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Fried Pickle Chips

Recently I was sent a copy of Off the Eaten Path: Favorite Southern Dives and 150 Recipes That Made Them Famous, a book by Morgan Murphy that was produced by Southern Living.  It’s a collection of recipes from down home restaurants all over the American South.  It was such a delight to read through this book, get a glimpse into Southern food culture far beyond what I’m familiar with.  In his introduction Murphy makes the astute observation that to really know a place, you have to eat the food.  I wholeheartedly agree with this, regional food both defines us and brings us together.

The first thing I did after reading the introduction was to flip through to the section from North Carolina, of course.  I was not disappointed.  In this section Murphy highlights everything from sorbet from Chapel Hill favorite Crook’s Corner to a pork chop sandwich from Andy Griffith’s hometown, Mount Airy.  One thing I couldn’t pass up was this recipe for Crispy Fried Pickles from Okie Dokies Smokehouse in Swannanoa (near Asheville).

Fried pickles have always been a favorite of mine, whether they’re dill spears or okra. Fried on the grill and served with a ranch and barbeque sauce dip, these pickle chips were the perfect compliment to a summer dinner out back.

Crispy Fried Pickles
Source: Adapted from Okie Dokie Smokehouse, recipe from Off the Eaten Path

4 cups dill pickle chips, drained

1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk

1/2 ranch dressing

2 tbsp barbeque sauce

Canola Oil

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp paprika

1 tbsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp chipotle

1 tsp salt

After draining the pickles soak them in buttermilk in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Stir together flour and spices.  Heat your oil to 375.  Dip each pickle chip in the flour mixture and fry until golden (3-4 minutes).

Mix together ranch and barbeque sauce.  Serve with pickles.

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Salmon & Vegetable Kabobs

It wasn’t until recently that I really started loving salmon.  I’m picky about fish because my family has always been the fishing sort so I have had the luxury of knowing what fresh caught, fresh cooked fish tastes like.  The past few years we’ve started trying MSC certified salmon, which means it’s caught responsibly and sustainably and, for decidely non-local, tastes incredibly fresh.

We got these skewers for Christmas from my parents and this was our first time trying them out!  In addition to the salmon we grilled squash, red onion, red pepper, and mushrooms.  Let me tell you, I am so thrilled it’s grilling season again!

My favorite site in the warm months

Salmon Skewers (For Two)

2 salmon filets

1 squash

1 red pepper

1/2 red onion

10 mushrooms

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Salt & pepper

Slice salmon, pepper, squash, and onion.  Remove stalks from mushrooms.  Put all ingredients in a bag/bowl for 30 minutes to marinate.

Slide pieces on skewers, alternating between salmon and the various vegetables.  Grill for 10 minutes.  Flip and grill an additional 10 minutes.

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Our Garden

Our dwarf pomegranate tree

We have big plans this summer. Big garden plans.  Big vegetable garden plans.  Last year we grew our first outdoor vegetable garden and while it was wonderful it was not nearly as ambitious as we wanted.  This year is completely different.  We have twice the space, ten times the variety, and big dreams.  I thought that because what we cook, eat, and write about this summer (and hopefully this year as we use food we’ve preserved) will be coming from this garden, it would be fun to occasionally give you a look into how things are growing.

The biggest perk (and selling point) of our sometimes painfully small urban apartment is that we have a backyard.  And because we live in the garden apartment, we consider this little corner of Baltimore to be the best part of our home (side note: we’ve declared it an embassy of North Carolina).  Last year in the little plot we grew pink ponderosa and beefsteak tomatoes, TWO incredibly fruitful habanero plants, cajun jewel okra, eggplant, royal burgandy beans, hot and spicy oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, and a dwarf pomegranate tree.  In the fall we planted spinach, arugula, and garlic.  We had a lot of problems last year.  It was so hot that most of the plants wouldn’t set fruit until early fall, some plants (cough, habanero, cough) way overproduced while others (like okra) put out only one fruit at a time.  It was amazing to eat from our own backyard all summer but we learned a lot.

Scarlet Emperor Beans

Mystery gourd

One of the biggest lessons we took away from last summer was that it didn’t make sense to divide our limited growing space between all the tenets in our building.  We live in a 19th century rowhouse in a historic neighborhood, which is split into a number of apartments.  We’re lucky in that our housemates are wonderful people.  And last summer a few of us had backyard plots and all grew the same thing.  Which meant that we had a lot of tomatoes and habaneros.  So this year we’ve decided to garden together. Maximizing the space we’re growing a huge variety that will keep us all in the vegetable way.

Dan’s creation, something for his hops to climb

This year in the backyard we’re growing: washday peas, cucumber, cajun jewel okra, summer squash, winter squash, watermelon, sugar pumpkins, eggplant, jalapeño, bell peppers, roma tomatoes, pink ponderosa tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, cantaloupe, scarlet emperor beans, mint, basil, thyme, oregano, hot and spicy oregano, rosemary, lavender, cascade hops, nugget hops, strawberries, lettuce, red potatoes, a dwarf pomegranate tree, and a mystery gourd (or maybe a watermelon?).  In the fall we’ll put in greens, carrots, and another crop of garlic.

This summer is also our first in a community garden.  We were lucky enough to get a (huge) plot in Baltimore’s Roosevelt Park Garden.  It’s about two miles north of our house, which I learned today is a lovely (if not a bit hilly) bike ride that smells perfectly like honeysuckle.  At this garden we’ve planted a variety of tomatoes, okra, squash, melons, cucumbers, and peppers.

For now, we’re thrilled.  But this Saturday is Baltimore’s Herb Festival, so I have a feeling we’ll be making some additions.  What are you growing this summer?

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