Summer Salad with Salmon

Blueberries, corn, peppers, tomato

Summer ingredients are perfect for light salads that are just right for the season’s hot afternoons. Fresh corn and blueberries pair especially well together, lending a slight sweetness and a taste that reminds me of childhood summers in South Georgia. This summer salad builds on this flavor combination and incorporated quinoa and salmon to make the salad a satisfying main course.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint blueberries, rinsed
  • 2 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed
  • 1 Cubanelle pepper, chopped
  • 3 small, sweet red peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 limes
  • Culantro (cilantro can be used as a substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 lb salmon
  • Olive oil
  • Mixed salad greens
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Cook a cup of quinoa according to the package directions. If buying bulk, add one cup of rinsed quinoa to two cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat to low. Let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes, then drain  any remaining water. Once the quinoa is cooked, set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

While the quinoa cooks and cools, cut the kernels off of the cobs of both ears of corn. Toss the kernels of corn with the blueberries.  Mix in the Cubanelle, sweet red peppers, and tomatoes. Mix in the quinoa and set aside. Season to taste with salt and pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon each).

Blueberries, corn, peppers, tomato
Blueberry, Corn, Quinoa mixture

To make a compound butter for the salmon, mix the butter, juice of half of a lime, and two teaspoons of chopped fresh culantro. Put the butter mixture into the refrigerator to cool.

Culantro-lime compound butter
Culantro-lime compound butter

While the butter mixture refrigerates, make a simple vinaigrette for the salad. In a small bowl, add the juice of the remaining lime and a half , the Dijon mustard, a tablespoon of chopped culantro, salt and pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon each). Whisk in 1/4 cup of olive oil.

When the vinaigrette is ready, set aside and get the compound butter out of the refrigerator. Spread the compound butter evenly over the non-skin side of the salmon. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the salmon to the skillet, skin side down. Cook the salmon in the skillet for 3 minutes per side. Put a lid on the skillet and finish the salmon in the over for 10 minutes, or until cooked to the desired temperature.

Salmon with compound butter
Salmon with compound butter

Serve the blueberry-corn-quinoa mixture over mixed salad greens and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Top with salmon and serve.

Summer salad with salmon
Summer salad with salmon
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Summer Pulled Pork – 2 Ways

Blueberry Cornbread

There is something about the heat of summer that gets me craving barbecue, especially pulled pork.  It also gets me craving fresh corn with my pulled pork. With these cravings stirring around in my mind, I decided to try a twist on the traditional summer barbecue.

Several months ago, I brewed my first batch of homebrew. It was a straightforward, uncomplicated ale. Still having a couple of bottles laying around, I wanted to incorporate it somehow.

Bottles of Homebrewed Ale
Bottles of Homebrew

I picked up a pork tenderloin from Earth Fare, put it in a slow cooker, and dusted it with a little garlic salt, paprika, chili powder, and cumin, roughly a 1/4 teaspoon of each.

Pulled Pork Seasonings
Seasonings for the Pork

I put then poured a bottle of homebrew in with the tenderloin. I let the tenderloin cook on low heat in the slow cooker for about 6 hours. I have only tried this with my homebrew, but I bet you could impart a variety of different flavors into the pork by using different styles of beer.

Pork in the Slow Cooker
Seasoned Pork in the Slow Cooker with the Homebrew

While the pork cooked, I threw together some blueberry cornbread in my cast iron skillet. To make blueberry cornbread, heat 1/3 cup of vegetable oil in the cast iron skillet as you preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups of self-rising cornmeal, 1 1/3 cup milk, 2 eggs, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Remove the skillet from the oven and carefully pour the hot oil into the cornbread mixture, stirring well to incorporate the oil. Pour the mixture into the hot skillet. Lightly dust 1/2 cup of blueberries with all purpose flour and drop them into the cornbread mixture. Return the skillet to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cornbread is a golden brown color. I always love cornbread, but I especially love the combination of blueberries and cornbread. I’ve tried this recipe with blackberries too, but the blueberries work better.

Blueberry Cornbread
Blueberry Cornbread

I also made some blueberry-corn salad by cutting the kernels off of two fresh ears of corn and mixing them with fresh blueberries and halved grape tomatoes. I did not measure the ingredients, but just added blueberries and tomatoes to the corn until the proportions looked good to me. I also lightly seasoned the salad with salt and pepper to taste.

Blueberry Corn Salad
Blueberry Corn Salad

For my barbecue dinner, I sliced a wedge of cornbread in half and topped it with pulled pork and blueberry-corn salad. I gave the food a light drizzle of Amy’s Organic Smokey Maple BBQ Sauce. Heavenly.

Pulled Pork Dinner
Pulled Pork Dinner

I ate more blueberry cornbread for breakfast the next morning, but for lunch the following day, I was thrilled to have some pulled pork left over. I piled some pork between sandwich thins, added some leftover salad, and topped with more of the BBQ sauce and some dill pickle slices for an incredible barbecue sandwich.

Pulled Pork Sandwich
Pulled Pork Sandwich

These two pulled pork dishes helped satisfy my cravings, at least temporarily. If you get adventurous and try experimenting with different beers to make pulled pork, please let me know how it turns out. Happy barbecuing.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Back in college, several years before we got married, there were a couple of brief periods where Jill and I stopped dating and took “breaks.” During one of these breaks, I started spending more time with one of Jill’s roommates, who swore to me that her mother made the best chicken tortilla soup in the world. Though I am not an overly competitive person,  I do like a good culinary challenge here and there. So, I decided to create the best  chicken tortilla soup recipe. Ever.

I researched recipes, experimented with flavor combinations, and tasted every bowl of chicken tortilla soup I could find. I ordered chicken tortilla soup from McAlister’s Deli, Panera, Atlanta Bread Company, and anywhere else I could find it. I bought every brand of canned chicken tortilla soup I could find.

Ultimately, I came up with this recipe. I will occasionally make slight variations, such as using fresh corn versus frozen corn or using lemon juice instead of lime juice, but I always follow this general recipe.

Ingredients for Chicken Tortilla Soup
Ingredients for Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery and carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 cans Ro-tel tomatoes
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can ranch style beans
  • 1-2 cans tomato sauce (depending upon desired thickness)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can hominy
  • 1 small bag frozen corn
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced

Serve with:

  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • avocado, diced

Directions:

In a large stock pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add chicken and cook until fork tender and fully cooked, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken and shred chicken using two forks. You could also roughly chop the chicken using a knife, if you preferred.

Shredded Chicken
Shredded Chicken

While the chicken is cooking, in another large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, celery, red bell pepper, and carrots and saute until tender. Add chili powder and cumin. Stir the spices and vegetables until fragrant. Add the Ro-tel tomatoes, cream of chicken soup, ranch style beans, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Onions, Celery, Garlic, Carrots, and Red Bell Pepper
Onions, Celery, Garlic, Carrots, and Red Bell Pepper

Add the chicken stock, hominy, cooked chicken, and frozen corn. Add salt, pepper, and tabasco sauce, to taste.

Fresh corn
When in season, I use fresh corn instead of frozen

Stir in the lime juice and mix well. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once the soup reaches a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer at least one hour.

Sliced lemon
A lemon can substitute for the lime

To serve, crush tortilla chips in the bottom of a bowl, pour the soup over the chips, and serve topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. You could also top with avocado, if it is in season.

The sour cream is very important.  During our break, I made chicken tortilla soup with Jill’s roommate and sent some back for Jill too (I must have known we would get back together). Jill’s roommate gave the soup to her, but didn’t tell her to add the sour cream. Maybe it was an accident or maybe it was intentional (we’ll never know), but the spiciness was definitely overwhelming.

Cilantro
I love the taste of fresh cilantro in my soup

Jill’s roommate would never admit that my soup was better, but I could tell she thought so. After she learned to add sour cream and cheese to the soup, this recipe quickly became one of Jill’s favorites also. The hominy is actually our favorite part of the soup. Over time this has become my signature dish, requested often by friends and family.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
A hearty bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup