Coastal culinary musings. Or, why Spanish Moss and Egg Souffles really do go together.

Cakes and Breads / May 28, 2015

Thank you to Vicky Neer whose photographic contributions to this post made the story come alive.

I was born a left-coaster. Frolicking among the vast yellow beaches as a child, soaking in the warm sun, and feeling the icy surf as it crashed upon me in giant waves, I thought I had experienced the ocean in its entirety. Certainly there is no way to enjoy the horizon at sunset without seeing the curvature of the Pacific at its zenith, right? And vegetation is only coastal when it is thick, and succulent, growing along a shoreline that is conspicuously bereft of trees that might interfere with the sting of salty breezes. Oceans are loud, and foamy, and abrupt….

But then, everything changed the first time I found myself at the threshold of the Atlantic. Hmmm. Maybe this is the “right” coast after all?

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The bluff along Hilton Head Island’s Northeast shore near the Port Royal Sound.

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Ron and Camine with Duncan, on the steps of our weekend getaway.

I am approaching my eleventh anniversary as a Carolinian and during that time I have, without reservation, fallen in love with every inch of jagged shoreline marking the beginning of the ‘other’ sea. From Massachusetts to Miami, (I have yet to venture farther north,) the edge of our continent is a menagerie of landscapes and colors.

Sometimes it shows up as a thin strip of land protecting a teeming sound, whose dunes are covered with tall Sea Oats sprouting like a neglected beard upon fragile hills. Later it spreads out into a gradient of marsh and sea birds as the kayakers navigate ribbons of watery canals like so many children hunting for the exit to a corn maze. And then there is the familiar expanse of white, undulating, crustacean-ridden sand that welcomes warm, humid breezes, receding with low tide to reveal ancient shoals crowded with black Mussels. And with few exceptions, the sea simply laps upon the shores like a new born foal, with no hint of the violence that is the hallmark of California beaches.

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In front of one of the charming shops along the main thoroughfare in Bluffton, SC.

Then there is Hilton Head Island, SC, whose perimeter folds endlessly into a combination of elements that surprise and delight. Bluffs appear magically beyond thickets of Saw Palm, Loblolly Pine and the ever present Live Oak. Gray-white sea-walls plummet into dark inlets, beckoning shark and bass to pass just under her mirrored tides. And all of it is framed by those beautiful, dancing tresses of Spanish moss.

As the lucky guests of our friends the Neers, we spent the holiday weekend with plenty of time to be both poet and enthusiast. Mornings were spent walking on the bluff, afternoons exploring a shopper’s paradise. And the evening? Well of course, was spent cooking.

As I regale this weekend’s culinary tales, I must begin by thanking three people. Richard, who was brave enough to let me be totally creative and not rebuff me for rejecting the usual holiday-grilling fare. Vicky, whose artistic eye behind the camera helped capture every angle of my mixing, fixing and baking, and made me feel like a true Food Network star. And finally to my blonde sous chef, the Neer’s beautiful golden retriever, Duncan. Slobber and all, this is who you want at your side.

Lest I lose sight of all things wonderful, I will also thank my husband Ron, who is happy to be royal-taster and ever my relentless fan.

Sounds like a perfect holiday to me.

We joked throughout the weekend that all we did was eat, talk about what we’d eat next, and then talk about what we just ate. I’m not sure that’s bad, but it certainly brought a chuckle to every activity. One of our favorite haunts was the Skull Creek Boathouse, where I enjoyed a bevy of flavors such as this beautiful seafood salad.

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Ron making his signature Lemon Drop Martinis.

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Seafood salad at Skull Creek Boathouse.

Nearly every place we visited begged for us to take dozens of photos. It just seems you can’t take a bad picture of Hilton Head Island, or Ron for that matter. And in fact one of our favorite pass-times was just hanging with hosts and that great puppy, Duncan.

Not surprisingly I had been thinking for weeks about a menu that would befit our surroundings, and still be a take on the usual Memorial Day Burger. After walking the aisles of Publix I finally settled on making SWEET AND SAVORY ROSEMARY CHICKEN BURGERS IN A CHERRY BALSAMIC CABERNET REDUCTION, WITH MEDITERRANEAN SPICED RICE AND ROASTED PEPPERS AND ASPARAGUS. Soon the wine was opened, the music initiated, and pans were everywhere. For dessert I created a simple dish of RUM BOURBON CARAMELIZED BANANAS OVER POUND CAKE WITH VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM. Take a look and click the titles to download the recipes, or go to “browse my recipes” above.

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Sweet and healthy chicken meatballs dancing in a claret colored reduction of Cabernet, preserves and balsamic vinegar

 

 


Rosemary Sweet and Savory Chicken Meatballs

With Cherry Balsamic Cabernet Reduction,
Mediterranean Rice, and Roasted Vegetables

Serves 4 – 6


Ingredients:

1 ½ lbs lean ground chicken
Half pckg Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage
1 extra large egg
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 C plain bread crumbs
1 ½ t fresh rosemary chopped finely
½ C golden raisins
¼ C white onion diced small
2-3 T cream to moisten
3 C cooked white jasmine rice
4 T butter
1/3 C cherry preserves
¼ C cabernet wine
3 T sweet balsamic like cherry or fig
½ T each cinnamon, curry powder, cumin, ginger powder
Salt and Pepper
2 T olive oil


Direction:

  • Cook the jasmine rice according to directions. When done, add 2 T butter and the cinnamon, ginger, cumin and curry. Then add salt and pepper to taste.
  • While rice is cooking, and in a large bowl, mix the chicken, sausage, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, raisins, onion, rosemary, cream and about 1 t salt and ½ t pepper and some cream, about 1 T to moisten. Blend thoroughly and form into small patties, or large meatballs. Makes about 16. Heat a large skillet to medium high and when hot add the burgers, searing on each side for about 3 minutes, until golden but not cooked through. Remove and set aside with foil covering the plate. In the pan, drain the oil, and add the balsamic, preserves and wine. Reduce down for about 8 minutes, then add about 2 T butter and a little salt. Return burgers to pan, and cook on medium low until they’re cooked through. About 5-6 minutes. Serve over the seasoned rice and plate with your choice of roasted vegetables. I used yellow peppers and asparagus.

Rum and Bourbon Caramelized Bananas

With Pound Cake and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Serves 4


Ingredients:

2-3 large bananas, sliced into ½ inch slices. Better if not too ripe.
1/3 C light brown sugar
4 T butter
1 T rum
2 T bourbon
½ T kosher salt
½ t cinnamon


Direction:

  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter, then add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook for about 4 minutes on medium low until fully dissolved (meaning all you see is a nice, smooth syrup.) Add the rum and bourbon, stir, and let reduce for about 2 minutes. Add the sliced bananas and cook until reduced, for about 4 minutes.
  • Serve over ice cream and pound cake.

English Muffin Raspberry & White Chocolate Bread Pudding With Red Wine Syrup

Serves 8


Ingredients:

Pudding:

4 Bays Sourdough English Muffins cut into ½” chunks
5 eggs, beaten
Just shy of ½ C sugar
1/8 C brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract
Dash of salt
½ C whole milk
½ C heavy cream
Butter to grease pan
1/3+ C white chocolate chips
5-6 T raspberry preserves
Zest from 1 orange


Syrup:

1 C red wine like a Merlot
½ t cinnamon
1/3 C brown sugar


Direction:

  • In a small saucepan, add the wine, brown sugar, and cinnamon and stir. Then let boil gently for about 6-8 minutes until reduced by half. Cool to room temperature.
  • Grease the inside of casserole dish generously with butter. I used an 11 X 7 by 2 inches deep glass baking dish.
  • Place all of the chunks of English muffin in the dish.
  • In another mixing bowl add the eggs and whisk well. Then add the sugars and vanilla, the cream and milk and the salt and whisk vigorously for about 2 minutes to blend well. Pour the egg mixture over the English muffing bread chunks. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Push the bread down into the egg mixture so all bread is covered. Then dab on the raspberry preserves in 6 evenly placed dollops. Take a knife and cut the preserves into the mixture spreading it just slightly on top. Keep it in blobs in some areas. Don’t blend in completely. Grate the orange zest on top. Cover and let chill in fridge for at least 6 hours.
  • Remove from fridge and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Cut, ladle wine syrup over the dessert and serve.


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