Monday, August 16, 2010

That's just Peachy!

Did you know that August is National Peach Month??  I didn't until I was reading about it on The Pioneer Woman's blog.  That works well with the delectable recipes I am going to tell you about.

A few weeks ago the Hubbins and I went to see a friend in St. Louis.  We were going to a "Peachfest" we were excited to try some peachy recipes as the friend told us that people (unidentified to us at the time) go out, pick peaches, and then make recipes that include peaches.  So we were thinking this Peachfest was a small town tradition (since we are familiar with small towns this didn't sound so odd to us, our small town has a "Pioneer Days" weekend in October).

We get to the location of's a house, not a town center or even an we're pulling up I looked at Hubbins and said "Is this a family reunion?"  I believe he was coming to the same realization and said "I am starting to think that it is...".  I panicked, I didn't bring anything to share, no chips or salsa, no beer, not even a peach (I did almost buy peach rings at the gas station on the way, but I thought I'd get laughed at).  All I had in my hands was a cup of coffee, and I wasn't ready to share that with anyone (sorry!).  The day ended up being great and we enjoyed getting to catch up with Hubbins' friend and her family.

Not the best of pictures 
it was hard to capture
the handwritten note.
After all was said and done we ate some pretty yummy food, more than I ever thought you could make with a peach.  I guess I was expecting a lot of desserts, but we were greeted with an abundance of peach recipes, appetizers, meat dishes, and desserts.  About two weeks after Peachfest we get an e-mail containing the official "2010 Peachfest Recipe Book".  That night we decided that we would like to make a peachy dinner.  We settled on the Bourbon Salmon with Peach Avocado Salsa and a Wild Rice Salad (with peaches), so we went to the grocery store and got the supplies for the fish and rice salad.  The dishes turned out really well and I got this message on the white board where I write all of our weekly dinner choices.

I ended up preparing the Bourbon marinade for the Salmon in the evening the night before we were going to eat the dinner.  I let the fish marinade overnight and the next day I finished preparing the rest of the food.  The rice I made in the early afternoon and let it cool completely so that it would be ready for the "salad" preparations.  The Peach Avocado Salsa was sooo yummy, we tried it on chips as well as the salmon, it goes well alone or together with the Bourbon Salmon.  A few things I learned during the peachy process:
  • Fat free Feta cheese tastes like crap - sorry if anyone out there enjoys fat free Feta, but Hubbins and I both tried it and spat it out the second it hit our tongues.  The particular brand I had purchased was hard as a rock and not very good.  I later looked at the nutritional value of regular Feta and decided that it is not that bad for us, so we will stick to that.  Oh, since I had deemed the fat free crap not worthy to cook with I sent Hubbins to the store to get more.  "My hero!" hehe
  • My Hero earlier this year when he had to come and
    capture a snake for me from my parents' basement.
  • When wanting something to be more spicy than a recipe calls for, that is fine, but keep in mind where those spices fall on the salmon.  For example, I probably used twice as much red pepper flakes as the recipe called for and it just so happens that the piece I cut for myself was the piece that had the most on it when place it into the pan to cook, therefore causing me to yell after taking my first bite because it was too spicy...Yeah Hubbins didn't agree - I'm still a whimp when it comes to spices.  :)
  • Prepare the Wild Rice Salad and the Peach Avocado Salsa ahead of time and refrigerate.  This lets the flavors marry up together really well.  I tried both immediately after preparing them and I wasn't satisfied.  I popped them in the fridge for a few hours and by dinner time they tasted much better!
  • Check the fish before turning off the burner.  I figured that even if it wasn't completely done letting it sit on the burner covered for a few more minutes while we ate our salads the cooking process would be complete.  Almost but not quite.  And I'm sure you can eat Salmon slightly under done, but we are not fans of that, so I had to turn the burner back on thereby burning all remnants of the Bourbon marinade onto the pan.  At least it made it easy to get the fish into a container for leftovers, the skin burnt right onto the pan and the meat pulled up easily.
Now for the recipes...

Peach Avocado Salsa (with or without shrimp)

2 medium-sized fresh peaches, peeled and diced (I used on larger fresh peach)
1 large tomato, diced (I also seeded my tomato)
1 medium-sized avocado (not too ripe), diced (not too ripe is key, this is a salsa not a guacamole)
1 Tbsp minced red onion
1 Tbsp lime juice (I used the juice of one lime)
1 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 packages small precooked salad shrimp (I didn't use the shrimp, we just wanted to peach/avocado goodness)

Serve with tortilla chips or on top of Bourbon Salmon.

Peach Avocado Salsa
Wild Rice Salad

2 C wild rice*
Chicken or vegetable broth (substitute for the water called for in the wild rice mix)
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 C finely chopped fresh herbs (whatever you have on hand, I had parsley and basil)
2 C diced, seeded tomatoes (or cherry/grape cut in half) (I did not seed my cherry tomatoes)
2 C crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
6 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, or to taste
¾ C olive oil
1 ½ chopped peaches (I used one large peach, you can either peel or keep the skin on the peaches)

*Follow directions on the package for making 2 cups of wild rice using chicken or vegetable broth instead of water.  Remove from heat & allow rice to cool completely.  Combine cooled rice, scallions, herbs, tomato, and feta.  Toss to combine.  In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I didn't measure my olive oil or balsamic - we decided there was just a little too much oil so I ended up making an extra cup of long grain rice and mixing it in with the salad I had already prepared to soak up some of the extra oil).  Pour dressing over rice mixture and stir to coat thoroughly.  Mix in chopped peaches.  Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Wild Rice Salad with Peaches
Bourbon Salmon
¼ C reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ C Bourbon (we used some Maker's Mark whiskey, I let Hubbins pick it out)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp sesame oil
½ tsp red pepper flakes (kick it up a notch and use more if you want more spice)
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salmon fillets, boneless and skinless (I used one Salmon fillet and kept the skin on)

Combine all ingredients, but the salmon in a medium bowl.  Put salmon in a bag and pour marinade and turn to coat.  Refrigerate 2 – 8 hours (I kept mine in the fridge for about 24 hours).  Bake or grill until done (I used a grill pan, which worked out well, but I had to cover the pan with foil in order to prevent the juices from evaporating too quickly).  Top with Peach Avocado Salsa.

The whole shebang!
Wild Rice Salad and Bourbon Salmon
with Peach Avocado Salsa
I believe this dish will become a regular on our dinner choice list.  Hubbins really liked the fish, and I'm super excited that everything turned out so well.  I was thoroughly surprised that the salsa went great with the Bourbon marinade (I think we both missed the salsa at Peachfest and just had the Salmon).  I'm interested in trying this salmon on either the grill or broiled, I was too afraid that I'd end up with a flambe in the oven if I attempted to broil the fish, or maybe I'll just try to bake the fish.

Enjoy your peaches this month!

Bon Appetit!

Friday, August 6, 2010

“Family” Dinner Sunday

Country Thunder 2010!
I've been trying to write this post for about a week now. For some reason I have been anti-media/technology/Internet/computer for the last few weeks. After I'm done with work I hardly ever want to deal with looking at the computer anymore than I absolutely have to. So what's been going on in our household…since my last post I returned from Wisconsin very happy I had a girls weekend with one of my bestest from high school. I did some work in between Wisconsin and here Monday-Wednesday and then returned home. Thursday was pretty low key…I don't even remember if I did anything significant beyond work and spending time with Hubbins. Friday we went to dinner at some friends' house and Saturday I recovered from Friday before going to a Peachfest…yeah it's not a festival – it was one of Hubbins' friend's family reunions, she left that part out – but no worries we had a blast with the family. Sunday was a "family" dinner type of event and leads me to this post, well Friday has a part in this post as well, but the dinner was on Sunday….confused yet? Good.

My creation for Sunday's Dinner
As I said, we went to some friends' house for dinner (sausage stuffed pork loin with Szechuan green beans). The dinner was awesome and our hostess, host, and hostette were fabulous! As soon as I walked in the door hostette asks me my name, I in turn asked her, formalities done with, she asks me to play. I play with hostette for a little, while hostess finished up the final touches for dinner. After a little I sneak out of the play area so that I could talk to the big kids. Hostette looked a little heartbroken, but as most kids do, she rebounded, played with the adults, watched TV, and soon forgot all about me – well maybe not completely, but she didn't ask if I would play with her anymore since her Mommy told her it was time for me to play with the adults. I have a way of attracting little ones and they just know I can't say no when they ask me to play. J

After a few bottles of wine were consumed (yeah – 2 for me – opps) hostess and I were talking about our upcoming plans for dinner on Sunday. Hubbins and I were planning on having spaghetti and meatballs with marinara sauce – the latter two made from scratch. As we explained how I came across the recipe from the Rao's Cookbook Hubbins' Aunt and Uncle got for him a few years ago, one way or another the mention of Bobby Flay's Throw Down on Food Network came up, and the next thing we know we're agreeing to a meatball throw down…really? Meatballs? I'm surprised that meatballs was a throw down challenge…if you ask me I don't think I would say meatballs are my specialty, I was just excited to make the Rao's recipe…I think Hostess would agree that meatballs weren't her specialty as she had never even made them before. But alas we agreed and so our throw down was set for Sunday evening.

My basil growing - it's
doubled in size since
this picture!
Sunday rolled around and after going to church and to the grocery store for last minute items I came home and started on my marinara sauce. The "Marinara Sauce" recipe was pretty easy, although I don't think I squished up my tomatoes well enough, it was a little on the chunkier side, which doesn't bother me, but I think next time I'll get it a little smoother. I was very excited to be using some fresh basil from my window box garden…my garden which consists of basil and more basil – I was not so successful on growing any other herbs this year – maybe next year.

When it came time for the meatballs I was interested in "Anna and Frankie's Meatballs" recipe, it was slightly different than my usual meatball creations. My family is big on eating wild game, so I grew up on venison, I usually make venison or beef meatballs and while that's normal for me, the Rao's recipe called for ground beef, pork, and veal….uhhhh, yeah, when I went to the grocery store I was pretty sure I would only be able to find the ground beef, I surprisingly found some ground pork, but the veal was a no-go. So I substituted turkey for veal. The meatballs also use a LOT of bread crumbs, I am used to making my meatballs just dry enough with the bread crumbs so that they stick together…this called for two cups, PLUS the addition of water. I followed the recipe, except for the fact that I did not use homemade or quality bread crumbs. I'm sorry Rao's I don't know if I am allowed to call my meatballs true meatballs by your definition now. There really is a note attached to the recipe that states, "Unless you make your own bread crumbs, you won't be following Rao's kitchen tradition. Use the finest-quality Italian bread you can find…" PS working with wet meat is kind of weird….

Finally I get my meatballs prepared, just in time to transfer my sauce to the crock pot (our first time using it!!) I fry the meatballs, and they are looking pretty good, however, when one is very excited to make big meatballs they should judge the size of the vessel where meatballs will be placed into the sauce. My crock pot was only able to hold about 12 meatballs, which worked out well enough, I made smaller meatballs after the first 12, fried those and then popped them into the oven to make sure they were cooked through, those meatballs eventually made their way to our freezer for future use.

By 6 pm Hubbins had done a great job cleaning the rest of the house while I cooked and after we relaxed and read for a little bit before we popped in our "An Evening at Rao's" CD and waited for our company to arrive. I feel really bad because I think we had rushed my challenger from a previous engagement, I hope she forgives me! J We sat down for some dinner and I thought her meatballs and marinara were pretty good, although she claims the sauce was burnt, if she says so then I look forward to trying her sauce not burnt because it was pretty durn good. Since we didn't have any unbiased guests over for dinner no winner was truly declared in terms of meatballs, but my challenger kicked butt on the dessert, spaghetti and meatballs cupcakes!!! She'd kick my butt any day on cake decorating! Just look at these beauties! And they were really good too!

I'm very jealous of the cupcake decorating
abilities exhibited here.
Sunday night was full of cleaning up the kitchen and then bed-time, Hubbins had a "long, slow run" on Monday morning – I stayed in bed (as I usually do when he gets up at 4:30 am) I'm glad we had the "throw down" "Family Dinner". Next time I think we will pick food that is more of our specialty.
My meatballs in the frying pan,
A yummy take on the whole meal.

Bon Appetit Everyone!