My Room with a View: Nautical Twilight in Aberdeen

If you ask a Scottish person what time the sun goes down, they’ll say “Ach, not late, aroun’ aboot half-ten in the summer.”  DON’T BELIEVE IT.

The sun never stops giving a wee bit of its glow to the summer night sky in Scotland.  It sinks beneath the horizon in what is called “nautical twilight”, and never lets the sky get completely dark.  Not that I’m complaining – it is beautiful.

I was reminded of the nautical twilight phenomenon during a brief stay in Aberdeen this week.   Aberdeen is a coastal city perched on the east side of Scotland right on the North Sea.  I had a room with a view and snapped these pics to capture that ever-changing but never-dark sky while enjoying the cool night air and familiar cries of the seagulls.  (This lass grew up amid sand and seagulls in a wee coastal town in southeast Texas, albeit with warm nights and actual darkness after twilight.)

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An afternoon shot of the church across the road from the hotel
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At 8 p.m. from my hotel window; the church is mostly behind the tree on the right, but there’s a beautiful bell tower being restored
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At 10:00 p.m.
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At 2:00 a.m. – can you believe it?
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At 4:00 a.m.
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At 6:00 a.m.; check out one of the many seagulls in the top left

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Margaritas, Perfected Over Time by the Raconteur

I have a friend who is a margarita-maker extraordinaire.  My son’s godfather, he is a true renaissance man with a variety of interests, a broad palate for both food and libations, and an uncanny ability to describe the essence of a thing in humorous, quirky way; you might call him a raconteur.  In fact, that’s what I’m going to call him here in the blog:  the Raconteur. He has perfected the mixology for this ubiquitous cocktail through years of practice, experimentation, and feedback. I’ve blogged about the Raconteur and his ‘Ritas before, when I profiled the marvelous Krups juicer he uses. A Friday night tradition for years back when I was a single mom was enjoying pizza and wings with the Raconteur and Kat-Woman, his wife; we washed them down with his hand-made tart margaritas.

We’d laugh and talk and catch each other up on happenings at work and in our extended families, and often share the food and drink with random neighbor friends who somehow began to realize that the party was always at my house on Friday nights.

On several occasions, we put together taste tests to try out the absolute best combinations of a variety of tequilas and orange liquors; these things are important to get right.

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A taste test with three different tequilas during a group trip to the Rio Frio in West Texas, more than a dozen years ago
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He was tickled by the idea of the taste test, even before he started mixing
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All ready for the tasting
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We served everyone three small margaritas, so they could judge the best.  The “cocktail waitresses” are me on the left, and “Kat-Woman” on the right; she’s my son’s godmother

I’ve been working on the Raconteur to be a guest blogger for Glover Gardens, and recently, Kat-Woman sent me the photo below with a suggestion to do a Margarita post.

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The current favorites for tequila and triple sec

These days, we enjoy the Raconteur’s ‘Ritas at Glover Gardens when they visit, or Little House in the Rockies.  He finally agreed to share his thoughts on the topic:

“The margarita recipe is simplicity itself, although different than the the ones that are so often published.

My recipe is 2:2:1. Two parts tequila, two parts fresh-squeezed lime juice and one part triple sec.

Some published recipes call for 3:2:1. Too much tequila for me. Tequila by itself has a taste that is similar (in my imagination, never having tasted the real thing) to kerosene. That is why you balance it out with the lime and the triple sec. And, I like lime juice.

One often sees a recipe that is 2:1:1:1. Two parts tequila, one part triple sec, one part lime juice, and one part simple syrup. If you compare this to my recipe, you will see that it is similar, except that one of the two parts lime juice has been replaced with simple syrup. Makes a sweeter drink, and one that is cheaper to make. Great for restaurants, and the patrons get a sugar rush with their drink.

But I don’t need the sugar rush, I think excessive sugar increases the chances of a hangover (think champagne!) and it masks the taste of tequila. I know that I said just above that straight tequila tastes like kerosene, but lime and triple sec transform it.

So, do yourself a favor and stick with 2:2:1. If it isn’t sweet enough, add some sugar. I do that for my mother-in-law. Just beware of the three consequences I listed above. And cook your steak well-done if you want to. (Note from Glover Gardens – he’s being sarcastic here.)

I salt the rim, but I drink from the same spot on the rim, so I don’t take in much extra salt. Mostly decorative, but it does tone down the sweetness from the triple sec.

I mostly use el Jimador Reposado for the tequila and Hiram Walker 48 or 60 proof for the Triple Sec. Luxardo triplum works well, too.

Cheers!”

A final note on margaritas:  always, always, always use fresh-squeezed lime juice for margaritas. Anything else is simply criminal. For more about the Friday night Pizza, Wings and ‘Ritas tradition with Kat-Woman and the Raconteur and the perfect juicer, here’s The Juicer for Me, for You, for Ritas.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

A Memorial Day Menu from Glover Gardens

The Memorial Day forecast calls for rain in Southeast Texas, but that’s fine by me.  A rainy Monday Memorial holiday calls for sleeping late, a date with a good book, some barbecue in the afternoon and a war movie or two.  Whether or not you’ve got rain in your forecast, here are a few tried and true recipes that are just right for the Memorial Day table.

My Spicy-Sweet Honey Chipotle Pork Spareribs are cooked “low and slow” in the oven and then given a quick finish on the grill for that time-honored char. Give ’em a try!

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If you’re vegetarian, try the rub from the ribs recipe on grilled eggplant; my blogger friend at Pleasant Peasant Cuisine suggested that in a comment on my post about the ribs.  He used the rub on his Stuffed Squash Blossoms, which would be a great vegetarian main dish for Memorial Day or a lovely side.

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Photo credit to Pleasant Peasant Cuisine; these beautiful squash blossoms have been treated with the rub from my ribs recipe

What’s a barbecue without a slaw on the side? Here’s my slightly spicy Pepper Jelly Slaw recipe.

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Or you could opt for a Throw-Down Side: Quick and Easy Black Bean Salad.

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Serrano Ham and Corn Pudding is a great side for ribs (actually, I think it is a great side for anything, and it’s not even one of my original recipes).

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Why not finish off the meal with some great big cookies that are chock-full of cookie goodness?  You’ll like my Glover Gardens Comfort Cookies, and since they have nuts, oatmeal and dried fruit, too, they qualify as “healthy”.  That means you can eat more of ’em!

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No one can stop at just one Comfort Cookie

Happy Memorial Day! And no,  even though I’m blogging about the menu, I haven’t forgotten the reason we celebrate: those who gave their lives for our freedom.  In their memory, here’s a photo of our flag, taken at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. I love how prominently it is displayed there.

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

 

Tom’s Spicy Tomato Juice

In addition to his many BBQ accomplishments, the Grill-Meister makes a marvelous homemade tomato juice.  When we started growing tomatoes at Glover Gardens, he found a recipe online and then honed it over several summers, tweaking the spices, amounts and fresh peppers.  Here it is, hopefully in time for your summer tomato crop, or, if you don’t have a garden, those deep red beauties you’ll find at your local farmers’ market.

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This amped-up tomato juice doesn’t need anything but vodka and a squeeze of lime to make a perfect Bloody Mary. On the other hand, it’s so good, you don’t really need the vodka!

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs fresh tomatoes
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 serrano, cayenne or fresno pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic (you guessed it, we use 4)
  • 1 TBSP kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 c water
  • freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • celery stalks (optional)

Cooking Instructions

Blanch tomatoes and remove skin and core (see pictures below for how-to instructions); cut into large chunks. Dice peppers and onion; mince garlic. Combine all ingredients in large pot; simmer for 30 minutes. Allow mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes; puree in blender. Use medium sieve strainer to remove pulp from tomato juice (reserve the pulp to use as base for soup, salsa, guacamole, etc.) Cool in refrigerator for minimum of 3 hours. Serve chilled, garnishing with black pepper and a stalk of celery.

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Fresh ingredients make for a fresh, robust-tasting juice
Tomatoes on Scale
Start with 4 lbs of the juiciest tomatoes you can find
Tomato Blanched for Easy Peeling
Remove each tomato as soon as the peel splits
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You can see how the peels have separated from the flesh
Peeling is Easy
The peels slip right off
Core While in a Bowl
Core the tomatoes while in the bowl so you don’t lose a drop of that wonderful juice
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The vegetables are roughly chopped for cooking
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This is what the cooked mixture looks like
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The Ninja blender purees in about 10 seconds
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Tom’s Spicy Tomato Juice is thick and slightly chunky, almost like gazpacho (yum!) 

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Simple Pleasures: Fruit by the Pool

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Summer stayed with us well into September this year, releasing its stranglehold just this last week and enabling an enjoyable evening of wine and fruit by the pool here at Glover Gardens.  The hibiscus and roses are still blooming, but the leaves have begun to fall.  The hummingbirds are still darting about, buzzing the feeder for that last bit of fuel before their long journey across the Gulf.  There’s a sense of the changing season in the air as we welcome our first cool night tonight.

Simple pleasures.

Grilled Tuna Burgers for Two

images-25We’re empty-nesters here at Glover Gardens now that the last millennial has gone off to college, so I’m trying to pare down the amounts when I cook.  It’s easier with some recipes than others.  These delicious tuna burgers are simple to make for two, or four, or more.  Just increase the recipe.

The tuna burgers benefit from what we call “Salad on a Sandwich”.  It’s a quick toss of baby spinach or other greens, red onion and tomato with a tiny bit of olive oil and a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar.  Salad on a Sandwich brightens up a variety of sandwiches and makes the everyday sandwich feel like a gourmet treat.  And it looks really beautiful.

Ingredients

  • Two 6+ ounce tuna steaks, about an inch thick
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or ground ancho or chipotle chiles
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large bell pepper or several small sweet peppers, sliced into 1-inch wide strips, seeds, ribs and stems discarded
  • Olive oil
  • Grill spray
  • Two buns (we like onion rolls)
  • Purchased or prepared remoulade (click here for a killer and super-easy recipe)
  • Salad on a Sandwich
    • 2 cups baby spinach or your other favorite greens
    • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 very ripe medium tomato, thinly sliced, or 6-8 grape tomatoes, halved longways
    • 1 tsp olive oil or a few sprays from an olive oil mister
    • 2 tsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cooking Instructions

Sprinkle tuna all over with salt, pepper and cayenne or ground chile. Toss peppers with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Assemble Salad on a Sandwich by combining and tossing all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  Prepare remoulade, if making your own.

Preheat gas or charcoal grill for cooking over high heat.

Wrap buns in foil.  Grill tuna and peppers on lightly oiled grill rack, turning over once, until tuna is pink only in center and peppers are just tender, 4 to 6 minutes total (peppers may take longer than tuna). In the last few minutes of cooking, put the buns in foil on the grill to heat them up.  Transfer tuna and peppers once they are cooked to a serving plate.

To serve, spread remoulade on buns (top and bottom), put a layer of grilled peppers on the bottom of each bun, and then top with a tuna steak.  Add a generous helping of Salad on a Sandwich, then cap the tuna burger with the top bun.  Enjoy!

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The Salad on a Sandwich and remoulade are ready, and the tuna has been seasoned in readiness for grilling.  Yum!
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Grill the peppers at the same time as the tuna; the buns can be warmed on the top shelf.
Grilled Tuna and Peppers
The tuna and peppers have been grilled and are ready for the sandwich.
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The remoulade and Salad on a Sandwich combine with the tuna and peppers to make a great burger with a variety of tastes, colors and textures.

This recipe works really well without the bun, too.  Just flip it – position the tuna steak atop the Salad (Not) on a Sandwich, then arrange the grilled peppers on the tuna and dress with the remoulade or serve it on the side.  It’s beautiful, healthy and low-cal.

Our other favorite seafood in a burger is salmon – click here for the recipe.

 

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Haiku: Christie’s Sour Cream Pound Cake

My neighbor is a smart and funny Southern woman, a successful writer of romantic and teen fiction, a devoted wife, mother and friend, and a wonderful hostess.  She also makes the best pound cake I’ve ever eaten.

Christie recently served her homemade sour cream pound cake at the end of a lively dinner party, and I fell in love.  I was transported back in time to long, lazy summer days when the sun lingers until the first fireflies light up and kids sneak second and third portions of rich, lovingly made desserts while the grownups sit around and solve all the world’s problems.  That pound cake was the past on a plate, a happy history of pure, rich flavors that make you feel like all is right with the world.

So of course I had to write a haiku about it.

Christie’s Sour Cream Pound Cake

Old-fashioned goodness
tastes of porches and stories.
Southern comfort food.

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For more Glover Gardens haiku, click here.

 

Copyright Glover Gardens Cookbook, 2016.