Steamed Flounder in Parchment with Vodka Martini Relish

To answer the obvious question, yes, I like to play with my food.  I especially enjoy putting my own twist on recipes like turning a dirty vodka martini into a vodka martini relish.  It has the wonderfully boozy, briny, olive flavors you expect, along with some added sweetness from the red onion and piquillo peppers.

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Pepper Shrimp with Pad Thai Salad

Shrimp is one of my favorite seafood proteins. It has a sweet, unique flavor, a gorgeous color when cooked, and is the most versatile seafood ingredient available.

For this recipe, I kept the flavors on the shrimp simple with a touch of salt, and garlic powder, plus a bit more black pepper to pull in the spicy flavors from the pad thai dressing. So what you taste is a perfect ratio of sweet, spicy, crunchy and salty.

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Tuscan Grilled Halibut with Arugula on Toasted Ciabatta

Sandwiches are insanely versatile and are a great option for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  For me, a sandwich is first and foremost about the bread, especially ciabatta.  It has a wonderfully soft chewy center and crunchy outer crust that can hold up to anything you serve it with.  The next qualifier would be the ingredients to put in between the bread, and they have to have lots of flavor and texture.  Let’s be honest and admit deli lunchmeat just doesn’t do it.

This hearty sandwich is an ideal choice for your next winery picnic.  Pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy the delicious flavors of the fresh, delicate, grilled fish, the deep richness of the sun-dried tomatoes, the briny capers, and the bright hits from the fresh basil, parsley, and arugula.

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Grilled Salmon Gyro with Yogurt Flatbread

My family loves grilled salmon, so it’s a frequent item on our weekly menu. To add a little variety to our dinner one night, I decided to serve the salmon gyro-style. I knew the sweet, tender salmon would pair well with the creamy yogurt, fresh dill, and cucumber, but I have to admit, it was the first time I had ever attempted making my own flatbread.

Having now made them and experienced the freshly cooked, warm, tender, chewy flavor of a home-made flatbread, I’ll think twice before buying the store bought, preservative filled flatbread again.

It took a couple of tries with the first two dough balls, but I came up with my own process hack that made making them super easy. So, of course, I had to share my new-found hack with you!

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Butterflied Cilantro-Lime Baked Shrimp with Salted Margarita Aioli

My favorite cocktail during the summer is a generous pour of silver tequila, fresh lime juice, a pinch of salt and a few ice cubes. It’s a tart drink, but it’s very refreshing. In fact, I just happened to be sipping on one of those delicious drinks while preparing this dish.

I had already planned to use the lime zest and cilantro to mix in with the panko coating but I hadn’t yet decided what to serve with the shrimp. Then I saw the bottle of tequila and the fresh limes and I had an epiphany. I was going to turn my drink into an aioli!

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Garlic Risotto with Viognier Steamed Mussels

Living near the Augusta Country Wine Trail has many advantages, the biggest one being year-round access to more than a dozen family-owned wineries. So depending on what I feel like cooking for dinner, it’s only a short drive to find the perfect wine, especially for this classic risotto dish.

Most risotto recipes call for a ‘dry white wine’ which leaves a pretty wide-open range of possibilities. Sauvignon Blanc tends to be most chefs first choice; however, for steaming muscles, I prefer an aromatic, dry, Viognier with a balanced level of acidity and one that pulls in flavors like fresh herbs, stone-fruits, and honey.

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Smoked Trout Fettuccini with Gournay Cream Sauce

Culinary smoke is one of those umami flavors difficult to explain until you’ve experienced it. I have several childhood food memories having liked various smoked meats, cheeses, and fish so when I got older and began cooking for myself, I inherently started adding those ingredients to my food.

I buy my smoked trout from one of my favorite restaurants called Annie Gunn’s. They have an amazing smokehouse deli attached to the restaurant and sell many of the ingredients they serve on their menu. For this recipe, I paired their trout with a light creamy cheese sauce, so you’ll taste just a kiss of smoke followed by the delicate flavor of the fish. Then when you swirl it onto a fork blended with chewy fettuccini, briny capers, and fresh dill, it’s a food memory you’ll never forget.

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Grilled Scallops with Bacon-Shallot Vinaigrette

 

Have you ever eaten a bacon wrapped scallop?  If your experience was anything like mine, either the scallop was sweet and tender, and the bacon was raw and chewy, or the scallop was annihilated and the bacon perfectly crispy.  It’s pretty obvious the dish is virtually impossible to master.

As an alternative, this recipe still gives you the flavor pairing of the scallop and the bacon, except the bacon is crispy as it should be and the scallop is still tender and sweet.  The tangy vinaigrette also adds a nice level of acid to even out some of the fat from the bacon. I served the scallops with prepared couscous as an entrée. However, this would work well as an appetizer too.

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Honey and Smoked Chipotle Butter Grilled Shrimp

This week’s tantalizing dish is using the honey and smoked chipotle butter recipe I posted last week, which has become my family’s favorite flavor. Even my daughter, who is picky about eating shrimp, absolutely loved these grilled, glazed beauties. They were tender, sweet, smoky, and had just the right level of spicy.

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Grilled Tilapia Street Tacos with Tomatillo and Jalapeno Salsa Verde

Cinco de Mayo is coming up on Friday so what better way to celebrate than this healthy, spicy dish? I don’t know if it’s the simplicity of ingredients with big, bold flavors, or the fact that they’re so easy to prepare, however, I have absolutely fallen in love with the whole concept of street tacos. You can fill them with just about anything and top them with an unlimited number of garnishes and they taste amazing.

The grilled tilapia in this recipe is light, flaky, and picks up the flavors of the cilantro lime marinade beautifully. And there are two schools of thought when it comes to salsa verde. You can either roast the veggies first then puree them for a smokier flavor, or you can prepare them raw and fresh like I did here. The clean, boldness of the tomatillos, peppers, and cilantro marry so well together, they’re absolutely addictive. In fact, several spoonfuls of this salsa verde were eaten all by themselves without the tacos!

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