Cheese & Jalapeño Sour Cream Muffins

This is what you’ll need to create these treats:

Cooking spray
3/4 cup fine corn meal
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
3 Tbs light sour cream
3 Tbs canola oil
2 eggs
3 Tbs chopped jalapeños
3/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.
Lightly coat 8 muffin tins with cooking spray
Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in large bowl.
In separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, oil, and eggs.
Add sour cream mixture to cornmeal mixture, stirring until just combined.
Fold in jalapeños and cheese.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden.
Insert knife or pick in center to test for doneness.
About 150 calories per muffin.

I was in Cabo when I concocted these little nuggets of a muffin, taking full advantage of the abundance of jalapeños. Fun fact: jalapeños account for thirty percent of Mexico’s chili production. I snapped the above left photo at the end of the day when they were freshly baked and the sun was streaming dreamily in through the living room window. The next day we pulled out the preserves and enjoyed brunch with the muffins reheated, along with Donaldo’s delicious version of Huevos Rancheros, where flavors comingle in the best imaginable way.

Donaldo is his Cabo name, assigned by the Diamante caddies. He is on those golf courses when not in the kitchen with his skillet in hand! Go on, send your taste buds on holiday.

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!

Grilled Shrimp and Fruit with Honey and Lime

Donaldo and I (and everyone that goes with us) find Diamante a perfect place of peace and joy…just what we all need, right? It means Diamond, and it is a lovely private resort on the Pacific, totally self contained, a few miles outside of Cabo proper. Cooking creates a calm in me, and sustenance is nurturing to all on the receiving end of dinner. And I adore cooking in the Diamante villa. Grab the essence of this mix of flavors in the recipe that follows!

And while I’m at it…All of my friends understand how difficult Covid and the quarantine were for me. I was paralyzingly afraid. But thanks to Frances, who introduced me to a new thought process, the amazing staff at Canyon Ranch who filled my box with the perfect tools, and James (nod to Brenton for her intuition, research, and choice!) who keeps me steady on the weekly, and finally…to me for creating menus that maintain that calm on the daily…I may just become a sociable person again…yes, the longest run on sentence ever! So enjoy the fruits of my joyous labor! This shrimp and fruit concoction is a true delight. YUM!! *Note: If anyone would enjoy further info on any of my helpful team of peeps, I’m happy to share! In the meantime, get your tastebuds ready for a happy dance!

1 Tbs olive oil for grilling
1 Tbs butter
1 lb large shrimp, cleaned
2 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs honey
Medium honeydew melon, halved and seeded
Medium cantaloupe, halved and seeded
Small seedless watermelon, halved
2 Tbs lime zest
2 Tbs lime juice
1 t chopped fresh mint

Combine 2 Tbs lime juice and honey in small bowl, and set aside.
Using 1 1/4” melon baller, scoop 24 balls of all 3 melons.
Place in large bowl.
Add lime zest, lime juice, and mint.
Toss to combine.
Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Preheat grill pan with olive oil and butter over high heat.*
Add shrimp and grill about 1 1/2 minutes per side.
Brush both sides shrimp with lime and honey glaze.
Grill 15 more seconds per side.
Serve shrimp along side melon balls.
Serves 4.
140 calories per serving.

*We didn’t have a grill pan at Diamante, so I just prepared the shrimp with a simple sauté pan. Just as delicious as the grilled version.

P TO THE S…SORRY IF THAT WAS TOO MUCH PERSONAL INFO! IT’S MY CURRENT LIFE PATH, AND I AM MORE THAN PLEASED, SO I WANT TO SHARE, ESPECIALLY IF IT CAN ASSIST ANYONE ELSE IN NEED OF A RESET! HAPPY HAPPY WEEKEND TO ALL. AND A VERY MERRY GOOD NIGHT! IS IT CHRISTMAS? 134 DAYS!!

Potatas Bravas

Back, oh, a decade or so ago, Brenton fell in love with the lifestyle and cuisine of Southern Spain. Upon her return to the grand USofA, we experimented with numerous recipes, based on her taste bud memories. One of our favorites, and a routine “go to” even in this decade is the Potato Frittata. It’s all about gaming your brain with a delicious amount of starch…and while we have you dancing around in that head of yours, here’s another starchy option, appetizer style, served all fancy! Here are the particulars!

Olive oil
2 diced plum tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t paprika
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed

Cook tomatoes in olive oil until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Add garlic, thyme, paprika, and pepper flakes.
Cook 3 to 4 more minutes.
In separate skillet, cook potatoes in olive oil until tender and golden, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Drain on paper towels.
Sprinkle with salt.
Serve in spoons over tomato sauce.
Drizzle with “aioli” sauce.

Sauce:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
In medium bowl, whisk together all three ingredients until well combined.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes 20 spoons.

Baha Peninsula Artichoke Appetizer

I Know I Know I Know…Cabo Stories are becoming a bit nonplussed; however, to know me is to know that I love our Diamante villa in Cabo. You may find it odd that I am a very pale, natural blond, 66 year old Grand. That is to say that I don’t sit in the sun; but I am all about being out there in the pool with the fam and friends, 50+ sunscreen, most of the time in long sleeve SPF shirts, soaking up the fun. In the interim, I’m all about dreaming up new manners in which to cook our favorite bites when we gather around the dinner table! The Baha Peninsula is known for many, many things, one of which is growing artichokes. The baby ones are the best, most tender, and just yummy. So, we enjoyed them, a lot!

Above, from left: the don is mixing the cheeses. ~ the Cabo Grocery Girls couldn’t find wonton wrappers while stocking our kitchen, so…improvise. I used the Diamante Market pizza dough instead; and with no rolling pin, enter the empty Ciroc bottle to roll the dough (yes my arms did get some sun that day!). ~ Improvising again, with no cookie cutter, hello glass to cut the rounds of dough to fit into the muffin tin. Check out the results below!

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 t garlic powder
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup water packed baby artichokes, drained and chopped
24 wonton wrappers
Chopped fresh chives for garnish
Mini muffin tin

In mixing bowl, combine Parmesan, mayonnaise, and garlic powder.
Mix well.
Stir in Monterey Jack and artichokes.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Spray 2 mini muffin tin pans with nonstick spray.
Press one wonton wrapper into each small muffin cup.
Bake 5 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.
Fill each cup with artichoke mixture.
Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes…but keep your eye on it!
Garnish with chives and serve warm.

Every Day/Evening Sangria

Our family has always enjoyed the properties of a single, simple glass of Sangria, especially following a L.O.N.G. day of walking streets, touring museums, scouring markets, and absorbing culture in a distant city…or simply picking up the 5 year olds for the week right here in ENC (Eastern North Carolina)! The top pics below are from a treasured Thanksgiving holiday in London, on a quiet little street in Brenton’s neighborhood, when she was there and studying at Sotheby’s. Dare I say a magical adventure. The London version is a white wine Sangria, and my recipe is for a delightful red wine Sangria. Cheers!

2 oranges, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
2 Tbs superfine sugar
2 (1/5th size ) bottles red wine
2/3 cup Grand Marnier
1 red apple, cored and sliced into thin wedges
Club soda to top up

Place half orange and lemon slices in large pitcher.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Leave to commingle flavors 15 minutes.
Add wine and Grand Marnier.
Refrigerate 1 hour or more.
When ready to serve, add apple slices, remaining orange and lemon slices.
Add ice to tall glasses and pour over.
Top up with small bit of club soda.

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

Mahi: Part Two

As evidenced above, a few years back I had the joy of a fly fishing experience with Carl in the Dan River Gorge on the Primland property. That had been on my Whistle List for years, and I checked it right off that weekend! Now that’s not fishing for Mahi, duh; but it earned a gold medal for fun times with fab friends.

Flashing back even further in time to a second take on Mahi prep…in the manner of NOLA chef Paul Prudhomme (God Rest His Soul), I present a blackened version of Mahi. A quick story; in the late 1990’s while dining at K Paul’s for the first time, I spent most of the evening away from the dinner table, outside peering into the tiny screened-in kitchen where the fish were being prepared. The kindest chefs ever (heavily sweating and constantly wiping their brows in the heat of that tiny, tiny, tiny room) told me everything that they were doing. Bronzed fish, blackened fish, sautéed fish, panned in butter fish, poached fish, grilled fish, and on and on and on again. I was forever grateful to those lovely gentlemen and forever enthralled with the cuisine and techniques of Chef Paul and his style of cooking there on the great waters of N’awlins. This is total happiness, so pay attention…I’ll take Mahi Recipes for Five Hundred Please!
Thank you Hank Williams for these beautiful words:
“The fairest young maiden that I ever saw
Passed by as it started to rain
We both found a shelter beneath the same tree
On the banks of the old Pontchartrain.”

Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Fish
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbs good olive oil
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t fresh black pepper
3 t Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Magic
2  6 oz filets of mahi (or other thick white fish of choice)
Filets should be 1 to 1 1/2″ thick

Place filets on a plate.
Pour 1/2 of the melted butter on top side of the filets.
Sprinkle filets with salt, pepper, and 1/2 of the Blackened Redfish Magic.
Turn filets over in plate and repeat with butter, salt, pepper, and Blackened Magic.
Heat skillet on high.
Pour the 3 Tbs olive oil into skillet.
Place filets in skillet and turn heat to medium high.
Cook 3 minutes uncovered. 
Turn to other side and cook 3 more minutes.

I hope you didn’t give up seafood for Lent! Come on in with an empty tummy. Experience just the right amount of heat and your heart will say “don’t take me back to the real world!”

Mahi, Two Ways: Part One

Well hellodie from the fishing scene in Istanbul! Follow the journey from the Turkish shore all the way back to Morehead City’s Captain Jim’s Seafood, and then straight in to Peg’s Kitchen for a lively adventure in fish prep! First, Istanbul, 2013… Lone fishermen in small boats catch Bluefish on the Bosphorus Strait and deliver them straight to the docks where they are cooked on sight for locals and tourists alike. Fanciful, docked, decorative boats serve as open air kitchens. Can NOT get any fresher than that! The cooks are constantly singing melodic tunes of “Balik Ekmek”, meaning “Fish Sandwich.” We indulged happily!

Fast forward to 2021 , where we are state side, and here in Greenville, NC cooking some great fresh mahi filets, two ways! No need to escape to the shore, I’m gonna school ya from right here. So, Be Inspired and Come in Hungry! Perhaps one of these recipes will become your signature fish dish…One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish! (Thank you Dr. Seuss.)

First Way: Sautéed Mahi with Clarified Butter

6 oz mahi filet, 11/2″ thick
1/4 t Kosher salt
1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
1 t olive oil
2 Tbs clarified butter
1/4 cup dry white wine, more if needed
1 Tbs capers
1/4 cup baby tomatoes
1 Tbs chopped chives, for serving
Cilantro, for serving

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper.
Heat skillet over medium-high heat.
Drizzle oil on bottom of skillet.
Add butter to skillet and swirl to evenly coat pan.
Add fish to skillet.
Cook 4 minutes.
Flip fish to other side.
Add wine, capers, and tomatoes to skillet.
Reduce heat to medium low.
Cook 6 minutes, until cooked through.

To plate:
Place filet on plate.
Spoon cooking juices with capers and tomatoes over filet.
Garnish with chives and cilantro.
Serve with a side of roasted red potatoes.

Thai Green Curry Shrimp and Beans

A little history regarding this specifically meaningful recipe…My dear friend (and best international travel companion) and I cooked prawns (along with other wonderful Thai delicacies while sipping champagne!) all afternoon one day at the Spice Spoons Culinary Institute, Anantara Resort, Bangkok, in 2017. A few fun bits emphasized regarding prawns vs shrimp…Prawns have three pairs of claw like legs, shrimp have one. Prawns have longer legs than shrimp, and may taste a bit sweeter and meatier than shrimp, that are more delicate. Prawns are most often served with their heads on, which can be disconcerting to the novice; I know this first hand! My initial experience with these freaky little heads was in the early nineteen eighties (YES I am a fossil) in New Orleans at Pascal’s Manale and I may have gasped out loud just a little, but it was delicious. Chef Ohm was amazing during our afternoon cooking session and later that evening prepared a sumptuous private dinner for the four of us outside on the lush lawn. We all agree that this was the best “friends trip” ever!!! So…here you are with a tasty Thai Shrimp recipe that Chef shared with us! This is wicked good…enjoy in excellent health my friends!

Sometimes you just have to sip fresh coconut milk from a freshly cooled and cut coconut when it’s offered. And this is what we are using in the following recipe!

Here’s what you need:
12 oz linguine
12 oz fresh green beans, trimmed, and cut into 2 inch pieces
1/3 cup green curry paste
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (plus additional leaves for garnish)
3 Tbs olive oil (add more if needed)
3/4 to 1 cup coconut milk (see pic above!)
1 lb large, cleaned shrimp*
1 cup pasta water (more if needed)
1/2 cup cilantro
2 Tbs fresh lime juice

*We love the shrimp, and everything, from Captain Jim’s Seafood, Atlantic Beach, NC
(if you’re in the area).
Typically, they deliver to Greenville every other Saturday.
Best seafood, and best personal service ever!

Here’s how you prepare it:
Bring large pot of water boil.
Add linguine and cook 5 to 7 minutes. (Check package directions.)
Add fresh green beans.
Cook until crisp tender, probably 3 minutes.
Reserve 1 cup or more of pasta water.
Drain pasta and green beans.
In large skillet, cook curry paste and cilantro in oil, over medium heat, stirring 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant.
Add coconut milk, season with salt, and bring to simmer.
Cook 2 minutes until slightly thickened.
Stir in shrimp and cook 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Stir in pasta, green beans, and lime juice.
Add reserved pasta water to create a silky sauce.
Toss to coat.
Serve with lime wedges and cilantro.