Pesto at the Point!

We are at the Cambridge house this weekend. Prepping and planning and getting her ready for sale. It’s been a great house with a lot of memories. I am sure our next home will be just as memorable. Although, this one will be difficult to beat.

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We built some garden planters at the back of the shed a couple years ago. We haven’t really used them for the past two years. Anyway, we came home one weekend to find a basil plant under all the weeds. How lucky am I? I plant basil every year and love to cook with it. Somehow the wind or a bird was kind enough to take a seed to one of the beds. It is huge and healthy plant; it appears happy there.

Here on the shore it’s another steamy, hot, unbearable, day. There is no relief outside, the pool water is like a bath. So what’s a girl to do? I decided to stay in the kitchen today and cook. That basil plant was screaming pesto. This recipe calls for 5 cups of packed basil leaves. That’s a lot of basil! Even after taking all of that from the garden there is still a ton left. It needed a good prune to continue to grow and get bushy. Mission accomplished on both fronts.

Pesto is such a versatile sauce. It’s very easy to make; using the food processor makes quick work of it. I use both pignola or pine nuts, and walnuts in mine. I have used all walnuts or all pine nuts and the results are just as good. This recipe also calls for good olive oil and a good cheese. I love aged parmeggiano / reggiano. It’s a little pricey but the taste is outstanding. No sense in making a tasteless sauce.

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Pesto is good on pasta, pizza, chicken, or tomato salad, or other vegies. I love making paninis with fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, and pesto. You can also freeze this sauce. I like to put it in small 2 oz containers, cover it with a thin film of oil and put the containers in the freezer in a freezer bag. It’s a great way to have the fresh taste of basil all year long. It brings summer into your kitchen even in the coldest months. 

PESTO

  • Servings: Approx 2 Cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 C, heaping pine nuts (pignola), toasted
  • 1/4 C, heaping walnuts, toasted
  • 9 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 5 C, fresh basil leaves, packed tightly
  • 1 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 t fresh ground pepper
  • 1 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1 1/4 C freshly grated, Parmigianno / Reggiano 

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Toast the nuts in a dry pan, until golden and slightly browned.
  2. Put the toasted nuts, and chopped garlic in the food processor and process 10-12 seconds.
  3. Add the basil leaves,  salt, and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil through the feed tube and continue to process until all the ingredients are pureed.
  4. Add the parm/reg and puree til com well combined.
  5. Use right away or store in the refrigerator with a thin film of oil on top.
  6. If freezing put in small single containers, again put a thin film of oil on top. Put containers in freezer bags. 

Til next time,

Ciao

Viki D

MARINATED PORK LOIN

Have you ever thought of someone from the past? Maybe wondered where they were or what became of them? If your honest, your answer is yes. How quick did that thought materialize or become reality? Did you reach out or did you ignore it? Does it frighten you or does it make you happy?

I love when it happens! It’s like a gift from God and the universe. I mean think about it….it’s a big lost and found out there. As we mature we lose loved ones, friends move away, we just lose touch. It’s the “finds” that make us realize how fortunate we truly are.

I had a “find” this week! We lived in the same town, went to the same school. In fact, I worked, as a teenager, for him and his wife. It was a little boutique that was way ahead of its time. I have fond memories of those days, and what fun it was. I am happy to report he is doing extremely well. So thanks to God and the universe for sliding another one my way.

My friend informed me he loves to cook for his family; I didn’t see that one coming. Naturally, I had to tell him about my blog…haha. I mentioned my Rustic Pizza Dough recipe and he said, “I know, I had my staff print your recipes out”. On a scale of 1 -10 on the mood elevator, I’m going with a 20. It was an awesome moment and a great way to end the week. 

RUSTIC PIZZA DOUGH (thin crust)

Now I am even more inspired to bring the blog up to speed. However, did I mention he is a novelist? Four books to be exact; it’s just a little intimidating to say the least. So HP, let me know how I’m doing, constructive criticism is always welcome. This one is for you, thanks for the inspiration to get back to it.

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I can’t take full credit for this one; it originates from Barefoot Contessa. I tweaked it to my liking. This recipe is easy and great on the grill. Please use fresh herbs, dried just won’t cut it here.  If you are lucky enough to have leftovers it makes great sandwiches. Use a good, thick, crusty bread with roasted red peppers, basil, and good mayo.

MARINATED PORK LOIN

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • Zest of one lemon
  • 5-6 lemons, fresh squeezed (include the one you zested
  • 1/2 C Olive oil
  • 6 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 T fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 1/2 T fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 10 Large basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 t Dijon mustard
  • 2 t Kosher salt
  • 2 or 3 pork tenderloins, approximately 3 lbs
  • Fresh ground pepper, approx 2 t

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all of the above ingredients in a large ziploc bag. Marinate for at least 3-4 hours but preferably overnight.

Cook on the grill until meat registers 137-140 on a meat thermometer. Remove and place on a platter and tent tightly with foil for approximately 20 minutes. Carve to the thickness of your choice.

Til next time,

Ciao

 

 

VIK’S CORNBREAD AND PIMENTO CHEESE SAMMIES

Pimento cheese and cornbread are a traditional, Southern staple.  Over the years I have had my share. I have liked some more than others, and made it a mission to come up with my own version. I have been making both of these recipes for some time.

My original cornbread recipe uses a half cup of sugar and is made in a 4×4 pan or into muffins. While I love sweet, cake like, cornbread, this wasn’t the place for it. I did omit some of the sugar in this cornbread because it really doesn’t need to be sweet.

This pimento cheese spread has a bit of a kick; courtesy of Franks Hot Sauce. If you don’t want the kick, omit it.  I’ve tried different combinations of cheeses; I always come back to extra sharp cheese. The sharper, the better for my taste. The cheese can be kept on it’s own in the fridge for up to a week.

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Vik's Homemade Cornbread & Pimento Cheese Sammies

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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FOR THE CORNBREAD

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 ¼ C all purpose flour
• ¾ C yellow cornmeal
• ¼ C sugar
• 2 tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp kosher salt
• 1 C skim milk or buttermilk (I love the tang of buttermilk)
• ¼ C vegetable oil
• 2 eggs, beaten

DIRECTIONS:
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees, place baking rack in the middle of the oven.
2. Grease an 8×8 inch glass baking dish.
3. Combine all the dry ingredients and whisk with a wire whisk.
4. Combine the milk, oil, beaten egg, add to the dry ingredients and mix together until just moistened.
5. Pour into the prepared pan.
6. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check for doneness halfway through the cooking time. Ovens will vary.
7. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

FOR THE PIMENTO CHEESE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 oz softened, cream cheese (I use 1/3 less fat)
  • 1/4 C mayonnaise
  • 1/4 C miracle whip (you can use all mayo if you prefer)
  • 2 t Franks hot sauce or hot sauce of choice
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t dry mustard powder
  • 1/4 t paprika
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 oz. diced and roasted, red pepper (also known as pimento)
  • 2 C shredded, extra sharp cheese

DIRECTIONS:
1. Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and hot sauce, in the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment. Cream until smooth.
2. Add the garlic, paprika, onion, salt, and mustard powders and combine until thoroughly mixed.
3. Fold in the shredded cheddar and diced roasted red pepper, gently, with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until combined.
4. Remove and put in a sealed container.

ASSEMBLY:
1. Cut the cornbread into 8 equal portions, remove from the pan and slice in half. **Also cute if you cut into rounds with a cookie cutter. (don’t throw away the leftovers, cube them and put them in the freezer to use later for croutons)
2. Put the desired amount of pimento cheese on each.
3. They can be wrapped separately in parchment or put in a large lidded container.
**Keep on ice if taking on a picnic since there is mayonnaise in there.

NOTE: These are crazy good served with fried chicken and potato salad and/or coleslaw. Also good on their own with a green salad. It’s also good on beef, chicken, or turkey sandwiches. If you really want to kick it up……….grill these sandwiches as you would any grilled cheese. Truth is….you could just eat it with a spoon and be very happy.

Happy summer y’all. Have fun, stay cool, be safe!

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

SOFT SHELL CRABS

Having grown up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland nothing screams summer to me more than crabs. My father worked on the water for a living. As a child I spent most of my summers working with him on his boat. He used scrapes that he dragged behind his boat with a net on it. After a few drags, he hand pulled the scrapes up, and emptied the contents into a box attatched to the washboard. It was my job to go through the treasures and pick the legal crabs and sort them. They were sorted by male, female, and size. I used to find all sorts of treasures back then. Seahorses, blow fish, and all sorts of glass and other treasures. It was always a surprise to see what the river sent back to us.

My personal favorite way to eat crabs is frying soft shell crabs. A soft shell is a crab that has molted or shed it’s shell. They are removed from the water as soon as they molt to prevent their shell from hardening. These days, a lot of waterman use floats to manage this process. While these delicate crustaceans are soft, their shell is edible. There is some cleaning involved but a good pair of scissors usually makes quick work of it. If you have never cleaned a crab ask someone to show you or have the seller clean them for you.

Soft Crabs, cleaned and ready to be seasoned.

I use a very simple mixture to coat the crabs in. It’s what I was taught and they are pretty tasty. I have been using my air fryer to cook them but they can also be sauteed in a skillet; cast iron is the best.

Seasoned soft crabs ready to fry.

A simple mixture of flour, Old Bay, grated nutmeg, and salt and pepper are the entire ingredients. I use a Ziploc bag to put the mixture in and coat the crabs. It really is quite easy and also helps with clean up. I have listed the recipe with exact measurements but it really isn’t rocket science.

We like them on a good roll with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. If and when you get the chance, have a soft crab. You may never want crab any other way.

Soft Crabs

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 2 T Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/4 t fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1 t Kosher salt
  • 1/2 t fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Put all of the above ingredients into a Ziploc bag and shake to mix.
  2. Rinse the crab under cool water and add to the bag and gently shake to coat. Try to avoid losing any legs or the claws.
  3. Set on a plate after coating.

In a fry pan: add 1/2 stick butter to the pan and enough vegetable oil to shallow fry. Cook on both sides until nicely browned. Season with additional salt when removed. Place on a plate with paper towels to drain and serve hot.

In an Air fryer. Pre-heat the air fryer to 380 degrees. Use vegetable spray and spray the bottom of your fryer pan. Additionally spray your soft crabs on both sides. I like to cook them top side first. Air fry them at 380 for 6 minutes and flip them over and continue to air fry for another 6 minutes. Remove and place on a plate and serve hot.

NOTE: you can use an egg wash if you prefer instead of water to moisten the crab prior to coating. One egg beaten with a tablespoon of water. Dip the crab and then add to the coating mixture to coat the crab.

Until next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

Trifle

Easy Trifle using store bought Angel Food cake.



It’s a strange time we are living in at the moment. We have been trying to keep things as normal as possible. It’s difficult to do when being asked to wear a mask and socially distance. Still, life goes on as it always does.

We have been at our place in Ocean City, MD. Normally crowds would be swarming the beaches and restaurants. Bars would be full to capacity, with great music and bands. There were still beach goers. There were still people on the boardwalk. There was curbside take out for meals. The quiet was evident and eerie.

We had friends over for a cookout. Grilled chicken and scallops were the main event. Nothing better than food cooked on a charcoal grill. We had some salads as sides. I decided to make a trifle for dessert.

I’ve been making trifles for a while now. They are easy to make. You can make them with any ingredients you like. They feed a lot of people. I attempt to keep mine on the light side but look for good, fresh, ingredients. I use a store bought Angel Food cake to make it even easier. Again, you could use pound cake and you can certainly make your own. But here’s the question. Why would you?

Layers and Toasting Almonds

Layer cake, pudding, fruit, cool whip and top with toasted almonds and a fruit garnish.

My trifle yesterday consisted of ripe, red strawberries that were sliced. I used juicy, plump blueberries and also banana that was sliced. I cubed my store bought Angel Food cake. A box of instant sugar free, fat free vanilla pudding and Lite Cool Whip pulled everything together. Toasted almond slivers crowned the top to add some crunch and texture. It was an awesome, light, and tasty end to a great meal.

Here are the directions. Keep in mind, you can use any flavor pudding, any type of fruit. Use your imagination and make it yours. But definitely make it! I haven’t met anybody yet that doesn’t like it.

TRIFLE

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 store bought Angle Food cake
  • 1 pint of blueberries, washed and dried
  • 2 bananas, sliced into rounds
  • 1 quart of strawberries, washed and sliced
  • 1 large box of instant pudding, make according to directions and allow it to sit to thicken (I use sugar free, fat free) vanilla or lemon work very well
  • 1 large tub of Cool Whip (I use lite)
  • 1 small package of sliced almonds, toasted (about 1/4 cup)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make the pudding and let stand to firm up.
  2. Clean and slice the bananas and strawberries.
  3. Wash the blueberries and dry them.
  4. Slice the Angel Food cake into cubes, approx 1.5 inches
  5. Toast the almonds by placing them into a dry skillet over medium heat. Toss them frequently to prevent burning. When you can smell them and they are slightly browned and golden they are done.
  6. The Cool Whip, should be refrigerated the night before to thaw.
  7. Assemble all of your ingredients in front of you.
  8. Use a large glass bowl or a footed trifle bowl.
  9. Beggining with Angel food cake, put one third in the bottom of the bowl, next add 1/3 of the pudding, add 1/3 of the fruit and then 1/3 of the Cool Whip.
  10. Repeat this step two more times. Top with a few pieces of fruit and all of the toasted almonds. Chill for at least 1 hour, can be made 4-5 hours ahead.

Until next time,

Ciao, xoxo

Viki D

Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Hi folks! I hope everyone is doing okay! Honestly, I am missing my family and friends. I miss human contact…..who knew? I never realized just how much I thrived on human interaction. Guess I wouldn’t be very good on an island alone. I don’t think “Wilson” would be enough to sustain me.

I love to cook but I miss going out to dine. Nothing like sharing a good bottle of wine, or two, with family and friends. We go to certain restaurants because we like certain dishes. Some dishes I like so well that I will come home and re-create them.

One of our favorite places serves this particular salad. Actually, my daughter tried it first. All she had to say was, “it’s so light, lemony, and fresh”. I was sold and ordered it on our next visit. Her description was perfect. When we go there, this is usually what I order.

Crisp, slightly bitter arugula, with shards of thinly sliced fennel. Also with sweet, grape tomatoes that have been halved. Topped with creamy, fresh goat cheese. The salad is lightly dressed and tossed in the vinaigrette. The restaurant always serves a paillard of chicken breast on the side. Basically a flattened chicken breast that is seasoned with salt and pepper. It is then shallow fried in oil on both sides. It’s fantastic and there is nothing more to say!

The vinaigrette, I have discovered, goes well on a variety of salads. So when life gives you lemons, make this vinaigrette. You might want to grab a bottle of buttery Chardonnay to go with it. I hope you enjoy it!

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 Tbsp white or champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp creamy Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of fresh garlic, grated
  • 1 Tbsp of honey, add more or less to your taste
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Add the first 5 ingredients to a mixing bowl.
  2. With a wire whisk, slowly drizzle the olive oil continuously whisking and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes creamy in appearance.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator in a jar.

Note: I love grey sea salt and fresh ground pepper here. Kosher salt also works well.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D