The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine for July

There are signs everywhere that summer has arrived!

Besides the obvious signs of it being too hot and too humid. There are more boats on the Alabama River, the plants in your garden are growing and starting to produce. I already have about two pounds of blueberries and a basket of peaches, thanks to neighbors and friends with great gardens. I have been picking peaches and pears but that much from my trees. Farmer Markets are in full swing. There is the smell of BBQ in the air almost everywhere. There are comments about how we complained about the cold during the winter and now the comments are wishing the winter would come back. People are wearing flip-flops. You can drink a beer on the porch. You change from drinking hot chocolate to iced tea. The humming you hear is not from a heater but from the mosquitoes that are louder than humming birds and just as big. The sun is coming up excessively early and is going down way too late. But wait, daylight savings time will screw that up even more. Alongside the ham and meat loaf served at Dinner on the Grounds, there is BBQ brisket and ribs. The tomatoes in the salads taste like they came from a garden instead of from a grocery store. There are new commercials pushing new cold drinks, iced coffee, and frozen desserts.

Remember when if you heard bells jingle you ran to the street to get your favorite frozen treat. There are not enough Good Humor trucks roaming the neighborhood now a days, and that is a shame. We have to go to the store to get our favorite treats. Like a Drumstick; a cone filled with ice cream and the ice cream sticking out is dipped in chocolate and then peanuts. A real treat is when you get to the bottom of the cone and there is a chunk of milk chocolate waiting for you. Fudgsicles; not really chocolate and no special coating, just to die for decadence of industrial chocolate taste and density to keep it from melting too fast. Just slow enough to keep it from dripping all over you. Well sometimes. Some people call them Creamsicles, I call them Dreamsicles. Maybe because I dream of them every summer. Where else can you mix dairy and citrus and freeze it on a stick? A Pushup Pop was a good substitute for an ice cream snack if there was some flavor besides vanilla. I am not a fan of vanilla ice cream. Klondike Bars; How far with you go for a Klondike Bar? This treat has been around since the 1920's and can be found in about any grocery store, gas station, and convenience store and in dozens of different flavors. Also, found in my freezer in any of these flavors, Mint Chocolate Chip, Krunch, Rocky Road, Heath, and Oreo.

Another sign of summer is the menu for our supper club this month. The entrée is Conecuh dogs and hamburgers. I'm bringing a grilled appetizer, but I am not sure what I will grill. The bag of small colorful bell peppers always lends itself to some sort of appetizer. Halved and laid out like little boats and then stuffed with whatever tickles your fancy and then grilled produces a perfect finger food.

I was scrolling through the internet looking for ideas and noticed a new crop of recipes for hamburgers. You heard of the IHOP-IHOB publicity brew ha-ha? Well the reports I read were favorable. The Big Brunch burger is a soft brioche bun with a special sauce, sound familiar. Loaded with a hash brown patty, then a patty of Black Angus, American cheese, hickory-smoked bacon and then an over easy fried egg.

Restaurants are required to follow food safety rules, even when serving an over easy egg on a hamburger. However, with the Fourth of July barbecues, picnics, and other outdoor eating events it is important to you pay attention to the time and temperature rules. The CDC says there are 76 million cases of food-borne illness every year in the United States. There is an easy rule to remember to keep you and your guests as safe as possible. If the temperature where you are having your outdoor soiree is below 90 degrees, the food can stay out for a maximum of 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees then a maximum of one hour is allowed. There is still another catch. If the food is in direct sunlight, these rules do not apply. Sunlight will heat up the food very quickly. Even dishes such as salads need special attention. Remember a few items that can stand the high temperatures of an outdoor feast are condiments, like hot sauce, mustard, catsup, and relish. Butter will melt but will be safe, and pickles have enough acid to keep the bacteria at bay. Over half of the food sold in the United States is grown in developing countries. Their safety

standards may not be the same as ours. That is important if you are serving fresh uncooked items. And it can be a concern even for food items from the U.S. Remember romaine? Thanks be! our cookies and chips will be safe left out; just do not let them get wet.

I have a question for you! I read an article that stated as you travel

across the South, the further west you went, the sweeter the tea.

I lived in Florida, Alabama, and Texas and I think just the opposite is true.

Let me know, through the Alabama Gazette.

Greek Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomato Feta Dressing

Depending on the ingredients, there are plenty of salads that can be served outdoors. Acids in the dressings, the oil, and salt will help protect them. This salad is one to try. It is colorful is good for an outdoor meal.


• 16 oz. rotini

• Good olive oil

• 1 pound garden fresh tomatoes, medium diced

• 1 red bell pepper, chopped

• 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

• 1 cucumber, sliced and quartered

• 5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained

• 3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives pitted and diced

• 1 pound feta cheese, medium diced

Serves 12

Feta Dressing

• 1- 8.5 oz. jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil

• 1 cup fresh packed flat-leaf parsley

• 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

• 2 peeled garlic cloves

• ¼ cup almonds

• 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

• 1 tablespoon lemon juice

• 1 teaspoon dried oregano

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon pepper

• 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes


1. Cook pasta in generously salted water according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cool water, and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large


2. Add tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, and sun-dried tomatoes, feta and


3. Add all of the Sun-Dried Tomato Feta Dressing ingredients to a food

processor and process until finely chopped.

4. Add Sun-Dried Tomato Feta Dressing to the pasta and toss until evenly

coated. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving, best if


5. Toss salad with additional olive oil, feta, and fresh parsley before serving if


Recipe Notes

* As the amount of oil in sun-dried tomato jars can vary, you may want to add

additional olive oil to taste if the pasta does not seem moist enough before serving.

* A high quality Feta makes all the difference in this salad. Taste several brands

and take your pick.

If you want to show off your grilling skills and try your hand at being a hamburger patty connoisseur, try different mixtures of the meats used for the patty. A combination I like is to mix a pork sausage and beef. I have mixed a 50/50 ratio, of 1-pound ground pork breakfast sausage and 1 pound of lean ground beef. I freeze the 6-ounce patties and use them for both breakfast biscuits and for grilled hamburgers. Another tasty mix is a combination of andouille sausage and ground beef. Pulse a 4 ounce smoked fully cook andouille sausage in a food processor and mix with 12 ounces of 90/10 ground beef sirloin.

While I was in college, one of my favorite burgers was the Yellow Submarine. It was a patty formed with American cheese in the center. When you bit into the burger, the hot gooey cheese would run out. I found a recipe that is a very good upgrade from American cheese. It used pimiento cheese instead and you froze the cheese before you formed a beef patty around it. My upgrade would be using Jalapeno Palmetto Cheese.

Another rendition of the classic burger patty would be a Mexican chorizo Burger. You can buy Mexican chorizo but make sure you use a very lean ground beef. chorizo has a high fat content that renders orange oil when it cooks. I make my own chorizo using lean pork and I can adjust the seasoning. For me it has to be spicy and lots of garlic. Mix 6 ounces of chorizo with 10 ounces of lean ground meat.

Where you have a choice of ingredients for a hamburger patty, your choices when it comes to a hotdog is somewhat limited. There are different brands of hotdogs with some added ingredients, but you are limited. Where the artwork comes to play are the toppings you can think of for your hotdog. Wrap the hotdog in sliced pastrami, place in bun and top with sauerkraut and 1000 Island dressing and you have a Reuben Dog.

Here is a list of options that could would go on a hotdog. You may like it. Try Kimchi, Balsamic onions, Giardiniera, (it in the relish section of your grocery store), Furikake, (seaweed, sesame seeds and bonito), Old Bay, Peanut Butter, grilled pineapple,Mac and Cheese, Peaches with chopped green onions and a fruit chutney, to list a few. There is no hard fast rule that your hotdog bun has to have a hotdog in it. Ever heard of a Caroline Bird Dog? Chicken tenders, chopped bacon, cheese and honey mustard. If Chicago, can have a hotdog named for it, how about the Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Alabama White Barbecue sauce, Conecuh Sausage Dog. If nobody has thought of that yet, I claim it! You will be hungry just trying to say it. Of course don't forget the sweet tea to wash it all down.

If I do not get to claim the Slow cooker Pulled Pork with Alabama White Barbecue Sauce, Conecuh Sausage Dog, I already have claimed this recipe and won First Place in the a cooking competition. It was years ago but it is still listed with my other award winning SPAM* recipes at

The name for this recipe is about as hard to say as the Alabama Dog recipe.

Napa Valley Stuffed Grape Leaves

With Six Pepper SPAM*, Fruit Relish and Pine Nuts.

Recipe by David Spooner


One 12-ounce can SPAM*

1 teaspoon Six Pepper Spice, or mixed color peppercorns, plus more to taste

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 jar grape leaves

Makes four, serves two.

Yogurt dipping sauce

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup strawberries, cleaned and hulled

1/4 cup fresh figs, and stemmed

2 tablespoons honey, plus more to taste

Fruit Relish

1/4 cup dried mango, diced into 1/4-inch cubes

1/4 cup dried papaya, diced into 1/4-inch cubes

1/4 cup dried apple, diced into 1/4-inch cubes

1/4 cup dried figs, diced into 1/4-inch cubes

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup sugar, plus more to taste 1/4 cup vinegar, plus more to taste


Place the SPAM* in a meat grinder, and grind until it reaches the consistency of ground sausage.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the SPAM* and the Six Pepper Spice to the skillet, and cook until desired degree of doneness. Add more pepper, as desired. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine the meat with the cooled Fruit Relish. Add the pine nuts, and stir until just combined.

Spread 1 grape leaf out on flat surface, vein side up. Place about 1/4 cup meat mixture on each leaf, and roll it up like a small burrito or a 3-inch cigar. Repeat with remaining grape leaves.

Place the stuffed grape leaves in a steamer, and steam for 3 to 5 minutes, or until completely heated through.

Yogurt dipping sauce

Add the yogurt, strawberries, figs, and honey to a blender or food processor. Blend until combined, adding more honey as desired. Set aside.

Serve the steamed grapes leaves with the yogurt dipping sauce.

Fruit Relish:

Combine all ingredients in a small non-reactive saucepan. Add 1/4 cup water, and cook over medium heat until fruit softens. Taste for seasoning, and add more vinegar, sugar, or water, as necessary. The relish should be dry. Remove from heat and let cool.

Maybe I will serve my Stuffed Grape Leaves at Supper Club! I wonder if there is a SPAM* Dog.

Remember it is hot, check for kids and pets.

SPAM is a registered trademark of HORMEL Corp.


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