Food Friday: Melons

31 05 2013


I adore melons. I’ve often remarked in heaven, I plan on eating nothing but cantaloupe and watermelon (ok, and maybe a croissant or two, just for balance). When they are ripe and sweet, there is nothing better.

A favorite since ancient times, and remarkably fantastic for your health and skin, there’s just no excuse not to indulge in a big bowl of melon each morning for brunch, or even as a sweet treat as dessert.

But they are fraught with questions for me… how do I pick the best one? How best to slice it? Is eating an entire melon by myself in one sitting too much?

Here are a few helps to get us all enjoying this summer delicacy.

  • A ripe melon should give slightly when pressing your finger to the skin. Take a sniff. The smell should be slightly sweet, and if all else fails, go with mom’s old trick of picking the heaviest melon in the bin. The theory is, the heavier the melon, the juicier it is.
  • If you can’t find a ripe melon at the store, no need to bring it home. Melons won’t continue to ripen after picking, so if it isn’t picked at the height of perfection, sadly, it never will.
  • Melons will store well in the refrigerator for several days, but a sliced melon will pick up other food odors easily, so wrap it in plastic bags or in an airtight container.
  • Bring your melon, as with any fruit, to room tempurature about 30 minutes before serving to bring out the flavor.
  • Even though you don’t eat the skin, it’s still important to wash thouroughly, since melons are grown on the ground and can easily pick up contaminants. Don’t transfer those nasties from the skin to your knife to the fruit.
  • Get all those seeds out in one scoop — an ice cream scoop, that is! The large scoop is perfect for removing the center seeds.
  • But if you’re not going to eat the entire melon right away, leave the seeds in the half you’re saving for later. They will help keep it moist.
  • Summer is the season, but I’ll have to admit my only qualm with melons is how hard they are to slice and prepare. Practice and a little expert help are all you need. Take a look at this video for a genius new way on how to get to the sweet fruit a little easier.

So much, from sweet to savory pairs well with melon. Here are a few of our favorite flavor pairings.

  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Curry
  • Fennel
  • Ginger
  • Mint
  • Tarragon
  • Salt
  • Black or white pepper
  • Chile peppers, powder, and sauce
  • Sugars: white or brown
  • Olive oil
  • Honey
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamias
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Prosciutto
  • Milk and cream
  • Apricots
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon juice
  • Mango
  • Tomatoes
  • Red Onions
  • Goat Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Vinegars: Balsamic, rice, or sherry
  • Champagne

From well-known canteloupe, honeydew, or watermelon, to Persian or Santa Claus varieties, there are many melons to choose from. Which is your favorite?

Food Friday: Buttermilk

10 05 2013


Anytime something has a moist and delectable flavor that I just can’t put my finger on, the answer to the question, “what’s in this?” always comes back “buttermilk.”

Originally, buttermilk was the leftover liquid from churning butter, but now you can find cultured buttermilk in liquid or powdered form. It’s great to provides that tangy flavor profile in baked goods, salad dressings, and sauces.

Since I often buy a carton to use for just one recipe, and then have some leftover, I like to pour it in ice cube trays to freeze individual portions for later.

If you ever find yourself out of buttermilk, you can always make some up by mixing one cup milk with one tablespoon vinegar. Let sit for five minutes while you prepare your other ingredients. Voila! Instant buttermilk. No more excuses on a Saturday morning when you’re craving some fluffy pancakes. Yogurt can also be used in a pinch. In fact, if it’s the healthful probiotics you’re after that have become so popular, buttermilk contains them as well.

But there’s nothing like the real thing. Buttermilk goes great with any kind of berries or fruit and also pairs beautifully with sweets to balance such as honey and sugar.

Southerners love their buttermilk in baked goods, so here’s a great recipe from Martha for Oatmeal-Cherry Biscuit Scones that calls for delicious buttermilk in moist summery scones.

Food Friday: Tuna Combinations

26 04 2013

The other day, it seemed I had nothing in the pantry but cereal and some canned tuna. Rather than head out to the market on an empty stomach, I pulled out one of my favorite “cookbooks” that’s really not a cookbook at all. The Flavor Bible is a great encyclopedia for pulling together ingredients when you don’t have a recipe on hand to follow.

Some of my favorite dinners have come out of this Flavor Bible so I whipped up a little tuna salad sandwich with what I had on hand, inspired from some of the suggested ingredients, and it was the best tuna sandwich I’d ever had. There’s nothing like the classic combination of Duke’s mayo and tuna on white bread, but the more complex flavors meticulously researched and compiled by authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg really hit the spot.

Image via Ina Garten's Tuna Salad

Image via Ina Garten’s Tuna Salad

So in case you’re looking for a light summer lunch this weekend, here’s a list of some of my favorite suggestions to hopefully inspire your own tuna salad.

  • anchovies
  • white beans
  • mustard
  • soy sauce
  • wasabi
  • sesame
  • lemon
  • basil
  • chives
  • scallions
  • cilantro
  • coriander
  • parsley
  • bell peppers
  • jalapeno chili peppers
  • onions
  • tomatoes
  • fennel
  • shallots
  • radishes
  • radicchio
  • arugula
  • watercress

Food Friday: Georgia Peach and Vidalia Onion Hot Sauce

22 02 2013

I’m excited to be relaunching Food Fridays, finally back in the land of great food. Whenever people asked me what I missed most about the South, it was a close call, but our answer was almost always, “the food.” Whenever we came back home for a visit, and mom or dad would ask us what we wanted to see or do, the answer always came back: the inside of our favorite restaurants. I knew I’d been gone too long when BBQ was my tourist destination.

Georgia Peach and Vidalia Onion Hot Sauce

You won’t find flavors like Georgia peach with vidalia onion just anywhere, you know. Mr. SIT is quite the hot sauce connoisseur. While we were in Cali, we developed a strong love for Pepper Plant, but there’s just nothing like an unexpected sweet sauce to top with eggs or corn cakes in the morning, or to throw on a sandwich for lunch, or even to top that burger at supper. Enter Georgia Peach and Vidalia Onion Hot Sauce with the Red Velvet Top. Almost everything tastes better with a little of this stuff on top. You’ll find it occupying an honored place, right beside the Tabasco and Frank’s RedHot in our fridge.

So, what’s your favorite hot sauce? Recommendations?

Peanut Butter

12 05 2012

We talked so much about peanuts yesterday, we didn’t even have time to go into possibly the most popular peanut product — peanut butter. In fact, about half the peanuts grown in the United States go to making peanut butter.

These days, you can get natural peanut butter, chocolate peanut butter, peanut butter mixed with fruit jelly, low-salt, and a host of other varieties. But about 800 peanuts go into every jar, so it’s a great snack.

I like storing natural peanut butter in the refrigerator and it will last much longer (about 6 months), but if you get the regular kind, store it in the cool, dark pantry for about three months.

It might look funny, but I store my PB upside down. The oils tend to rise to the top, so when you turn it back right side up to use, make sure you stir, that way you get those oils that have begun to separate back into the mix.

Peanut butter is so easy to make. Chop peanuts in your food processor and add just the tiniest bit of peanut oil. Keep processing it until you get that perfect consistency — whether you prefer smooth or chunky.

I never particularly thought I liked peanut-flavored dishes, besides peanut butter, until I tried this Thai

Try Elvis’ proported favorite of peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Or my absolute favorite guilty snack? A big piece of thick white bread, smeared with peanut butter and drizzled with maple syrup. If you’ve never indulged in this midnight snack, you’ll love it.

Or of course, a thick PB & J sandwich, with homemade strawberry jam and a glass of cold milk.

Food Friday: Peanuts

11 05 2012

Peanuts. Groundnuts. Georgia nuts. Goober Peas. Whatever you call them, the South loves their peanuts. And we may think we know all there is to know about this snack-time favorite, but here’s something I’ve just recently learned. Did you know that the peanut isn’t really a nut at all? It’s technically a legume, much closer to the bean family, as it grows in the ground istead of on trees as other nuts do. But even though they technically aren’t nuts, they’ve been popular in the Southern U.S. since colonial times.

If you’re buying unshelled nuts, they should have clean, unbroken shells and should not rattle when you shake them. Refrigerate them, wrapped tight for up to 6 months.

Peanuts go great in banana-nut bread, Thai curries and sauces, chocolate bark, and of course, with most any dessert.

King peanut lives on!

Kentucky Pie Bars

4 05 2012

May Day Pie, Pegasus Pie, Thoroughbred Pie — just don’t call it the “D” word.

You see, the Kern family, of Melrose Inn created the pie in the 1950’s and still owns and actively protects the name and the exact secret recipe. But a chocolate, pecan, and bourbon pie by any other name still tastes as delicious.

This year, since I’m celebrating the Derby outside my homestate, traveling in South Carolina, I still wanted my taste of you-know-what pie. So I decided to see if I could turn this classic pie into portable bars.

Here’s what you’ll need:

A recipe for your favorite pie crust

1 1/2 sticks softened butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3/4 cup flour

a good pinch of salt

a splash of bourbon (optional)

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups pecans (some swear by walnuts, but I’m a pecan girl… use whatever you like).

Preheat your oven to 350. Then line a deep baking pan with your pie crust. Separately mix together the pie ingredients — butter, sugar, eggs, flour, salt, bourbon, chocolate, and nuts and pour it into your baking dish, spreading it evenly over the pie crust. Then just bake for about 20 – 25 minutes.

Keep your eye on this, as you just want a golden crust forming on top.  We’re aiming for gooey pie-like bars, not crunchy here. I wish I could eat warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, but they’re just as good at room temperature.

Cut into big ol’ squares, and wrap tightly and they’ll keep up to a week, but I’m guessing they won’t last that long if you’re anything like me.

For more inspiration for your Derby day party, check out some other Kentucky recipes for your menu:

Kentucky Hot Brown


Mint Julep Iced Tea

Bourbon Balls