Category Archives: seafood

Eating my way through Natchez

Peoples of the South, I am stuffed. I do not need to eat another morsel for at least three weeks. After I have my seafood gumbo tonight. Not one more crumb. Except the peanut butter pie I’m having tomorrow at Weidmanns in Meridian.

So I thought I’d just catch you up on eating my way through Natchez. Let’s start with Mammy’s Cupboard, renowned for its sandwiches on homemade bread and its pies.

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Here’s my chicken salad sandwich with vegetable beef soup and potato salad at Mammy’s. They bake the bread every morning. The locals mix the potato salad into the soup. I did not.

 

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And the coconut cream pie. Yes. That is all.

The next day we had a catered lunch at Brandon Hall, which is a magnificent antebellum home off the Natchez Parkway. Hold on to your hats.

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We had the tomato bisque soup. And the chicken salad, shrimp salad and tossed salad with blue cheese, pecans and balsamic dressing. And the croissants. And the bread pudding, lemon squares and brownie bites. I had seconds. I am ashamed.

I skipped the evening entertainment, but I had smuggled a couple of mini buttermilk biscuits and sausage patties upstairs from breakfast. They were quite delicious with imitation grape jelly. By the way, the Grand Hotel has a spectacular complementary breakfast. Some of the best grits I’ve had. If I could have figured out a way to get them upstairs in a napkin, I would have.

On to today. How about a little Brandy Milk Punch at historic Linden Hall to prime the pump?

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In a silver cup, naturally. I have never had Brandy Milk Punch, which is kind of like a boozy vanilla milkshake. I rather liked it.  I had two servings. I would have had a third but I didn’t want to trip getting on the bus.

Lunch was at Routhland, another magnificent antebellum home that is privately owned. Yes, once again we crashed somebody’s private residence for a lunch from famed Natchez caterer Sissy Eidt.

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Assorted finger sandwiches, pasta salad, fruit salad and deviled eggs with:

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Chess squares and brownies. I had seconds and bought Sissy’s book – Ladies’s Legacies in Natchez, Mississippi – later in the day just for the recipes she serves at prestigious events and parties.

So, Peoples of the South, I am finding Natchez much to my liking. The people are unfailingly hospitable, the city is utterly charming and the food is irresistable. It’s a pity we have to leave tomorrow. After the seafood gumbo.

 

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Planked halibut with citrus herb sauce

Halibut 1

Who knew that buying a piece of fish would cost more than a steak? Has anyone else gotten sticker shock at the fish counter?

I looked into this because I can remember a time when most fish were affordable. And there are a few real reasons that unless you can catch your own, you’ll pay top dollar (and this is from The Economist if you’re interested in the whole article). First, more people in China are eating fish and, as we all know, there are a lot of people in China. High oil prices also have something to do with the rising cost of fish. And, sadly, overfishing of wild-caught varieties of fish is also a culprit. If you want to buy fish responsibly, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

Happily for me, halibut is on the “good choice” list. But I did weep quietly as I paid almost $20 for two filets. Check out my recipe for planked halibut with citrus herb sauce at Char-Broil LIVE. And if halibut isn’t in your budget, this recipe also works well with tilapia (also a good choice on the Seafood Watch).

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Grilled Salmon with Yogurt Dill Sauce

Salmon with Yogurt Dill SauceThe sad fact of the matter is that I have King Daddy on a diet. At his request. And, yes, he gave me permission to write about this.

I will tell you right up front that this is partly my fault. King Daddy doesn’t have a clue about calories and fat. He just eats what I put on his plate. And I have been a bad girl lately. When I make chicken fried steak and cream gravy I just think, “I’ll have a teaspoon of this and give the rest to Mark.” Ditto the mashed potatoes with butter and sour cream. And he’s so appreciative. Who doesn’t like a little positive reinforcement once in awhile?

King Daddy enjoying supperI mean, how could you deny this man? I think he’s having a smothered pork chop here. Bad Mommy.

But, the old belt is sinking slightly southward and, thank God, King Daddy caught it in time while he can still see his toes. So we are having salads for lunch ( I must inform him gently that if he puts the entire packet of ranch dressing on the salad it entirely negates the health benefits) and he is only allowed one plate that I fix for him at supper (no seconds). And I’ve taken away his candy. He is sadly reduced to having fruit for dessert.

Here’s a painless way to eat healthy – grilled salmon with a yogurt dill sauce. I grill my salmon in a cast iron skillet set aside specifically for fish (yes, cast iron absorbs flavors and you really need a separate pan for fish). I completely realize I am cheating by “grilling” fish in a cast iron pan, but you can get the grill screaming hot, add the fish to the pan, not worry about it sticking to the grates and you don’t stink up the house and set off the smoke alarm.

For the salmon, I just preheat the grill to high with the cast iron skillet on it. Then I coat the salmon filets in my favorite rub of the moment (this time it was rub from The Rendezvous in Memphis), spray the fish with spray oil and throw it in the pan. About 4 minutes a side.

I may or may not have mentioned to King Daddy that the sauce was made with yogurt instead of sour cream. Baby steps.

Yogurt Dill Sauce
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 7 ounces (one container) of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • Zest from ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  2. Chill for 15 minutes before serving.

 

 

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Seared scallops

Fear of food. Fear of expensive food ruined in a pan. My daughter-in-law, Tammy, was feeling the fear in January when we had our Mayhew/Harbin/Mayhew family reunion at the cabin. Tammy is now a world traveler, thanks to her job and she’d had scallops at some fancy restaurant in the middle of somewhere I can’t remember. She wanted to make them. But Tammy can’t cook. Bless her heart.

So we go to the Food City looking for scallops. I am very skeptical. Sevierville is not known for it’s seafood, unless you count fried catfish. But the Food City had them and they were the good kind – dry scallops.

A quick lesson on scallops. When you see them in the seafood case, they’re often labeled “wet” and “dry.” You want dry. The wet scallops have been treated with a solution to keep them fresh. That solution will prevent the scallops from browning in the pan and if your scallops don’t brown, then you’ve just blown $18 a pound and you’ll cry.

So we took them home and Tammy became fearful. I told her, “Girl, there is nothing more simple than cooking a scallop. It’s easier than making Bagel Bites in the oven.” Tammy is known for her Bagel Bites. “All you do is get the pan screaming hot, add a mix of butter and vegetable oil (to keep the butter from burning), salt and pepper them, and throw them in. A minute or two a side. That’s it.”

Seared ScallopsOkay. These are not Tammy’s scallops. I did not have the proper photographic equipment to shoot them in the 17-year-old pan at the cabin. But hers looked very much like this.

The only thing I add is a squeeze of lemon juice at the end. Really, if you have a beautiful ingredient like a scallop why muck it up with anything else? It would be like putting Thousand Island Dressing on a lobster tail.

So no recipe. Just the procedure: Dry scallops, butter and oil, salt and pepper, lemon juice. Hot, hot pan.

Smoke alarm. Did I mention you might set off the smoke alarm? Yes, you might.

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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
Author: 
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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Filed under beef, breads, breakfast, casseroles, cheese, chicken, pasta, salads, seafood

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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Filed under appetizers, beef, breads, breakfast, casseroles, cheese, chicken, dips, eggs, lamb, pasta, pizza, pork, salads, sauces, seafood, sides, snacks, sweets, tea sandwiches, turkey, veggies

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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Grilled tilapia with pineapple watermelon salsa

Talapia with Grilled Pineapple Watermelon SalsaGrilling. It’s my happy place. Fan’s going on the deck. I can hear someone mowing their lawn down the street. A little glass of wine. And for reasons I am not going to question, a balmy 82 degrees while our brethren in the West are sweating it out at temperatures over 100 degrees. I actually read about a man who was excited to go to Death Valley because it’s supposed to be 130 degrees there today. Really? I would so be running for the darkest, coldest bar I could find.

But I digress. The other great thing about grilling is that it’s hard to make anything that isn’t healthy. I am a great see-sawer when it comes to healthy. Most of the time I try. And then I have to belly up at the pizza bar at Old Chicago Pizza or give in to King Daddy’s pleas to make sausage gravy and biscuits.

But redemption is a beautiful piece of fish and grilled fruit salsa. Everything to love. Nothing to feel guilty about. Except the peanut butter cup cookies for dessert. Oops.

Grilled tilapia with pineapple watermelon salsa
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Grilled fish and a fruit salsa are summertime play pals.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups pineapple chunks
  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • ⅓ cup red onion, diced
  • ⅓ cup yellow pepper, diced
  • ½ Serrano pepper, seeds and veins removed, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 tilapia filets
  • Your favorite BBQ rub
Instructions
  1. Preheat the grill to high. Skewer the pineapple and watermelon chunks (if you’re using wooden skewers, soak them for 30 minutes in water before using).
  2. Grill the fruit until it has nice char marks on all sides. Remove and cool. Chop the fruit into large pieces and combine with the onion, yellow pepper, Serrano pepper, lime juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and reserve.
  3. Heat a cast iron skillet on the grill. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Season the fish with the BBQ rub and sauté on one side for 3-4 minutes. Flip and continue grilling for another 2 minutes, depending on the size of the filets. When fish is opaque, it’s done.
  4. Serve the tilapia filets with the salsa.
Notes
Serrano chiles vary wildly in their heat level. Give a tiny bit a taste and if it's very hot, reduce the amount you add to the salsa.

 

 

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Bacon, arugula and shrimp salad – buy the book

Arugula, bacon and shrimp salad

I am a sucker for a community cookbook. Those are the cookbooks written by your grandmothers, aunts, garden club members and church ladies. I love them because I know all those women are bringing their A game. The directions may be a little spotty – after all, many of these women have never actually written down their best recipes before. And there may be ingredients that some food snobs find offensive. Oh, you know where I’m going here. Velveeta, Rotel Tomatoes, lots of cream cheese and the occasional use of Spam. Bring it. Bring it all.

So, since I can not resist a community cookbook, I was an easy mark for Ralph Cole, the proprietor of West Wind Farms (buy the sausage!) and the head of the Franklin Farmer’s Market board. “Hey, have you seen our new cookbook?” he asked as I was narrowing my choices down to maple bratwurst or chipotle sausage. “It’s right across the way. Have a look.”

Franklin Farmer's Market CookbookDang it. I have a stack of cookbooks of which I’ve barely cracked the covers and now I have another one. At least this one will benefit the Franklin Farmer’s Market, which I believe is the single greatest farmer’s market on the planet or at least in Middle Tennessee (no, not the Nashville Farmer’s Market – that is an outdoor grocery store where you can procure those famous native Tennessee crops, bananas and lemons). The book is divided into the growing seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter. And, of course, you’d be embarrassed to cook out of the wrong season since that would mean you had to buy your ingredients at the grocery store where there are no seasons.

So, it being spring at the time of my purchase, I cooked the very first recipe in the book – a bacon, arugula and shrimp salad. Very unusual and healthy dressing and super yummy with the bacon (which is organic if you buy it from an organic producer even though it costs $30 a strip (kidding…kind of).

So. Buy the book: “Eating in Season.” It’s on sale at the Franklin Farmer’s Market every Saturday. Fifteen bucks plus tax. Support the Franklin Farmer’s Market. Don’t make me come after you.

Bacon, arugula and shrimp salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Contemporary
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
A refreshing salad with the spicy arugula playing nicely with the salty bacon and sweet shrimp
Ingredients
Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons plain, low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Salad
  • 2 slices center-cut bacon
  • 1½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 cups arugula or a mixture of arugula and other spring lettuces
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Combine yogurt, vinegar, oil and pepper in a small bowl, stirring well to make dressing and set aside.
  2. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in the pan. Crumble bacon and set aside. Add shrimp to the drippings in the pan and saute 5 minutes or just until the shrimp are pink. Do not overcook the shrimp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a large bowl. Add arugula and halved cherry tomatoes. Toss gently.
  3. Divide salad mixture among four plates; sprinkle crumbled bacon evenly over the salads and drizzle the dressing over the top.
Notes
I seasoned the shrimp with some BBQ rub before sauteing in the pan.

 

 

 

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Filed under pork, salads, seafood

I did not cheat. I improvised.

Danielle, Jane, myself, Curt, Scott, Julie, David and Christo with our finished dishes.

Danielle, Jane, myself, Curt, Scott, Julie, David and Christo with our finished dishes.

I would not call it cheating. I just have to say that from the outset. I would call it creative use of ingredients not on the “approved” list but available to all. If they’d only thought of it. But only I did. That is my badge of honor and I will wear it proudly.

We are, all of us, fast friends. The Char-Broil All Star bloggers started as a group of strangers from all over the country and from different walks of life. But we are now a solid band of culinary nerds on parade. Until the grilling competition. Then we become Bobby Flay versus Morimoto in our own delusional version of Kitchen Stadium.

Char-Broil gets all of its bloggers together every year in some unimaginably luxurious setting. We’re pretty stoked about that. After meetings and demonstrations and what-not we get to the meat of the matter. A Chopped-style grilling competition. Winners get bragging rights for an entire year. This year, in Atlantic Beach, Florida, the focus was on seafood. We got a red snapper fillet, some calamari and head-on shrimp. And four ingredients we had to use: a blood orange, sun-dried tomatoes, collard greens and…ta da!…chocolate. There were additional ingredients: lemons, parsley, olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper.

I am shocked that anyone noticed I had a giant log of butter at my station. Honestly, doesn't everyone have better things to do?

I am shocked that anyone noticed I had a giant log of butter at my station. Honestly, doesn’t everyone have better things to do?

So why would you not want to make a lovely blood orange juice and butter sauce to go over your grilled red snapper? What? You have no butter? Why would you not ask Sheila, my new best friend and the bartender, to procure a little butter from the kitchen? If only it had not come in a giant log. If only I had been able to conceal the butter under a napkin. If only, when Mary from Char-Broil asked what the giant log of butter was, I would have said, “My medicine. I can’t be without it, even for a second.”

For the record, Christo Gonzales used white wine. White wine was not on the approved list. Did anyone say a single solitary word to him about it? Did anyone actually notice that he used it since he was drinking heavily at the time and it could have just been his drink? It’s not as hard to conceal a few wee drops of wine as it is an entire foot-long log of butter.

My teammate, Curt McAdams of livefire, was a trooper. He never even questioned my easily-detected deception. And he didn’t even wince when I took the bold step of adding the chocolate to the collards, which turned out to be a triumph.

Curt took the award-winning photo of our dish. Yes, like children at the end of a Little League season, we all won a category. Danielle and Jane won the big prize, though, for a very fetching entry that involved stuffing seafood into shells. Hey, wait a minute. Shells. Were they on the approved list? Curt and I may have to appeal this to the International Char-Broil Court of Unfair and Arbitrary Judging. I’ll look up the address in a minute.

Finished dish Curt and Catherine

 Livefire Photography, copyright 2013

 

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Filed under seafood, sides, Uncategorized