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Peach Salsa

peach salsa 5 In the weeks since my big freelance project wrapped up I’ve felt drunk with the power of free time. I’m a say-yes-to-everything kind of gal anyway, so the sudden onslaught of free time combined with all the opportunities provided by summer life at the beach has kept me busy. The very best kind of busy.

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peach salsa 2 This week we decided to picnic at the beach with friends one day after work, giving ourselves the chance to enjoy the sand and sun and salt. I made a pulled chicken and a batch of peach salsa, and we feasted on tacos and watermelon and edamame and snickerdoodles. It was an easy and simple dinner that was perfectly portable and just what we needed before surfing and swimming into the dusk.

peach salsa 3 Peaches have been flooding the markets lately and, by extension, flooding my kitchen. Eating them whole, grilling them, throwing them in salads and smoothies and pies. They’ve been especially helpful in my efforts to stick to the “Vegan Before 6” program. This salsa was fresh, tart, and sweet, a nice balance to the spicy chicken. I will absolutely make it again to pair with fish, grilled portabellas, grits, burgers, sausages, grilled pork, or even mango sorbet.

peach salsa 1 Peach Salsa

2 white peaches
2 yellow peaches
1 red onion
1 cup/handful cilantro
1 jalapeño
Juice of 3 limes
Salt & pepper

Chop and seed peaches, keeping the skin on. Peel and mince the onion, stirring into peaches. Add chopped cola to, chopped and seeded jalapeño, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Let rest 30 minutes before serving.

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5/100 Pender County Blueberry Lemon Cake

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Inevitably every year I find myself in a bit of a culinary rut during the months of March and April. After the bustle of the holidays, the excitement of roasting root vegetables, and the inevitable sugar high of National Pie Month (religiously observed in our household), the remaining months of winter feel slow and uninspired. I grow weary of eating root vegetables, of slow cooking meats. I’m ready for FRESH and the wait is difficult. This is all to say that when the blueberries start flooding the market in the beginning of summer, I indulge. I help myself to pints and pints of blueberries, shooting my antioxidant intake through the roof and top every dish, from pancakes to pork chops, with blueberries. They’re a little, compact, tart sign from nature that the tides are turning and that summer’s bounty is coming. I, for one, fully embrace signs from nature.

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It is fortuitous, perhaps, that I now find myself living a short 36 miles from Burgaw, the home of the North Carolina Blueberry Festival, which celebrated it’s 10th anniversary this June. A few weeks ago we packed into our car (which is not unlike a blueberry in shape and color) and headed up Highway 117, our only expectation being the consumption and celebration of blueberries. Okay, maybe we were also hoping to see someone dressed as a blueberry, a la Willy Wonka. But other than that, we were in it for the ride.

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As promised the festival was wonderful. Everything was blue, there was an abundance of blueberry-related foods and crafts and games, and (best of all) farm stands were selling out of pints of berries all over the festival grounds. Hundreds of people gathered to eat and drink and dance in the small town of Burgaw, all in celebration of this fruit. It never ceases to amaze me how food can bring us together.

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Pender County is located just north of us, situated between Duplin, Onslow, Brunswick, Bladen, Columbus, New Hanover, and Sampson Counties. It’s home to our favorite place to take Kaylee for a hike, Poplar Grove, part of Topsail Island, Burgaw, the home of the blueberry festival (and Pender’s County seat), and much more. Named for William Dorsey Pender, a Confederate general who was mortally wounded in the battle of Gettysburg, it spans over 930 miles, 62 of which is water, and has a population of around 50,000 people.

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Pender County was one of the first counties to reach out to me after I launched Tasting North Carolina with recipes from their cookbook of award winning NC Blueberry Festival recipes. After careful consideration I decided to try my hand at a Blueberry Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting, a recipe submitted by Kelly Griffin of Wallace, NC, and was delighted to  have a chance to make it with fresh Pender County blueberries. It was a smash hit around the house, and certainly tasted better than it looked (not really a skilled cake baker over here). Dan has put in an official request for more cake. Perhaps now that we’re seeing more and more stone fruit in the market I’ll indulge him with a peach pound cake.


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This post is part of the ongoing series, Tasting North Carolina. Read more about the project here.


Blueberry-Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Kelly Elaine, Griffin Wallace, NC

2 c flour

1 pint fresh blueberries

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 c. whole milk

1 ½ c. sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

4 lg. eggs

1 tsp. grated lemon peel

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temp)

-Preheat oven to 350°.

-Butter three (9 inch) diameter cake pans with 1 ½ inch high sides. Butter pans and dust with flour.

– Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. In a separate bowl toss blueberries in a bit of the flour. Set remaining flour mixture and blueberries aside.

-Stir whole milk, vanilla extract and grated lemon peel in small bowl.

-Beat butter in a large bowl until light and creamy.

-Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy.

– Add eggs one at a time.

– Add flour mixture to egg mixture a little at a time, alternating with milk.

– Fold in blueberries and divide batter equally among pans.

– Bake  25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

– Cool cakes in pans on rack for 10 minutes. Run knife around pan sides to loosen. Turn cakes out onto racks to cool completely.

– Layer cakes with frosting spread generously between layers  and on top.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting: 

2 (8-oz.) pkgs. Cream cheese (room temp)

4 c. powdered sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp. lemon zest

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (room temp)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in powdered sugar.  Add vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

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Blackened Red Drum

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For the past five weeks I’ve been working on a big freelance project that  has utterly consumed me and everything around me. I’ve been eating (literally) sleeping and breathing this project, and while I’m so excited about it and enthusiastic about it I’m also overwhelmingly exhausted. Tired in that way I wasn’t sure tired existed. Tired in that way where I almost forgot my own birthday. That kind of tired.

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Last week was my birthday; 27. That makes 27 years on this earth, which feels like many, many years from where I’m standing.  I can’t complain, 26 was a good year, maybe the best one yet. We accomplished an amazing amount, I feel so much more settled and happy and centered than I did last year. We had a great birthday weekend– fireworks, a trip to Topsail with friends, a whole lot of cooking, drinks and bluegrass and cannolis with my mom. It was a good way to celebrate, and I’m excited for what’s to come.

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Most of what I’ve been cooking has been for the project, but I’ve managed to squeeze in a few recipes here and there that are just for us. On the way home from Carolina Beach on the 4th we picked up some local red drum and blackened it along with a medley of root vegetables I picked up from the farmer’s market. It was the perfect meal, light and fresh. All the reasons to love summer blackened with spices and served up on one plate.

blackened fish 1 Blackened Red Drum

4 red drum filets, skinned and deboned

1/2 stick butter, melted

blackening spices:

1 tsp chipotle

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix together spices. Heat a dry cast iron pan over a medium-high stove. Dredge filets first in butter, then in spices, making sure to coat well on both sides. Cook in hot skillet 2-3 minutes per side, until blackened and cooked through. Serve hot.

Tip: This was super incredibly smoky, so my advice would be to try it on the grill if you can.

Roasted Root Vegetables

1 bunch baby carrots (young carrots, not the cut adult carrots)

10-12 small red potatoes

1 tbsp fresh rosemary

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt & pepper

Halve potatoes. Clean carrots and cut off stems. Toss potatoes and carrots in olive oil with rosemary (minced), salt, and pepper. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are tender.


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