Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Squash Casserole...An Easy Favorite For a Long Weekend

Pin It

 Many of you will be getting ready for the long Fourth of July weekend and planning menus not only for the holiday but also for the meals in between.  Here's a favorite casserole that is very easy to make and goes well with grilled chicken, pork chops or steak.  A simple green salad and you are done!

I have been making this casserole for the last 40 years.  It comes from a favorite Junior League Cookbook, 300 Years of Carolina Cooking, published by the Junior League of Greenville in 1970.  Under my name it shows I bought it in Hilton Head Island, S.C. on July 5, 1976.  We spent that bicentennial weekend with two other couples on a sailboat 40 years ago! Talk about coincidences...I just realized this when I opened the front to credit the source.

Squash Casserole
Serves 6


2 lbs yellow summer squash, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 stick butter
1/2 package dry onion soup mix
1 cup sour cream
1 can diced pimentos drained (my addition)
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Boil (I steam) squash until just tender and drain well.  Starting with the butter so it melts on the squash, add the other ingredients and blend.  Turn into a buttered casserole, sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese if using, and bake for 20 minutes in 375 degree oven until mixture begins to bubble.

Note: If you want a crispy top, just sprinkle some breadcrumbs (about 2 TB) at the end and put under the broiler until golden.

Monday, June 20, 2016

This Summer's Best Dessert...Apricot Clafoutis

Pin It

If you only try one new recipe this summer, make it this one.  If you want to be transported to a Provencal kitchen in one bite, this will take you.  If you want to cheat on your diet, do it with this dessert.  Just make it.  Two nights after I made it, I wanted to make it again.  I did, but I tested another recipe.  It was a mistake.

Don't substitute anything, especially the apricots.  If you want to tweak it, control yourself.   You might feel some satisfaction by stamping it with your sifted powdered sugar initials just before you serve it, but it really doesn't need it.

The recipe comes from Lulu Peyraud who, with her husband Lucien, owns and operates Domaine Tempier, the premier producer of Bandol wine.  Throughout the years, they have hosted a parade of food and wine luminaries including Alice Waters, Paul Bertolli and Richard Olney, the author of many books on Provencal cooking, including this one. and recipient of The James Beard Award.

I have never been a big fan of clafoutis but this one is other- wordly.  Half flan, half souffle, Madame Mere and I cleaned up the whole thing in a sitting and a half.  A couple of nights later I made Julia Child's recipe just to see the difference and MM told me to throw it away and go back to the first.  This from a woman who took lessons at the Cordon Bleu in Brussels and worships at the altar of Julia Child and Gourmet magazine.  You don't get a  better endorsement than that.

Clafoutis Aux Abricots
From "Lulu's Provencal Table," by Richard Olney

Serves 6


2 TBS butter

1 pound apricots, halved and pitted (6 or 7 depending on size)
2 oz slivered almonds
2/3 cup sugar*
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1-1/4 cup milk


Preheat oven to 375F. Butter shallow baking dish of a size just to hold the apricots**. Arrange apricots closely, cut surface down in single layer. Fill spaces with the almonds. In a mixing bowl whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, salt, eggs. Sift in flour, whisking at the same time, then whisk in milk. Pour mixture over apricots. Sprinkle  remaining sugar over surface (I whisked in 1/4 cup by mistake but it was perfect)*. Dot with butter. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden crust has formed. Serve tepid.

Note:  Even though I made a mistake at the end with the sugar, I would suggest you do the same if your apricots are not too sweet to begin with, like mine were not. Besides, the difference is not that great. See my comment below to TIF.

** I used an Emile Henry small rectangular dish  (Small: 11 3/4" x 7" x 2 3/4" high; 3 1/4-qt. cap.)

All photos Lindaraxa

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hydrangeas...The Stars of Summer!

Pin It

What a year we've had!

This has been an extraordinary year for blooms.  Not only for hydrangeas, but for roses, peonies, hostas and everything that comes out of the ground.  Some attribute it to the mild winter we had. This past December, just before Christmas Day, we had a few days of Spring like weather when it was so warm, the daffodils started to come out.  Also remember that last year we had no blooms from the hydrangeas macrophylla, aka mopheads or French hydrangeas, due to a late frost we had in Spring. My poor gardenias were decimated too, but they made a return this year with plentiful blooms.

 If I have to skip a year of blooms to get this, so be it.

I started gardening "for real" when I came to this house almost four years ago. I inherited a garden "with good bones" as my friend Sandra told me.  Besides, I had nothing better to do. At that time I did not even know the names of the plants I had in the garden.  Some of my readers helped identify them from photos and that's how I came to know Sandra Jonas who later took me to my first hydrangea garden tour in Atlanta.  That was it, I was hooked.  It also helped to have been guided around some of the most beautiful gardens in Atlanta by a past president of the Hydrangea Society of Atlanta. The fact that she is not only knowledgeable and a pleasure to be with is only surpassed by her generosity and enthusiasm.    

The hydrangeas you will see below are all different varieties of hydrangea macrophylla   My daughter and I have bought them at different times and at different nurseries.  Some of them are in the ground and came with the original garden, but others, including the pink ones in whiskey barrels where bought and planted by my daughter and me in the last three years.

We have a highly acidic soil so if they are blue they go in the ground.  With the pink varieties, if we want to keep their original color, they go in one of the six whiskey barrels we have around the property.  It's as simple as that!

For me, though, this is the star of the show...Hydrangea Shooting Star, a baby just a year ago!

We have oak leaf hydrangeas also, but they are too small still to brag about!  They each have one bloom, but what a bloom!  The hydrangeas paniculata are starting to form buds.  I am sure they will be spectacular too.

Enjoy the show!

Hydrangea macrophylla Mathilda

What a great place for a tunnel....hmm

Another hydrangea Mathilda

I still have the front to share so stay tuned!

All photos by Lindaraxa
Please do not share without direct attribution and credit back to this blog.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summer Weekends...Shrimp With An Avocado Mango Salsa

Pin It

This is one of the first recipes I ever published when I started this blog seven years ago.  It's still a family favorite and worth another look.  The perfect lunch or dinner for a hot summer weekend!

I have made some notes as to substitutions in case you cannot find mango.  You can also grill the shrimp!

I love Mexican food, particularly the combination of sweet and savory in mango and avocado salsa. I saw a  recipe recently that had both shrimp and scallops. My recipe just has shrimp but if you find fresh scallops at this time of the year for a reasonable price, go for it. This is great for a summer lunch by the pool or the beach, with plenty of Margaritas or cold Mexican beer.

The local Florida mangoes this year are out of this world. They are really lush and sweet. Of course there is nothing better than a fruit that has ripened in the tree. Somehow everyone in Miami seems to have a mango tree growing in their yard or have a relative or friend who has one. I have been making mango marmelade, chutney and you name it practically every day. Just swimming in them and they keep coming, so I keep digging up recipes.

As to avocados, this is not the season for Florida avocados , but the ones I have picked up at the market from California are great and in some places, on sale.

In this casual main course, the shrimp is paired with a vibrant sweet-savory salsa. Serve the shrimp and the salsa with warm corn or flour tortillas or, as an alternative, saffron rice.

6 servings



1 mango, peeled, pitted, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, diced
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. chopped green jalapeno (or to taste)

Shrimp marinade for 2 lbs of shrimp or a combination of shrimp and scallops

1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup tequila
1-2 TBS chopped cilantro
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 cup olive oil
2 pounds uncooked jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 cup chopped scallions
Lime slices



Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt. Cover and chill. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Keep chilled.


Whisk first 6 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in 1/3 cup olive oil. Season marinade to taste with salt and pepper.

Place shrimp in large resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade into bag and seal. Turn to coat. Chill at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Drain shrimp, pat dry. Save 1/2 cup of marinade.

Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet. Add shrimp and green onions; sauté until shrimp are browned on both sides, stirring often, about 3 minutes. If it needs more oil, add some. Add 1/4 cup of marinade and sautee another 1 minute on medium high. Add more marinade if necessary keeping in mind that it should be fairly absorbed by the time you remove the shrimp from the skillet. Simmer until shrimp is just opaque in center and mixture is heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to large shallow bowl. Garnish with lime slices. Serve with salsa and tortillas.

Notes: you can also grill the shrimp and substitute pineapple for the mango.  If you do the latter, substitute cilantro for the mint.

Mexican beer is a natural match for this menu. I like Presidente and Corona.

*I don' t like things too hot. 1/2 tsp. of chopped jalapeno is enough for me but you can add whatever amount you can live with.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Lemon Pasta With Artichoke Hearts, Tuna, Sundried Tomatoes And A Cream Pesto Sauce

Pin It

I know that by now you must be thinking that this has turned into a gardening blog instead of the food blog you originally subscribed to.  The truth is that since I had back surgery last August, my interest in food has all but evaporated.  I have lost almost 20 lbs and I am delighted to meet up with my old size 10 clothes.  These days, I eat to sustain.  It's all about calories folks, and eating less is a sure bet to weight loss.  Don't over think it.  Listen to your stomach and eat when it tells you.  Just a little will keep it content.  I am not hungry until mid afternoon when I have a small snack.  I eat a normal dinner, including a sweet, if I feel like it,  and that's it until the next day.  The only exercise I do is in the garden or going up and down the stairs that separate us from Madame Mere's apartment.

Yesterday I got inspired... at Homegoods, of all places.  It was a jar of sun dried tomatoes that made me want pasta.  They often have wonderful artisanal pasta made in Italy and I always stock up when a new shipment comes in.  The one that got my attention was the lemon linguine.  I thought it would go well with the sun dried tomatoes and....tuna! I also remembered the jar of artichoke hearts in the pantry that I had noticed was getting near expiration.  Voila, a new dish was born!  From there it was just a matter of tweaking with herbs.  Very soon I was going to be enjoying a dish and memories of the South of France.

By the time I got home I was starving and ready for an evening of creativity.  My daughter had just made a Costco run and there on the counter was a jar of what would make this dish sing, basil pesto.  And crunch, Parmesan Crisps! No matter she had forgotten the napkins which was the reason she had gone there in the first place!

I encourage you to make the recipe as is.  Don't substitute for the Sherry with white wine.  It needs the sweetness and body only Sherry can add.  If you can't get lemon pasta easily, don't sweat it.  Add a TB finely shredded lemon peel or chopped lemon balm.

I only used half the package of pasta and it was enough for four people.  I tend to like more "goodies" and less pasta and these are the right proportions.  If you make the whole package, double up on the rest of the ingredients.

This would be a great ladies lunch in Summer or Spring or a quick dinner any time of the week.  Put your feet up, enjoy the garden and imagine you are in the South of France!

Lemon Pasta With Artichoke Hearts, Tuna and Sun Dried Tomatoes In a Cream Pesto Sauce

Serves 4


2 TB butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot chopped
1/2 cup Dry Sherry
2 TB basil pesto
8 oz. heavy cream

1/2 lb Lemon pasta, linguine or fettuccine, cooked al dente*
1 can artichoke hearts
1 can tuna, packed in oil and drained
4 or 5 sliced sun dried tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste ( I added a few flakes of Aleppo pepper)

Parmesan cheese, shredded
Parmesan Whisps

Chopped basil or parsley for decoration (optional)


Pre warm the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta as per package directions. Leave a little al dente. Drain and save some of the cooking water.

Saute the garlic and shallot in the oil and butter until translucent.

Add the Sherry and reduce to half.

Add the basil pesto.  You can use homemade or ready made.  Stir

Add the cream and let it simmer for a bit until it thickens.

Add the artichoke hearts, roughly chopped, the tuna and the sliced sun dried tomatoes.

Add the cooked pasta and stir until the noodles are fully coated.  If you find it is too thick (you won't) add a little of the pasta water.

Place in a casserole dish, sprinkle some shredded Parmesan cheese and top with crunched Parmesan Whisps.   Cook covered for 20 minutes.  Uncover and cook for another 5 or until it browns.  Don't let the pasta dry up!

Add chopped parsley or basil on top before serving (optional).  I was too hungry!

* you can use plain pasta but add about 1 TB finely shredded lemon peel.

All photos Lindaraxa

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Garden In May, Part II

Pin It

Welcome to the backyard, the most challenging part of the garden.  It is big, it is shady as well as very sunny in parts, and it is the playpen of Madison, our Westie, and Lily the lab.    It is a joint effort between my daughter and me and we argue consult constantly on what goes in and what comes out.   We have learned to compromise and to pick our battles.  Some of them carry over from one year to the next, but we are still friends...until the next battle.

The grass is the biggest headache in the back.  We have drainage problems due to a sloping yard that guides the water down to the creek on the other side of the fence when we have big storms.  We can only plant fescue in the Fall,  so this year we will have to live with big empty patches.  It irritates me to no end but life is not perfect.  Neither is our yard.

The hostas are the stars of the year.  They are on steroids! Keep in mind this is only the second week in May.

The New Dawn rose by the bird house.  No tenants this year.  Coco, has done a good job of keeping new parents away.

Confederate jasmine planted three years ago.

The peonies have also had a good year.

A closer look of the birdhouse.

This year's project is the path to the fence which gets very muddy when it rains. Those are flats of sedum I purchased at Lowe's.  We'll see how they do.  I've left the right side open so we can have access to the other side of the fence.

Madame Mere's private garden.

The climbing Japanese hydrangea with Mountain Laurel in back is by the gate that separates the front and back garden.  It leads to MM's apartment from the outside.

And here's Coco, whose help in patrolling the yard and keeping it free of bunnies is indispensable in the preservation of this garden, particularly the hostas.  We are lucky to have a fence and a Westie to keep the deer away.

Next up, my domain...the front yard.
Pin It button on image hover