Mahi Mahi Pouches with Zucchini and Mint

After being in Washington DC for a week I was definitely ready for some fresh Charleston seafood. We found some beautiful Mahi Mahi filets at a local seafood market. Normally I would do a simple fresh herb rub and throw them on the grill, but alas another Charleston evening thunderstorm was rolling in. Baking fresh fish in parchment paper pouches is a fool proof way to get moist and perfectly cooked fish every single time. The paper browns up on its own, letting you know when your fish is ready. You can put any vegetables or garnishes in the pouch with your fish, infusing it with great flavors and allowing for a whole self contained meal with very little clean up! Perfect for a rainy summer day.

Mahi Mahi Pouches:

  • 4, 1/2 lb Mahi Mahi filets
  • 2 medium Zucchini, grated
  • 2 tbsp red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, cut into 8 thin rounds
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 4, 15in x 15in pieces of parchment paper, folded and cut into a heart shape (picture follows!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush melted butter on one half of the heart shaped parchment paper and place one Mahi filet on each one (skin side down if it is still on there) and sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Split Zucchini, Red Onion and Mint among the four filets and spread it on top. Place 2 Lemon rounds on each filet. Drizzle remaining butter over filets to be a little indulgent!

To illustrate the heart shaped parchment!

Fold over heart and roll up edges to create a closed, sealed pouch. The steam staying in is important to cooking it.

Place on cooking sheet and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until parchment is slightly browned. Simply put on a plate, open pouches (be super careful of the hot steam!) and enjoy!

Just to show how lovely and steamy it comes out!

Grilled Corn and Red Pepper “Relish”

Summertime is perfect for grilling. I love the charred, smokey taste that anything you throw on gets almost like its a seasoning in itself. Having fewer dishes to wash after cooking doesn’t hurt either! With this dish I use the term relish loosely, I originally used this as a topping for steak or chicken but now I like it as a side dish in itself. It is an incredibly simple recipe but so satisfying with all the flavor that comes from the grill.

Grilled Corn and Red Pepper “Relish”:

  • 5 ears of Sweet Corn, Husked
  • 3 Red Peppers
  • 3 Banana Peppers (Optional, we have a Banana Pepper plant outside so I throw them in almost everything!)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh Oregano
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

First I start with a hot, charcoal grill and put the Corn, whole Red Peppers and Banana Peppers directly onto the grill. Turn until the corn is slightly charred and peppers are black on the outside.

Immediately place peppers into a brown paper bag for five minutes to sweat off their skin a little bit. Peel off skin, remove stem and seeds from peppers and dice them up. Cut corn kernels off the cob and combine in a large bowl with peppers, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve warm or cold, a perfect side dish or relish for a summer day!

The Most Disturbing Burger…Ever!

I was at my parent’s house last night making them a lovely dinner (Grilled NY Strip, Escarole Salad with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette ((3 tbsp White Wine Vinegar, 3 Tbsp EVOO, 3/4 cup Blue Cheese Crumbles)) with Caramelized Onions, Walnuts, Bacon and Pears, then Chocolate Covered Strawberries for dessert) and my Body-Builder younger brother walked in. When he eats it is more of a feeding than a meal, purely for energy and not for taste which I can not relate too. I’ve seen him do some strange eating, like drinking raw eggs and whole days of just sweet potatoes, but last night takes the cake. He grills up a burger, which seems normal enough, then throws on the Walnuts from my salad and the Chocolate Chips from my dessert…blech.And there you have a burger that is almost as disturbing as the speedos he wears in his competitions haha!

Just to add to the randomness of this post, a picture of my dog in sunglasses, he loves them:

Happy Weekend!

Chicago Style Pizza

Deep Dish or Thin Crust? A debate that has plagued my family for generations. If you ask my Grandpa, a South-Side Chicago native, Thin Crust is king. They have been going to Fox’s Pizza for decades, and anytime I am in Chicago visiting it’s the favorite family meeting spot. With a crispy, thin to the point of non-existent crust, covered in cheese, olives, mushrooms, peppers and sausage it is delightful. I could almost eat a whole family size pizza to myself. But if I close my eyes and think of the pizza of my childhood all I can picture is that thick deep dish, ultra stuffed and ultra cheesey pizza. Sorry Grandpa!

A true deep dish has a thick, crispy, flaky and buttery crust. Next comes the layer of gooey mozzarella cheese, spicy Italian style sausage all covered with stewed tomatoes, fresh basil and a sprinkling of Parmesan. If you are ever in Chicago, Lou Malnati’s is the place to go. One slice is more than enough, but you always eat two or three! The last time I was in town visiting for a week and I had it THREE different times (once for lunch, once as a late night munchy in the hotel and once on the El ride to the airport!). When we got home to Charleston, the Lou Malnati’s withdrawals set in pretty quick, so we went online to get some shipped. It costs a whopping $105 to get one of these masterpieces sent to you! I knew it just wasn’t practical for an addiction like mine so I had to learn how to make one myself. Here’s my best effort to bring a little Chi-Town to your home!

Chicago Style Deep Dish:

  • 1 batch Emeril’s Pizza Dough (I use cornmeal instead of semolina flour, I like it better with the little crunch it adds) Makes 2 Pizzas
  • Olive oil for pan
  • 2 tbsp Melted Butter
  • 4 c. Mozzarella Cheese
  • One package Spicy Italian Sausage, cooked and sliced (I like Turkey Sausage because I can pretend its healthy!)
  • 2 16 oz Cans Stewed Tomatoes, drained
  • 1/3 Cup Chiffonade of Fresh Basil (visual of chiffonade below!)
  • Parmesan Cheese (For sprinkling on top)

Preheat oven to 475. Grease a 9-inch Spring Form Pan with olive oil, sprinkle bottom with cornmeal and shake out excess to give crust an extra crisp. Cut the risen pizza dough in half and roll out on a floured surface to a little larger than pan, transfer into it and press dough about 1 1/2 inches up the sides of pan. Brush dough with melted butter and allow to rest for a couple minutes. You may have to be persistent with pushing it up the sides, the dough can be springy and pull away but with some effort will stay in its position!

Add a layer of half of the mozzarella cheese, evenly distribute the sausage slices, then cover with the remaining cheese. Cover cheese with a single layer of the stewed tomatoes.

Cook in oven for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, sprinkle the top with the fresh basil and Parmesan, return to oven and cook an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven, unspring the spring form pan and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Slice (we like to do just quarters!!) and enjoy!

A Chiffonade is the pretty long thin strips of basil that are really simple to make! Stack basil leaves on top of each other, roll into a tight cylinder and slice width wise through it:

Grilled South Carolina Peaches

Grilled Peaches have been like a gift from the gods as a perfect summertime dessert. They are light, nutritious and beyond delicious in this hot and steamy weather. We get our peaches from a local farmers market style place called The Vegetable Bin, where it is extremely affordable and locally sourced fruits and veggies whenever possible. For this recipe we use not-too-soft, not-too-hard (does that make sense??) peaches so that they’ll hold up on the grill.

You’ll need:

  • 4 ripe (but not too ripe!) peaches
  • Mascarpone Cheese (A sweet Italian cream cheese of sorts! Greek Yogurt works too if you want to make this completely healthy)
  • Honey

Simply cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. On a medium-high grill, start with the exposed fruit side down, grill 3 minutes, then flip to the skin side down for an additional 3 minutes.

Serve warm with a dollop of Mascarpone Cheese (I always feel like Giada de Laurantiis when I use it!) and a drizzle of Honey.

Monday Burger Night At Cypress

Cypress has been one of my favorite fine-dining restaurants in Charleston. Everything they have is delicious, from the Caesar Salad (Made and served table-side) to the Molten Chocolate Cake for dessert. Their Chef, Greg Deihl, was a James Beard Award nominee this year for good reason! Unfortunately with my budget I can’t afford the whole dining experience too often, which makes Monday Burger Night awesome. At $5 for a variety of burgers and $3 for the sides (Fried Mac and Cheese or Steak Fries), it can’t be beat. With the entire 2nd Floor Bar and Dining Room open for seating, there is plenty of room for all to enjoy! So on Monday nights I’m able to get a little dressed up, enjoy a nice glass of Rose Wine and a delicious gourmet burger for a great experience and very little damage to my bank roll!

Wood Grilled Burger (bacon jam, pimiento cheese, butter lettuce, yeast roll), Fried Mac and Cheese, House Made Pickle

Free Lobster Roll??

A free Lobster Roll is a wonderful thing to come by. My dad called and said he had two pounds of Lobster Claw and Knuckle Meat and it was time to create the Lobster Roll he had been dreaming of for months, I was definitely in. These would not be your usual Lobster Rolls, as the lobster claws and knuckles were obtained in an unusual way.

My dad is the owner of a Barbecue company that supplies the smallest restaurant to the largest stadiums with all natural, all hickory smoked and all hand pulled Pork, Brisket, Pulled Chicken, Ribs and Wings (Birney’s Foods as you may have seen in a previous post). One of his best and oldest customers called frantically on Saturday morning after discovering their freezer and refrigerator were completely down, and all his product had been ruined. My dad had to make the 45 minute emergency mission to Moncks Corner, SC where his smokehouse is located, load up with Pulled Pork, Brisket and Chicken and zip back the 45 minutes to Downtown Charleston to deliver the goods. As a thanks for the trouble they gave him two pounds of top-grade Lobster. Sounds good to me!

Lobster Roll:

  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 bunches green onion, chopped (white and green part)
  • 1 lemon’s worth of juice
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 lbs steamed lobster (we had the claws and knuckles), Chop into bite-size pieces

Combine all ingredients together! It’s best to keep the lobster simple to truly let its flavor shine, you don’t want to over power it.

Next we used our favorite fresh baked hotdog rolls from Publix, they almost have a texture similar to Challah Bread, simply melt a tablespoon of butter, brush it on the sides and broil it in a 500 degree broiler for about 15 seconds a side. Be careful, they will burn FAST!

And here you have it, A Delicious (and slightly “Free”!) Lobster Roll!

Feeling a little CLAMMY!

Being a city on the ocean, Charleston has its fair share of local fish markets. It has always been a no-brainer for me to go straight for the Grouper, Mahi Mahi, Salmon or even Whole Flounder. Fresh fish is so fool proof and simple all it needs a little salt, pepper and fresh herbs then a hot grill. The problem: it can cost as much as $20 per pound! What am I? A Rockefeller?? Then I noticed the Clams. At $4.50 for a dozen (about a pound), these local, fresh and live clams were my Knights in Shelly Armor!

Looking to Carb-Load for my big run in the morning (My excuse! Really I’m just obsessed with pasta!) I decided on a Whole Wheat Fettuccine with Clam Sauce. A heavy red sauce is not always appealing in the hot summer so I thought it would be a great, light summer meal.

Fettuccine with Clam Sauce

  • Whole Wheat Fettuccine (I enjoy the heartier flavor and texture of a whole wheat pasta!)
  • 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3/4 Cup Dry White Wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc because I like to drink it in my Wine Spritzers!!)
  • 3/4 Cup Clam Juice
  • 2 lbs Fresh Clams
  • 1/2 Red Onion, chopped
  • 6 Cloves Minced Garlic (I love to get a big container of Pre-Minced Garlic because it eliminates all the extra work with a garlic clove)
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Oregano, Chopped
  • 1/2 Tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Parsley
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Basil (The greatest thing I have ever done for my cooking is plant a fresh herb garden! It has opened up so many more options and has proven to be a real money saver!)
  • 2 Tbsp Cold Butter, Cubed

In a 6 quart pot heat the oil over medium-high heat, add red onion and saute until softened and slightly golden, about 4 minutes. Add Garlic, Oregano and Red Pepper Flakes, saute an additional 2-3 minutes, until garlic is golden. Mix in Wine and Clam Juice, allow to simmer and reduce about 3 minutes. Toss in the Clams (gently!) and cover, shaking pot occasionally to make sure they don’t burn on the bottom. Leave covered 5-10 minutes, until all clams have opened. Remove from heat and stir in the cubed butter until melted. Toss Clam Sauce in a large bowl with Pasta, Parsley and Basil until well combined! ENJOY!

I did panic at the last minute that there weren’t enough clams since I was going to be feeding 4, including two grown men, and most clam sauce recipes use canned clams sooooo I added a couple cans, drained of their juice to the sauce. Just warm them through then toss together with the pasta as before! FYI, clam cans are about 1/4 clam and 3/4 can so adjust how many you add accordingly!

Drained Clam Cans!