Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer Fare!

Well, the "dog days of summer" are definitely still upon us here in Houston. It is strange depending on who you talk to in what part of the country this year: NYC has had record-setting rains, it has been unseasonably cool in my cousin's neck of the woods in Minnesota, and we are experiencing a severe drought in the Hill Country and Coastal Plains of Texas. I am more and more intrigued with the global warming trends as they unfold before us. It definitely makes me want to be a better caretaker of this beautiful Earth God has so graciously bestowed upon us!

I certainly enjoyed a beautiful perspective of this planet a week ago when my superstar husband whisked me away for a fabulous weekend at a luxury resort on the Yucatan Peninsula. We are pictured here in North America's first official water cellar (housing top class brands from 15 countries) in their AAA 4- Diamond award winning gourmet restaurant, La Canoa. The Yucatan is simply one of our favorites, having spent a glorious 10 days there with our daughters in 2007. We went back for a long weekend to soak up the sun and snorkel the reef and enjoy great food (breakfast of orange pecan french toast with fruit coulis pictured here) and wine, of course! As with most vacations, I was in no mood to come home!

My apologies for allowing my travels to give the blog a short hiatus, but you know how it goes!!

Anyway, what I had planned next to share is some favorite summer fare that we all enjoyed at our first official BBQ of the summer over Memorial Day, in the hopes some of you might have time to pull it together in time for Labor Day. My able-bodied kitchen assistant, Miss Lexi (aka youngest daughter), gave her strong stamp of approval on these 2 recipes, that we have already repeated throughout the summer.

Several years ago in my dream job with the giant GE company, I was responsible for managing client events and all the pre-planning details involved for 6 different sales regions with the real estate financing division. Some of the places I got to see and events I attended will remain on the "once in a lifetime" list for many. Hosting our customers and sales team members at the Master's Golf Tournament in Augusta is one such event (that amazingly I was able to repeat several years later with the Royal Bank of Canada). It was during this hectic week of rotating people throughout 3 rented homes in the area that I also enjoyed hanging out with our in-home caterer. We alternated between eating in and going out to a restaurant with our house guests every other night. And clients and sales employees rotated in and out every 3 days, so this allowed us to serve the same stellar BBQ meal in our main host home without duplication for most. However, it also meant those of us working the event had to eat that same BBQ menu every other night. Believe you me--there were no complaints on my end. Chicken and shrimp beautifully blackened on the grill with gourmet trimmings cannot cause contempt in my mind. One of my favorite accoutrements was the baked beans dish. This yummy concoction of 3 different beans, bacon and an absolutely perfect sauce was a meal in and of itself! I searched high and low to replicate it for many years, and finally this summer found a recipe that I could tweak to be worthy of a near-copy. My mouth is watering just thinking about pulling the pan bubbling from the oven!
Gourmet Baked Beans

1/2 lb. bacon; cut into small pieces, browned to very crisp, and drained
1 large onion, diced and cooked with
1 lb. pork sausage; browned and drained (you can also substitute ground beef if you prefer)
1 16 oz. can kidney beans
1 16 oz. can butter beans (harder to find these days, but worth it!)
1 large can Bush's Baked Beans (in my mind these are the brand worth using but pick your fav)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce (again, the main brand for me)
2 Tbsp. prepared mustard
2 Tbsp. maple pancake syrup
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Drain both the kidney and the butter beans.
Combine all ingredients together and mix well.
Pour into 13 x 9 baking pan or large casserole dish and bake 1 hour at 325 degrees F.

For another great summer favorite, here's Lexi's summer salsa, too. Note: she doesn't like onions, so we don't include them in this recipe and with the crunch of the red pepper, you don't need them. However, if you like them in your salsa, I would add about 1/2 cup or so of a finely chopped red onion for the best flavor.
Blackened Corn Salsa

4 large ears corn, husked
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 whole finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 peanut oil (or whatever traditional cooking oil you have on hand)
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt

1) Roast corn on grill or on cooktop using a grill pan/griddle. You are going for the blackness here. I do not pre-poach, but simply grill on my kitchen gas cooktop using the "grill" surface side of a griddle I own that fits over 2 burners. By using tongs and rotating the ears consistently, the corn cooks and begins to blacken up a bit for that fabulous grilled/roasted taste.
2) Allow ears to cook slightly and using sharp knife, cut kernels away from cob.
3) Combine with black beans, red pepper and cilantro in mixing bowl and set aside.
4) In nonmetal bowl, combine citrus juices, oil, hot pepper sauce, and salt and stir to combine.
5) Add to corn mixture and stir well.
6) Refrigerate for 25-30 minutes before serving. (We rarely make it through this step, but it does help the flavors meld even more!)
7) Get out the Multi-Grain Tostitos and enjoy!


  1. These both look sooo yummy Andrea!! Can't wait to try them!