Halloumi Za’atar Grilled Toast

Yummmmm…za’atar, that delicious Middle Eastern herb seasoning. I was first introduced to this seasoning at the Old Spice Souk in Dubai. The year was 2013 and we took an abra across Dubai Creek where a purveyor invited me to smell it. Then he sprinkled it on a slice of grilled halloumi and I was hooked for life. Join me on this journey half way ’round the world! This halloumi toast is terrific cut into small squares for an appetizer, or halve the whole piece of toast and serve it for brunch.

4 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs minced fresh parsley
1 Tbs minced fresh oregano
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs Za’atar seasoning
1/2 t ground pepper
8 oz halloumi cheese, sliced into 3/4” slices
4 slices hearty sourdough or strong wheat bread
1 clove garlic, halved
1 cup microgreens

Whisk together olive oil, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, za’atar, and pepper.
Brush both sides of halloumi and bread with oil mixture.
Grill halloumi and bread on both sides until charred, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Rub one side of bread with garlic.
Top toasts with halloumi.
Drizzle with remaining oil mixture.
Sprinkle with lemon zest and micro greens.
Serves 8 for appetizers or 4 for brunch.

To the left is pictured a brunch serving of this wonderful toast, cut on the diagonal. I added bean sprouts, and pink salt to jazz it up a bit.

Baked Spaghetti Squash

Canyon Ranch, be still my heart, soul, and body. I would like to write you a love letter, because you provided so much positive assistance to me; alas, I pause…sort of! I have a series of recipes based on my Ranch experience. They cook with uncommon creativity, making everything healthy and tasty. I’m revealing secrets from the premier health institute in the USA. Enjoy. This is a national treasure and I’m certain that this recipe (and more shortly) will become a staple on your spreadsheet. Hit the pause button and enjoy. Sending love, good health, and lots of happiness!

Medium spaghetti squash
Pinch salt
Pinch black pepper
Baking spray to prep baking sheet

Images: Top Left ~ Whole Spaghetti Squash – Top Right ~ Top half seeded, bottom half, not!
Lower Left ~ Face down on cooking sheet – Lower Right ~ Straight out of the oven

Preheat oven to 375°.
Spray baking sheet with small amount of canola oil.
Cut spaghetti squash in half.
Scoop out seeds.
Place cut side down on baking sheet.
Bake 45 minutes or until soft.
Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Shred squash with a fork into a bowl.
Makes 6 one cup servings.
35 cal per serving.

I add this baked version to a salad for extra flavor and fiber.
I really love this plain, warm out of the oven, room temp, or chilled.
The “add ons” can enhance the flavor if so desired.
You may add spaghetti sauce, maple syrup, Parmesan cheese, or top up a sandwich if you’re in the mood, just for extra fun. Pictured below is the squash topped with my homemade tomato sauce, along side a sculpture from my private collection by Jeff Kiefer.

The Rooms Where Life and Art Happen

The new issue of Veranda magazine arrived yesterday with the cover story titled “Living with Art” and that reminded me that it was time to make an art post. Their inspiration was the following quote from Henri Matisse, huge in my admiration pool of artists. “Art should be something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue.” The painting that inspired them is titled Large Red Interior, currently on view at the MoMA in NYC. It made me think of my own Matisse replica, Still Life with Sleeping Woman, that I purchased from the gift shop at The National Gallery way back in the late 1980’s. I was a young mother at the time, and it reflected perfectly how I often felt at the end of the day. It has been a staple on my desk for all of these years; now it inspires me to pick up my head and get on with the tasks at hand!

I have a deep appreciation for my collection of original art (more on that soon), but two rooms in my home feature replicas as well…the Matisse plaque in my kitchen, and the living room TV screen saver featuring an image of Gustav Klimt’s Fulfillment. I’m slightly obsessed with Klimt! I’m beyond thrilled to be attending the inaugural exhibition at the new Hall des Lumieres in NYC next month, titled Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion. Follow the link and check out this new exhibition space featuring immersive art exhibitions in a digital art center. It is housed in the historical former Emigrants Industrial Savings Bank. This is brought to North America from Culturespaces, France’s leading private manager of museums and cultural heritage sites. This is certain to be one for the memory bank!

Glazed Baby Carrots

Ok pals! Here’s a sweet little mid-week side veggie for your hump day supper tonight. I used my new Geoffrey Zakarian non stick iron skillet; and even with the brown sugar and maple syrup, the clean up was a cinch. And no, I don’t receive anything for pitching this product…i was skeptical, but now I thank the don for his research and excellent gift giving! Booyah!
Vegetable Glazed Carrots I

1 1/2 lbs baby carrots*, or regular carrots peeled and cut into 1/2” slices
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs maple syrup
1/4 t salt
1 Tbs chopped parsley, optional

Place the carrots in a large pan and add 1 1/2 cups of water.
Bring carrots to a simmer.
Cook for 8-10 minutes or until carrots are tender.
Drain off excess water.
Add butter, brown sugar, syrup, and salt to the pan.
Stir to coat the carrots.
Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a sauce has formed.
Sprinkle with parsley if desired to serve.

*I really love GreenWise  Rainbow Baby Carrots.

Vegetable Glazed Carrots IIIJust sharing a bit of ambiance to cheer up your day!

The swan was “bagged” by Brenton at age 9 in Mattamuskeet with PaPa…circa 1993.
Above that is the bottom tip of a painting I love by Ben Knight titled “Heaven Through the Eyes of a Four Year Old.” Special fact…I purchased this at a City Art Gallery opening after I retired, coincidentally on Liam’s (the first grandchild born that made me officially “Grand”!) Fourth Birthday!! Below is the painting in its entirety and where it brings daily joy in our dining room.
Art Ben Knight Heaven thru Eyes of 4 year old

Home Made Dark and Stormy

It may have been dark and stormy drizzly here in Kennebunkport yesterday, but our spirits were anything but damp. Notnerb, Zus, and I made gnocchi with White Barn Inn Chef, played Farkle (rolling straights), and dined at the lively Old Vines Wine Bar with the Don. Thanks babe for treating us to all of this fun!

But I ran off subject a bit…the Dark and Stormy Cocktail…The story began in Bermuda in 1806, when John Gosling managed to come ashore after three months at sea fighting the Bermuda Triangle. He settled on the island and later began producing rum. He paired his dark rum with ginger beer and the Dark ‘n’ Stormy was born! Visiting ships carried the recipe home with them, spreading it world wide, and right into my kitchen as well. So, here’s how you create this cocktail at home! Simple and Delicious!

5 oz Ginger Beer (I prefer Reeds)
2 oz Dark Rum
2 Lime wedges
Fresh mint

Fill cocktail glass with ice (I prefer crushed).
Squeeze one lime wedge in glass.
Pour in ginger beer.
Top up with rum, so that it floats on top.
Garnish with lime wedge and mint.

Oven Baked Shrimp Boil

This is a terrific, easy to prep dinner for a full house of actual PEOPLE over the Fourth of July Holiday. So take a quick peek here and “up” your kitchen success, while sparking extra joy. I’m totally thrilled to be seeing my family (on the regular now) and friends (cautiously) in the flesh, after admittedly being emotionally paralyzed with Covid Fear. But there are also some wonderful lessons learned and accomplishments achieved during Quarantine that will be part of my life forever, thanks to guidance from a trusted life coach, and an organizer unparalleled! So go out there, have some fun, celebrate America, eat good food, and most importantly relish the joy of human interaction…hugs optional…

1 lb Baby Dutch yellow small potatoes
4 ears corn, cut into halves or thirds
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1 lemon, cut into quarters
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced in half lengthwise, then into 2 inch sections
Stick of butter, melted
8 sprigs thyme, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 lbs large cleaned shrimp
2 heaping Tbs Old Bay seasoning (I prefer blackened)
8 oz pilsner beer

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Microwave potatoes on plate 4 1/2 minutes.
Place corn, standing on ends, in baking pan.
Add potatoes and sausage (cut side down).
Drizzle with half melted butter, half lemon juice, thyme, and garlic.
Place lemon wedges on pan.
Bake 15 minutes.
Remove from oven.
Make pouch of aluminum foil.
Add shrimp, Old Bay, lemon zest, remaining lemon juice, remaining butter, and beer.
Bunch foil together at top.
Place in center of baking pan.
Return to oven and roast 15 more minutes.
Remove from oven.
Empty shrimp and juices onto sheet pan.
Turn corn on side to absorb juices.
Return to oven for 5 minutes.

Serves 6 with a side of salad. 

Chicken Caprese

The painting in the pic above is titled “Peg’s Produce” and is by the amazing Kristin Gibson, reflecting this wonderful season of the freshest fruits and vegetables here in Eastern North Carolina. So look forward (and backward) to lots of postings including strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, corn, and so on… so here we are with luxury on a budget. This is the essential summer staple of caprese, with the added bonus of extra protein with a chicken breast. American Made! Yummy all the way down to the Tummy.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
3 Tbs olive oil  
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper 
12 cherry tomatoes
3 Tbs basil paste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tomato, thinly sliced 
Torn fresh basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in small bowl.
Pour half on bottom of casserole dish.
Add chicken, and top with remaining oil mixture.
Place cherry tomatoes around chicken.
Bake 15 minutes.
Remove from oven.
Brush with 1Tbs basil paste.
Sprinkle on mozzarella.
Top with sliced tomatoes.
Top tomatoes with more basil paste.
Return to oven and bake another 15 minutes.
Remove and allow to rest 5 minutes.
Slice on the diagonal.
Top with fresh basil.
Serves 4 with a side of vegetable and starch.

Mint Julep

The 2021 Derby is over, but Bourbon and Mint Juleps live on forever!
Here’s to the Weekend. May it be a great one for everyone!

5 sprigs fresh mint
2 sugar cubes
2 oz bourbon

Crush mint and sugar in bottom of glass.
Fill glass with crushed ice.
Add bourbon.
Stir vigorously and serve.

Photography by pegHARDEE

Blue Cheese Green Beans

Sometimes my dog looks at me with that look, and I think she must know exactly how I feel. But then maybe she just wants the food off my plate.

12 oz package trimmed fresh green beans
1/4 cup chopped leeks
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1/4 t fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbs olive oil

Cook green beans according to package directions.
Sauté leeks in butter 2 to 3 minutes, until edges begin to brown a bit.
Place green beans on serving platter.
Sprinkle with onions, blue cheese, lemon juice, and pepper.
Drizzle with olive oil.

Serves 4 to 6.

LayOvers

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A pomegranate cart in Istanbul…one of my favorite sights ever.

Based on my lack of recent posts, it is obvious that my kitchen and I have been in a bit of a noncollaborative mood as of late. But as we all know, nothing changes unless you take charge and make it change. So, I’ve dug deeply searching for inspiration, innovation, and imagination. I hope I’ve once again found it. Stay tuned…here’s to taking a pause in the kitchen as in travels; let’s just call it a layover! But here’s a link to my favorite pomegranate chicken recipe, inspired by my first trip to Istanbul a few years ago!

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Our puffy travel faces with the gorgeous Blue Mosque as the main feature.

This very day last year, the don and I (and a couple of very special friends!) were on a three day layover in Istanbul on our way home from a fabulous trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

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Our fantastic friend and guide Riza, bidding farewell.

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And Peg departing from the fabulous Four Seasons Sultanahmet (Old City…think Constantinople!)