop of mayonnaise in the middle. That’s it. Sometimes she would get wild and sprinkle a little Italian dressing on top but for the most part, it was tomatoes and mayo.

Now I fully admit to being a food snob and maybe it was a generational thing. But, I have always thought that the tomato/mayo combination was just, well, weird or maybe it was just her age. People of her generation ate some things that we wouldn’t think of eating today…for a number of reasons. (Heart attack prevention would be one.) My grandfather liked butter on his ham sandwich which I guess isn’t too strange when you consider my great grandfather liked bacon grease sandwiches. (Yeah. Think about that for a minute.)

So, I always put the Gammy salad in the older folks like weird stuff category but I have to admit my favorite means of eating tomatoes isn’t that much of a jump from hers.

I, too, like to slice my tomatoes thick and arrange them on a plate. But, I opt for freshly-made blue cheese dressing instead of the mayonnaise. Nothing looks prettier on a plate than some thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes with a drizzle of tangy blue cheese dressing.

Making your own dressing is pretty easy. Though, I have to say the freshly made dressing we have in our cheese department is even easier…..

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home by Ina Garten Read more…

Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Platter Salad

Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Platter Salad Life On A Platter
If you are someone who likes to cook, chances are you have a relatively extensive collection of pieces with which to cook or serve your creations. Some of us, it could be said, have way more than they need. (Guilty). Within my culinary collection though there are those few pieces that are my workhorses—the things I reach for day in and day out. One of those pieces, for me, is a white rectangular platter I bought at Target for twenty bucks.

I use this platter for everything from grilled meats, to cheese platters, to sliced fruits, or dim sum. It is perfect. It is the perfect size, the perfect color, the perfect everything. If it ever breaks I don’t know what I will do.

Lately I have been using it for one of my favorite summertime dinner options, platter salads. Platter salads can be anything from sliced heirloom tomatoes to a family style cobb salad. Platter salad is one of my go to’s when it’s hot and I am feeling lazy.

Recently I came across this recipe in the NY Times that has since become part of my platter salad rotation. It is the perfect blend of all things summer: corn, tomatoes, and avocado. Plus, it has cumin in it and in my world everything is better with cumin.

I like to serve this salad with something grilled on top whether it’s chicken, skirt steak or even some shrimp (though it is just as good on its own). Whatever your preference, the leftovers will make a great lunch for the next day.

Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Platter Salad
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Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream with Toasted Pecans

Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream with Toasted PecansThe Buzz
Have you ever had houseguests who just didn’t know when it was time to leave? We’ve been having that problem for a while now. For the past month we have been hosting a few hundred bees that decided to build their hive in the walls of our garage and now it is time for them to go.

I have always liked the idea of having my own bee hive for a number of reasons. Honey, obviously but also just to have my own personal army of pollinators. The reality would require more time than I am able to devote to it, which is why we have spent the past weeks figuring out the most harmless method to send the bees on their merry way.

If there is any good news (and when you have a swarm of bees there’s usually not a lot of good news) it is that our buzzy friends decided to make their home in an area that is relatively far away from our house and easily accessible via my veggie garden. That last part probably has something to do with their spot of choice. It is also the reason we tried to wait it out to see if they would just move on. They didn’t. It’s prime real estate. And, we all know the first rule of real estate; location, location, location.

After consulting with a local bee expert, and not wanting to harm the bees in anyway, we came up with a plan to get the bees out of the wall. And it worked. But then the bees just decided to build their hive under the eaves of the garage roof complete with honey comb. So we are left with no other option.

Today the saga will end with our bee expert coming to collect the colony and take it away to live with the other happy bees in her hives. Once they are gone, we will be able to open up our garage wall and see what they left behind. If the long line of ants are any indication we are looking at a pretty sticky situation.

It probably comes as no surprise that I’ve had honey on the brain lately. So, when I came across this recipe for Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream with Toasted Pecans, I knew I had to give it a try.

Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream with Toasted Pecans
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields about 1 1/4 quarts

The warm cinnamon flavor melds wonderfully the earthiness of the honey and pecans. An added bonus to this Honey-Cinnamon Ice Cream is that honey lends itself to extra-creamy ice creams, which you’ll notice immediately when you taste this one.

This ice cream is delicious when topped with fresh, sliced peaches. Read more…

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon

Shrimp and Grits with BaconThe Low Down
I can be obsessive when I find things I like. It can’t be just a close copy. I’ve got to have the real thing. This is especially true when it comes to cooking.

Anytime I find a new recipe I love that comes from a region or cuisine that I am not familiar with, I can go off the deep end a bit. For example, when I, first discovered Moroccan food, I was obsessed with finding the correct ingredients. Not just ingredients that would work but the most authentic ingredients. The ingredients they use. Same goes with the cookware. If I am going to make a paella or a French cassoulet, you better believe I am going to have the correct pan or clay pot.

It’s the same with cookbooks. I may start my adventure into something new with one cookbook but eventually, I will end up finding the most authentic resource for whatever that cuisine may be. (Think Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking or Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean cookbooks.) What I enjoy the most about finding that “reference” cookbook is that you not only get the most authentic version of whatever dish you are cooking but you also get the history of the food, the people and the region it comes from. That’s when the day dreaming stars. I picture myself in the markets of Marrakesh or biking through Provence with the day’s groceries in my basket. I am a culinary romantic.

One of my favorite cookbooks for day dreaming is a book by John Martin Taylor called Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking. If you have ever been interested in the regional cooking of the US, this would be my pick as the best reference for Lowcountry cooking.

For those who don’t know, the Lowcountry refers to the coastal plain region of South Carolina from Cat Island down to the Georgia border. Full disclosure, I have never lived there nor have I had the chance to visit. But I do love to read. And after reading books by Pat Conroy and John Berendt, I was hooked by romantic visions of crab and shrimp boils on the beach with and entertaining cast of characters.

Lowcountry cooking is the source for She Crab soup as well as Frogmore Stew and Hoppin’ John. There is so much to the cooking of the region that it is hard to pick just one recipe to love. If pressed though I would have to pick the Shrimp and Grits with Bacon. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods.

If you find yourself in need of an escape from the day-to-day and with no time or money to actually go somewhere, take a chance and pick up this (or any other cookbook) and step outside your world for a bit.

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon
Adapted from Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking

These typical shrimp and grits are served for breakfast, but they are good any time of day. We love the addition of bacon! Read more…

Weeknight Favorite Grilled Mixed Vegetables

Weeknight Favorite Grilled Mixed Vegetables Lighten Up
As a general rule, my husband and I try to enjoy our vacations to the fullest. This means that we don’t really worry too much about the calories when we are on our adventures. Eating the good stuff is all part of the fun, right?

Once we get back it’s a different story…time to pay the piper. In the last couple of months, we have had the chance to travel and have some great adventures and plenty of good food. Now that we are home, I have been preparing more and more veggies to go with our meals (and less of the starchy carb-type things) to get us all back on track. The easiest way I have found to do that is to throw a whole mess of veggies on the grill.

When it is as hot as it has been lately, I grill almost everything we eat. So, grilling some Grilled Mixed Vegetable along with it is no biggie. And, it helps use up whatever you have in your garden. Grilled peaches also make for a great dessert.

What I do with the veggies once they are grilled is entirely decided by my mood and energy level. Sometimes I just toss ‘em in olive oil with salt and pepper, grill them then eat them. Other times I toss them in a vinaigrette after grilling for a bit more flavor.

One of my favorite vinaigrettes for the Weeknight Favorite Grilled Mixed Vegetables is below. It’s basic and goes with anything you serve. And, feel free to change up the veggies. There is no right or wrong mix.

You can also substitute some soy sauce for the balsamic. If you choose to do that, substitute 1/2 a tsp of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp fresh thyme for the parsley.

Weeknight Favorite Grilled Mixed Vegetables 
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