Category Archives: salads

Gluttony and tomato salad

Noah is home from college. He is now a graduate and is about the task of finding full-time employment. He’s working hard at finding a place to work hard, but in the meantime he is setting a bad example. Since his arrival two weeks ago, he has brought into this house:

  • The ingredients for onion dip – Lipton Onion Soup Mix and sour cream (accept no substitutions). This obviously also requires kettle-cooked potato chips.
  • Two boxes of Velveeta Shells and Cheese. Noah enhances this with sour cream and butter. It is, sad to say, delicious.
  • The ingredients for compound butter, which has trace elements of vegetables cleverly hidden away in two sticks of butter. He has generously applied this to several packages of fettuccine and then finished it off with mountains of Parmesan cheese.
  • Three racks of ribs. No, Noah does not know how to smoke ribs. Mommy does. And then Mommy, of course, has to sample them. Over and over. Bad Mommy.

We just got back from my beloved Publix where we picked up the ingredients for homemade pizza. We are going to grill it so we can claim it is healthy, which it would be if we eliminated the cheese. But we’re not going to do that.

So, tomorrow I’m putting a stop to this. We’re going back to sticks and twigs. And, fortunately, a tomato salad with ingredients from the Farmers Market.  Yes, I’m on a tomato kick.

tomato salad

Cherry tomato salad
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Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 2 pints mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup shredded basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
  1. Rinse and dry the tomatoes and slice in half.
  2. Whisk the mustard, vinegar and garlic in a small bowl. Slowly drizzling in the olive oil and continue whisking until an emulsion forms.
  3. Add the dressing and basil to the tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.

 

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Margaret’s mother’s potato salad

IMG_4517Potlucks in the South are so amazing. Everyone brings their A game and you always discover a surprise or two on the table.

Margaret Brown - potato salad queen

Margaret Brown – potato salad queen

Friday, a women’s group I belong to had a potluck lunch and Margaret Brown brought her mother’s potato salad. Margaret is no bigger than a No. 2 pencil and doesn’t cook so I was taken aback by how good her potato salad was. “It was my mother’s recipe,” she told me. “Can I have it?” I asked. “Well, I don’t exactly know the measurements. I just make it until it tastes like my mother’s.”

This is a fundamental problem among people who don’t cook (God bless you, Margaret and King Daddy). Mark’s great-grandmother, Belle, made the most fantastic yeast rolls and heavenly blackberry cobbler. Or so I hear.

He never thought to stand at her side, watch what she did at the stove and write the recipes down. Of course, as a 10-year-old child he did not contemplate marrying me. Otherwise, he could not have found a pen and paper fast enough. Be that as it may, I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by. “Margaret, write down what’s in the potato salad, give me a little sample to take home and I will figure it out,” I told her.

Here’s why this exercise was worth it. Margaret’s mother’s potato salad is singularly delicious for what it does not have in it. No hard-boiled eggs and no sweet pickles with juice, both of which are Southern staples. Her potato salad is clean. It tastes of potatoes and everything else in the recipe is a supporting player and not a distraction. And, Margaret learned a trick from her mother that I’ll pass along to you.  She mixes everything but the mayonnaise and refrigerates it overnight. That way the potatoes set up again and the salad retains its character after the mayonnaise is added. Each dainty bite packs a total punch of flavor.

So I figured it out. I used Yukon Gold potatoes because I didn’t have the red potatoes the recipe calls for, but with every other ingredient I’d add and taste against Margaret’s sample. And then I had King Daddy taste test both of them. He couldn’t tell the difference.

If any of you out there have your mother’s, grandmother’s or Great Aunt Nellie’s unwritten recipe for the greatest thing you ever ate, send it to me. I am on a mission now to preserve those classic dishes. I don’t think Margaret will use this recipe to make her mother’s potato salad because she already knows how it’s supposed to taste. But her grandchildren will.

Margaret’s mother’s potato salad
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Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds red potatoes
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise with olive oil

Instructions
  1. Put the potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan, cover with water and boil until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the potatoes and cool until they are easy to handle. Peel them and cut them into ½-inch chunks.
  3. Add the celery, onion, celery seed, salt and pepper to the potatoes and mix carefully, trying not to break up the potato chunks.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. The next day, add the mayonnaise and combine thoroughly.

Notes
Margaret minces the onion in a food processor. She also allows that her mother used homemade mayonnaise, but that just wasn’t going to happen with Margaret and Hellmann’s mayonnaise with olive oil is the closest thing.

 

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Grilled corn salad

Grilled Corn Salad

King Daddy is continuing on his tenacious weight loss program by consuming lots of salad. Truth be told, King Daddy hates salad and so I’m trying to switch it up and not just give him a plate of lettuce every night. This is one of those attempts. And it is delicious.

In the South, there is only one kind of corn: Silver Queen. Oh, you may see an occasional ear of Peaches and Cream. And it’s not bad. But you never see plain yellow corn down here. Silver Queen is so sweet you can literally eat it off the cob without cooking it. But I like to throw mine on the grill to add a little charred flavor.

Grilled cornI don’t brush it with oil or butter, although you could. The corn’s just that good by itself. And you won’t get the whole thing black because you know what? Corn’s not flat.

My new great find is New Mexico Chile Powder. It’s made from – ta da! – New Mexico chiles and it’s not extremely spicy. It’s more earthy and a little sweet. Williams Sonoma (where I would never shop for most anything else because I’m not a millionaire) carries it.

So poor King Daddy. No mayonnaise or sour cream in his salad. Just that heart-healthy stuff he professes not to like. He lapped it up.

Grilled corn salad
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Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 4 ears of Silver Queen corn
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon New Mexico chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil.

Instructions
  1. Preheat the grill to medium high. Shuck and remove the silk from the corn.
  2. Add to the grill and turn occasionally until all the sides are charred.
  3. Remove corn from the cob.
  4. Put the corn in a bowl and add the cumin, chile powder, cilantro, lemon juice and olive oil. Stir thoroughly and serve.

 

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Tortellini salad with salami and cheese

Tortellini Salad Salami and CheeseIs anyone else out there having trouble concentrating? This is a pandemic in the South as soon as the thermometer hits 85. All of a sudden we slow way down. And we lose our train of thought.

This morning, I went to the warehouse fully intending to be a model of efficiency and accomplishment. I will write a grant. I will learn something new about online fund raising. I will…notice that a lot of the new clothing donated from a major retailer still has the tags on. Well, I’ll just take those tags off and get back to business. Mindless, mind-wandering work.

IMG_4330

I return to the computer. Alrighty, then. Let’s get going. I will just give my boy, Noah, a quick call to wish him a happy 22nd birthday and then hit that grant hard. Forty minutes later, I hang up. That boy could talk to a post for five minutes before he realized the post wasn’t talking back. But I like that about him.

Grant. I’ll get back at it now. I read the instructions. It’s a grant about the arts. The only art we fool with are the paintings we get from Kirkland’s.

IMG_4328Pretty, aren’t they? Maybe I could get some grant money if we gave tours to school children. But would that be considered art education or home decorating know-how? I Probably the latter.

Oh, tortellini salad. I forgot all about it. I wrote a really good recipe for Char-Broil for tortellini salad. Noah took two gallons of it home to Knoxville and ate every scrap of it. At least I still remember who he is. Hop on over to Char-Broil LIVE for the recipe.

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Pineapple mint salsa

Pineapple mint salsaIf I were a few decades younger, I’d say I was starting to eat lighter because it’s about to be bikini weather. Truth be told, it was never bikini weather for me. It was barely two-piece bathing suit weather in my youth. Some of the reason is that I just never had that bordering-on-anorexia bikini body. Not in my DNA. But the biggest reason is that I am the whitest white girl you know and that’s not a good thing.

Growing up in Florida with the complexion of an Ivory soap bar was trying. When my friends would go to the beach, I was the one in the t-shirt and wide-brimmed hat. Not an attractive look when you’re 16. There was no “laying out” for me. That’s a lie. I tried it a few times but the results were…not optimal. Crimson red skin followed by weeks of moulting.

However, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t lighten up as summer hits – put the beef stew and mac and cheese away and turn to salads, simple grilled foods and salsas. This one is terrific with grilled shrimp or fish, or any grilled pork.

Tip: Don’t buy those fresh herbs in the produce section at the supermarket. Get yourself a few pots and plant fresh herbs. You can use them all summer at a fraction of the cost. Plus you can pretend you’re a gardener. I do.

Pineapple mint salsa
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Ingredients
  • 2 cups diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 red pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined and minced
  • ½ teaspoon fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh mint, minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.

 

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Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

This whole thing started with the croutons entirely because I am cheap. I cannot stand to throw food away and, dammit, onion poppy seed hamburger buns come in packages of eight. I just needed two for a sandwich project. So I had six left over, staring at me every time I opened the pantry door. Taunting me to do something with them.

CroutonsSo I made croutons. I actually have a beef with store-bought croutons and I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t make their own. Store-bought croutons are generally hard as rocks and exhibit all the taste of a hardened cube of sand. And since I have become a dedicated package ingredient reader after several alarming revelations about processed foods, I just don’t want any preservatives or other funny stuff in my croutons. Plus I have to tell you if you make these with melted butter rather than olive oil, you will just end up eating them straight out of the bag without any trip to a bowl of salad.

Once I had my croutons, I had to have something to put them on. Talk about the chicken and the egg. Decided on a Chicken Caesar Salad since that’s also a beef of mine. Why are they so bad at restaurants because they’re so good with a homemade dressing and some grilled chicken?

The croutons store in the fridge for a few weeks. They never last that long at my house. I’ve eaten two bags of them already. Without the salad.

 

Chicken Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
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Prep time: 
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Serves: 2
 

Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • BBQ rub
  • Spray oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • Dash hot sauce
  • 1 10-ounce bag romaine lettuce
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions
  1. Preheat the grill to medium.
  2. Trim the chicken breasts of any fat or cartilage and sprinkle with the BBQ rub. Spray one side of the chicken with oil and grill for 4-5 minutes, oiled side down. Spray the other side, flip and grill for an additional 4 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees as determined with a digital probe thermometer. Remove from the grill and reserve.
  3. Combine the garlic and parsley in a small bowl. Add the anchovy paste, mustard, lemon juice, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Combine thoroughly and chill the dressing in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. Put the romaine lettuce in a large bowl. Cut the chicken into strips or cubes and add to the lettuce along with the dressing. Toss thoroughly. Sprinkle with salad with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Homemade Croutons
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Ingredients
  • 3-4 cups leftover bread or buns
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil or melted butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon oregano

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the bread or buns into cubes and put on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes or until they are browned to the degree you like.

Notes
These croutons will store in a baggie in the fridge for a good two-three weeks.

 

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Fried apples and what goes together

Fried ApplesI was making supper the other night – pork chops, dressing and fried apples. And it occurred to me there are certain things that just “go together” – food combinations that I return to again and again.

Some of them could be considered odd or quaint. I have always served King Daddy’s favorite mustard chicken with buttered egg noodles. To do otherwise would be unthinkable. It just wouldn’t be right. On Sloppy Joe night, the Joe must be Manwich and it must lean along side Tater Tots. With ketchup. Ditto the ketchup with fried chicken livers.

Braised short ribs require mashed potatoes. Last night I was provisioning the refrigerator for KD because I am heading to Bunny’s tomorrow to help her unpack at her new home. I made the short ribs and mashed potatoes, but stuck some garlic bread in the oven for another meal. KD actually asked for garlic bread with short ribs. I was horrified. They don’t go together. Turkey sandwiches. Just turkey, mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce, salt and pepper. No cheese. Cheese and turkey don’t go together.

Fish and rice go together. Fish does not go with potatoes or pasta. Flat chicken and green noodles. Only a classic in our home, I’m sure. It’s just breaded chicken breasts and thin spaghetti with pesto. But the chicken breasts must be thin and the noodles must be thin, also. The calorie count is not thin. Corned beef hash with English muffins and blackberry jam. The hash must be from a can. And you must fry it with onions until it is crispy. The jam can be seedless or not. That’s where King Daddy and I part ways. He likes the seeds.

A wedge salad demands blue cheese dressing and bacon. Diet Coke must be present with hamburgers and French fries. Iced tea does not go with hamburgers or French fries. Iced tea does, however, go with chicken salad. I don’t know why.

So what foods “go together” for you? What are your odd and quaint combinations? I hope you disagree with me. It’s always more fun when you do.

 

Fried apples
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Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 4 tart apples, such as Honey Crisp or Granny Smith
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions
  1. Core and cut the apple into wedges. As you cut the apples, put them in a bowl with the lemon juice to keep them from discoloring.
  2. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar and cinnamon. Cook until the apples soften, about 10 minutes.

 

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We might starve

weather map

The Peoples of the South are, of course, petrified. As you can see from this weather map of tomorrow’s weather, there are “minus” signs. The Peoples of the South do not understand. What is a minus? And there are dangerous arrows around Memphis pointing directly in my direction. What are those arrows? I do not know, yet I am very afraid.

So I went to stock up at my beloved Publix and I could see that other Peoples of the South had seen the same map. We understand these life and death situations better than most. A few weeks ago we had flurries. I don’t even want to talk about it.

Storm 1As you can see, there are exactly three buggies at the Publix where there are usually about 180. Yes, that means others sense the impending disaster. And they’re all inside. I think I hear screaming.

Storm 2It’s just as I feared. The Peoples of the South are most fearful of running out of milk and bread during a disaster. The woman next to me fainted when she realized there was no 2 percent left. Fortunately, the paramedics revived her and assured her she could get by on skim until the thaw.Storm 5

Eggs. The symbol of life. And death. Death by starvation. I take the last carton, even though I already have two in my refrigerator. Perhaps I will attempt to whip up a frittata as my frigid hands grasp the cold handle of a cast iron skillet never to be warmed again because the power is now off and my life is ebbing away. Oh, the iron. Or irony.

Storm 4But I must live on for King Daddy, for he would surely starve without me. So I load my buggy with staples such as cornbread mix, chili fixin’s, bacon, lingonberry preserves, Smokehouse Almonds and the latest issue of People magazine. As I said, the Peoples of the South have our priorities straight. As I huddle under a blanket with my dying flashlight, I will at least dimly perceive the brilliance of Kim Kardashian’s make-up tips.

 

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International day with Noah

How many of these foods do you recognize?

How many of these foods do you recognize?

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

Which is how Noah and I visited six countries in less than two hours without ever leaving Nashville.

Noah’s in town for the weekend and he wanted to go to the Farmer’s Market for some of West Wind Farms’ super yummy sausage. That boy’s a smart one. He may shop the “manager’s special” in the meat case at the Kroger in Knoxville, but he knows quality and when The Bank is in close proximity he will not hesitate to make a withdrawal on his own behalf. The Bank goes along with this cheerfully. Noah wants to know where his food comes from. That works 100 percent of the time at the Farmer’s Market.

But he also wants to know where other people’s food comes from, as in people from other countries and cultures. Which led to our little thing that I will remember as a big thing.

“You want to go to the Russian store?” I ask as we’re pulling out of the market. Noah has taken Russian three years at the University of Tennessee and he adores Russian food. I cannot tell you how happy I am that there’s a Russian store in Nashville. We head down the interstate to Aleksey’s Market in Berry Hill. Russian butter, cheese, rye bread, pelmeni (sort of like tortellini) and birch juice (a traditional Russian soft drink) go into the basket. We are happy.

“Hey, you know the Mexican place I get chorizo is pretty close,” I say as we load our stash into the car. “You want to head over there?” Of course, he does.

Five minutes later we are walking into the Super Mercado at La Hacienda. LaHa, as it’s known around here, was one of the first authentic Mexican restaurants in Nashville and the grocery next door carries all the good stuff.  Chorizo, an uncooked loose sausage with a spectacular red chile flavor, has seen many a pizza at the Mayhew homestead and has also found its way wrapped into tortillas mixed with scrambled eggs. Mexican melting cheese is a modern (or maybe not so modern) miracle. We buy both.

Bun Thit Heo Quay

Bun Thit Heo Quay

“Have you ever had a Banh Mi?” I ask Noah. “You know, the Asian grocery store is just down the street. And on the weekends, they have special Vietnamese meals, too.” He has never had a Banh Mi, which is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich with roasted pork and pickled vegetables on crunchy French rolls. Another two minutes and we are walking into the wondrous InterAsian Market. One Banh Mi, please, and a container of Bun Thit Heo Quay (crispy roast pork with fresh shrimp over a bed of rice noodles with fresh herbs, peanuts and a spicy sauce).

I am very proud of the boy. He’s gone up and down every aisle at every market we’ve been to, marveling at the diversity of ingredients and sad that he doesn’t know what to do with most of them. Nor do I. But I love the opportunity to learn.

“Well, Noah , if you want to see the Mac Daddy of international markets we need to make one more stop,” I tell him. A few minutes later we pull into the K&S World Market, which has no website and why should it? Everyone in the international community shops there already. From exotic produce to meats hoof to tail to fish so fresh they’re still swimming in tanks, K&S has everything. Since Noah can’t figure out how to transport a live fish from Nashville to Knoxville, he settles on some Pocky (chocolate-covered biscuit sticks from Thailand) and Cholula hot sauce from Mexico.

OK, so I asked at the beginning of this post how many products you recognized. Here are the answers:

How many of these foods do you recognize?

From left to right, rye bread (Russia), Rossiyskiy cheese (Russia), Russian butter, birch juice (Russia), Pocky (Thailand), Kirin beer (Japan), chorizo (Mexico), Bun Thit Heo Quay (Vietnamese), Banh Mi (Vietnamese), pelmeni (Russia), West Wind Farms sausage (America), Kale (America) and Mexican melting cheese.

Enjoy the little things. And get out of your comfort zone. There’s a world of flavor out there, folks. And sometimes you don’t even have to leave home to taste it.

 

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The Wedge

Wedge salad

King Daddy and I were having a discussion about 1950s food the other day. Who didn’t love the “salad” with a pear half, cottage cheese plopped in the middle and shredded Cheddar cheese dusting the top? Or Chicken A La King, which has actually been around since the turn of the last century but reached its zenith, on toast points, in the ’50s. Or the Wedge. My beloved Wedge.

Behold the iceberg lettuce, kicked to the curb in the last two decades as being bland and not very nutritional. There was no mesclun salad mix when Ike was president. Sissy food, I’m sure he might have thought. You practically have to chase the stuff around the plate just to get a forkful. Flimsy. And if you dress it too soon, it just wilts under the slightest pressure. Who needs that.

Iceberg is sturdy and crunchy and a wedge of it is the perfect platform for a lovely blue cheese dressing, crispy bacon and croutons. You know you want the Wedge right now, along with a Pat Boone record and a couple of I Love Lucy episodes on DVD. There’s a reason it’s showing up on chef’s menus all over the country today. It was good then and it’s good now.

The Wedge deserves only the best blue cheese dressing, and I have a quibble with the bottled kind.  It’s too sweet. And it’s so easy to make you’re own without having to deal with all the processed crud in bottled salad dressing.

So go forth and create the Wedge. Back to the Future.

Blue Cheese Dressing
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Prep time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup blue cheese crumbles (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
  1. Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, blue cheese crumbles, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.
  2. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

 

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