Welcome to my Food Journey

Curious Southern Cook on a journey to learn...and to create exceptional dining experiences. I love entertaining and preparing food for loved ones & friends and sharing those experiences with others. My wish is that you will be fed too. Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Summer Giardiniera


Summer Giardiniera
"You can savor the goodness of summer's bounty all year long."
In making this recipe, most of your time is spent in prepping the vegetables.
I actually started washing, slicing and chopping the evening before on a weeknight and completed the canning the next evening.  Just refrigerate after prepping until ready to can.  It just takes a little planning and a couple of free evenings or a weekend day to have the goodness of summertime all year.  Last Friday, we had a few friends over to start celebrating the holiday weekend.  I opened the first jar of Summer Giardiniera and used it to make a crostini appetizer, yum!  Use your imagination, the possibilities are endless. 

Veggies prepped and ready to mix 

Tip: Use a large roasting pan to mix
veggies in so that they are evenly distributed
before packing into the jars

Sterilized jars with garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns
and oregano ready to be packed with veggies

Unless you have multiple canning vessels,
you will need to process in batches
Let the Giardiniera sit for at least a couple of weeks
so that the flavor can develop 
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
5 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped medium
9 carrots, peeled...make sticks then chop medium
1 bundle asparagus, separate woody stem from tender part, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 pound frozen pearl onions
3 banana peppers, seeded then chopped medium
2 yellow onions, chopped medium
3 cups green olives, rough chop
garlic - 4 cloves per jar 
bay leaves - 1 per jar
peppercorns - 1/2 teaspoon per jar
2 sprigs oregano per jar
16 teaspoons kosher salt
8 cups vinegar
8 cups water
Olive Oil - 1 tablespoon per jar
Sterilize 12 pint jars and lids
Wash and prepare vegetables as instucted above
Place bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic and oregano in jars
Pack vegetables in jars to within 1 inch of rim
Heat together vinegar, water and kosher salt just til boiling
Pour vinegar solution over vegetables to within 1/2 inch of rim
Add olive oil to each jar
Wipe off rims, screw on lids
Process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes
Let the jars rest undisturbed for 2 weeks for the flavor to develop.  Refrigerate unused portions of opened jars for up to 1 week.  Store jars in a cool dark place and consume within a year.
For more information about food safety and canning, please refer to the link below:
1) Try your Summer Giardiniera on Crostini with provolone cheese and salami
2) ...on your favorite sandwich
3) ...or salad
4) If you need more vinegar solution the base recipe is 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pear Salsa

A few days ago, I was the recipient of a generous offering
of pears from my parents... who had decided that they didn't
have time to put them up this year. 
Having more pears than what I know what to do with
is a fun problem to have.  
First we started by eating them fresh with cheese & crackers
and a nice bottle of wine.
 Then I made something that will be shared with you possibly in
a couple of weeks... if it turns out ok.  I didn't want to post
until sure it was worthy, but if my foodie muse is right 
it'll be a winner!
Last year I posted a recipe called "Who Dat Salsa" made
with pineapple, mango and black beans (black and gold)
as a tribute to our beloved Saints.  We love salsa...so again,
given the abundance of pears, I'm thinking why not salsa? 
I made it and intended to serve a portion with chips
and then the rest later on top of the pork chops
that were in the oven...but alas the salsa 
didn't make it on the chops.
One thing about being in the South and having access to plentiful
fresh fruit and veggies, you learn many ways to prepare them
to be enjoyed for now and for later. 
This one is definitely for now, more later. 
(Pear Salsa) 
Juice of half a lime
2 pears, halved, cored and chopped to a medium dice (skin left on)
1 red bell pepper, chopped to a medium dice
1/2 yellow onion, chopped to a medium dice
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped to fine dice
5 basil leaves, chopped fine
Salt to taste
Place the pears and lime juice in a medium bowl and stir
Add the bell pepper, onion, jalapeno and basil and stir
Add salt to taste
Serve with the chips of your choice

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mussels Louisiane

Mussels Louisiane

Photo credit: Susan Kirton

Much of our culinary heritage in Louisiana has been influenced by the French. 

Julia Child adapted French cuisine for mainstream Americans and started a revolution with her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking which was released in 1961. It has become a standard for those interested in classic cooking methods, techniques and recipes.

Julia Child introduced Americans to Moules Marinière in this cookbook.  In French, moules means mussels and marinière means sailor-style.

I wanted to share a recipe that I have adapted from the classic, with the addition of regional ingredients from Louisiana, where I call home.

My family loves this recipe.  In the photo above we shared Mussels Louisiane with our dear friends Susan and Patrick Kirton who were won over as new converts to mussels...and the white wine didn't hurt any either. 

Enjoy and as Julia would say...bon appétit!  

Mussels Louisiane


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces smoked turkey or pork tasso, sliced crosswise a quarter inch and then again lengthwise a half inch
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded*
2 cups dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped green onion
Crusty Bread

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add tasso and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add onions, cook 3 minutes, add garlic and continue to cook another 3 minutes until onions are soft, stirring frequently. Add wine, cream and salt, stir.  Add mussels, stir, cover the pot, and cook until mussels open and are cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add parsley and green onions.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Divide the mussels and sauce between 4 bowls and serve with the crusty bread.

* Make sure the mussel shells are tightly closed. Discard any with cracked shells. If any are open, tap them softly and discard any that don't close up immediately.  Wash each mussel individually, and remove what looks like brown threads by pinching firmly and pull the beard out.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Smoked Lemon-Garlic Chicken

OK, I gave in.  It's August and 100+ outside here in the South (and Humid), but I wanted chicken... with a lemony, garlicky, smokey flavor, after work on a Tuesday evening.  I have never attempted to smoke meat before, let alone on my gas grill...but, I am hardheaded and was resigned to figure it out.  I had already searched out wood chips during lunchtime, so all I had to do was run by the grocery on the way home to procure the ingredients.  We didn't have dinner until 8, but it was well worth the wait. 

(Brining Solution)
Water, Kosher Salt, Sugar, Lemons, Garlic, Parsley, Tabasco 

I have brined chicken many times and it just made sense to do so in this case to help impart the lemony, garlicky flavor I was looking for.  I prefer boneless skinless thighs for this recipe which take less time to brine...about 30-45 minutes.


 (Left: Wood chips after soaking, Right: on the grill)

While brining the chicken, I soaked 2 handfuls of wood chips...a blend of
hickory, oak and apple woods.

(Top: Chicken just on grill, Bottom: almost ready to take off)
Note: Garlic and Lemon on the grill.  Grilled Lemon wedges to squeeze over Chicken throughout grill time, and grilled additional slices to use for plating.

(Platter ready to plate)

(Served over Couscous with Garlic and Lemon Slices)

Smoked Lemon-Garlic Chicken


Serves 6
Prep Time - 45 minutes
Cook Time - 30 to 45 minutes


3 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
2 Lemons quartered (to be grilled and used to baste)
1 Lemon sliced (to be grilled in the last few minutes and used as garnish when plating)
Parsley, 3 or 4 sprigs chopped

1 gallon water water
(I added half warm water with all ingredients then once combined, enough ice to make the gallon)
3/4 cup Kosher Salt
1/2 cup granulated Sugar
2 Lemons (for brining)
Parsley, 1 generous handful (I used the back of a knife to bruise slightly)
1 head of Garlic (cut in half around the equator)
Tabasco to taste (I used 8 generous squirts)

Wood Chips - 2 handfuls (I used a blend of Hickory, Oak and Apple)
Soaking Water


Preheat grill on high, brush grates (I have a 3 burner grill)

Make Brine - add all ingredients to a container large enough to accomodate Brine and Chicken (I used a 6 quart container)...stir until combined.

Add Chicken to Brine (make sure pieces are submerged), put in the refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes. 

Soak Wood Chips for 30 minutes.  Make Foil container (see picture above)

When Chicken has been brined for the 30 to 45 minute limit, remove from container, pat dry and hold for grilling.

Place the soaked Wood Chips in foil on a grill burner, turn to medium under the Chips.

Place Chicken, quartered Lemons and Garlic on grill
(I used a grill pan that I sprayed with non-stick spray) and turn to low under Chicken with lid closed.  Check after about 10 minutes and turn when first side is golden brown. 
(Keep water bottle close by to handle flare ups or if chips flame)
Continue grilling on low with lid closed until cooked through and baste periodically by squeezing grilled lemons with tongs over the Chicken.  In the last few minutes of cooking add the lemon slices to the grill.  Take up everything off of the grill and get ready to plate. 
(I served 2 thighs per person...with lemon slices and a section of the garlic over couscous)
After plating, sprinkle the chopped parsley over each serving.