Harvest and Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.


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a low country style broil (with black pepper buttermilk sauce)

Low Country Style Shrimp and Sausage BroilIMG_4414IMG_8660Low Country Style Shrimp and Sausage BroilLow Country Style Shrimp and Sausage BroilStepping outside the house without your glasses fogging up is an impossibility. Might as well just grin and bear the bright, blinding sunshine during your brief walk to the car, whose crisp blast of conditioned air awaits your arrival. Your trendy spectacles might be designed to ban the rays, but they’re no match for Mother Nature’s sultry humidity. For on a late Summer’s day in the Low Country, the heat and humidity are formidable forces with which to be reckoned. It is not, as they say in the Southwest, a dry heat. Far from it. It’s best to just embrace it, and welcome it with open arms. Or, if you’re like me, you can try talking a little slower and imagining that you’re in a Pat Conroy novel. Really helps to bump up the charm of it all, even when you’re in the throes of a sweltering August afternoon. Or don’t. Suit yourself there. Low Country Style Shrimp and Sausage BroilIMG_4413Low Country Style Shrimp and Sausage Broil“I like your sunnies, Mom.” Elle said, as she grinned her shiny two-year-old grin up at me. We both smelled strongly of sunscreen and I worked to brush the remaining crumbs of her breakfast bagel from her sticky cheeks, cursing myself for not having done so prior to the application of said sunscreen.

“Beach problems!” I said to her in my best attempt at an Elmo voice. She laughed and promptly informed me that her Uncle Seth was still better at that than me, so I vowed to keep practicing.

Elle and I, along with the rest of our eager beach-going family, made our way down the stone path that led from our house straight down to the beach. THE BEACH. Two words that Elle had been rolling around in her mouth for months, in her excitement over our upcoming family vacation.

“Will you get all the seashells with me, when we get to the beach?”

Sure!

“Can we build four sandcastles?”

Yes, absolutely.

“Does the mean queen from Snow White go to our beach?”

No, I don’t think so. She’s not really a beach person.

“Okay. Got it.”

Our beach. I liked how she chose her words there, giving “the beach” a special feeling before we even arrived. It was ours – ours for the playing. Ours for the splashing. Ours for the exploring. For a full seven days, it was ours.

IMG_4431Low Country Style Shrimp and Sausage Broil Low Country Style Shrimp and Sausage Broil Low Country Style Shrimp and Sausage Broil IMG_4461The carefully laid stone path eventually gave way to a sandy wood-planked walkway that immediately transported me back to my childhood beach trips, and that feeling of incomparable anticipation that hits as you feel the weathered wood beneath your feet, being careful not to sustain any unwanted splinters as you make your way. I knew, just as the sun rises and falls, that Elle’s little bare feet would quicken their pace when she caught her first glimpse of the water.

Wait for it … here it comes … there she goes … and she’s off.

There is nothing quite like that first trip to the beach as a child, is there? The first time you take in the salty, briny sea breezes. The first time a wave knocks you down, filling your whole head with that salty, briny sea water. For some, it might even be the first time they realize just how very small they really are. Yes, the ocean has a real knack for making one acutely aware of their insignificance on this earth.

IMG_4484IMG_8636Low Country Style Shrimp and Sausage Broil Low Country Style Shrimp and Sausage BroilIncidentally, there is also nothing like a trip to the beach to work up an appetite. On the last night of our vacation, my husband and I managed to sneak away for dinner, just the two of us. I am pleased as punch to report that this dinner of ours took place in what I believe to be the kitschiest of all beach kitsch establishments on the Eastern seaboard, complete with broiled shrimp, steamed broccoli and a basket filled to its brim with hushpuppies. I ate as if it were to be my last meal and washed it all down with an over-sized, swirly, twirly pina colada that more closely resembled the lava lamp I had in my teenage bedroom than any other adult beverage I’ve ever had.

“Wait a sec,” I muttered, as I took in the buzzing restaurant all around me. “I’m about 99% positive that I’ve been here before … Mmmhmmm. This is definitely not my first dining experience here.” No wonder I was enjoying the slightly-better-than-average meal in front of me; nostalgia is often more delicious than actual flavor itself. It can make up for a lot, let’s just leave it at that. I fondly remembered the giant stuffed crab decoration in the center of the restaurant, the one that seemed to cheerily greet hungry patrons as they were being seated, and then bid them all adieu with his claw-filled wave upon their exodus. I loved that guy when I was younger, proof that things are just a little bit better at the beach. Food, even mediocre food, tastes better. Breezes, even the saltiest ones, smell sweeter. And memories, even silly ones like foggy sunglasses and tacky thirty year-old crab decor, somehow last just a little bit longer.

IMG_8676Low Country Shrimp and Sausage Broil RECIPE

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. fresh raw shrimp (shells off, peeled and deveined)

3 ears of fresh corn, shucked and cut into quarters

1 lb smoked andouille style sausage links (pre-cooked)

5 or 6 baby red potatoes, washed and halved (or quartered if they’re particularly large)

5 or 6 radishes, washed and sliced

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

4 or 5 sprigs of fresh thyme

3 or 4 fresh bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place the shrimp, sausages and radishes into a large roasting pan and set aside.

Next, par-boil the corn and potatoes. To do this, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the halved/quartered potatoes and the corn segments. Boil the corn for 5 minutes and then transfer it to a paper towel-lined tray to dry off a bit. Transfer the corn to the roasting pan. After another 5 minutes have elapsed, remove the potatoes to the paper towel-lined tray and then add them to the roasting pan as well.

Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil over the ingredients in the pan and season with the Old Bay and the salt and pepper (to taste). Toss to coat everything with the oil and seasoning. Make sure everything is arranged in an even layer in the pan and then top with the sprigs of thyme and just scatter the bay leaves over top. The flavors of the herbs will perfume the rest of the ingredients as they roast in the oven.

Place the pan in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, set the heat on “broil” and broil the food until lightly browned on top, about 3 – 4 minutes. Serve right away with slices of crusty bread schmeared with a good pimiento cheese (this is how I like to do it) and some of my Black Pepper Buttermilk Sauce on the side or drizzled down over top (recipe below)

for the Black Pepper Buttermilk Sauce:

1 cup mayonnaise (not light!)

1/3 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper


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a chicken gazpacho, for a real chicken

Spicy Watermelon Gazpacho with Roasted Chicken and FetaSpicy Watermelon Gazpacho with Roasted Chicken and FetaSpicy Watermelon Gazpacho with Roasted Chicken and FetaSpicy Watermelon Gazpacho with Roasted Chicken and Feta

There is a reason that I am a writer. I’m not referring to any real aptitude or skill set here, so much as I am the comfort zone that I have when it comes to writing. Having the ability to very selectively pick and choose my words, and then go back and flip/flop them all around until they strike my fancy is a wonderful thing, to me. It’s very comfortable.

Conversely, this comfort zone that I have discovered through the writing process also tends to highlight the incredible lack of comfort that I feel when speaking – speaking publicly, to be specific. There is no edit button, no delete key, no margins for me to doodle in and scratch through my thoughts as they take shape. The waters of public speaking seem murky and unpredictable and rife with opportunity for stumbling and missteps along the way – very uncomfy. I have no idea where or why or how my strong distaste for public speaking (or public anything, really) began, because I know for a fact that during childhood I was a total ham. There are VHS tapes stashed somewhere in my parent’s house to prove it. But, I am almost certain that I can tell you exactly when it was that I noticed this sea change in myself; when the thought of taking a dip in the world of the written word started to seem far more appealing than that of the spoken variety. Yes, I’m pretty sure it had something to do with that one time I tried to audition for a reality cooking show and

totally

freaked

out.  Continue reading


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chocolate chunk oatmeal cream pies with cinnamon cream and sea salt

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cream Pies with Cinnamon Cream & Sea Salt Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cream Pies with Cinnamon Cream & Sea SaltChocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cream Pies with Cinnamon Cream & Sea SaltChocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cream Pies with Cinnamon Cream & Sea Salt

My daughter has a knack for finding old bits of food around the house; crumbs and odds and ends of things that apparently my eyes and vacuum cleaner are unable to detect.

“Oooh! Is it an old Cheerio or a new Cheerio?” she’ll ask, knowing full well that the answer is always the same (it is old, Elle) and that her reaction will be as follows: runs out of my reach, tosses said food in mouth, rubs her belly in appreciative delight, and declares, “so tasty!”

I have no idea how or why this habit of hers started, but it appears that she has taken it upon herself to unearth all of the crumbs in our house as if she is on an archaeological dig for stale food. I tell her that I am happy to just go get her some new Cheerios (or whatever) but she seems more interested in hunting down and eating the relics of past snacking sessions. It’s kind of cute, I guess, and this “kind of” cutness almost makes up for the gross factor in all of it … kind of. Not really. Continue reading


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an ethiopian meal & an urban hike

Doro Wot Doro Wot Homemade Injera Bread, Misir Wot and Fossolia Homemade Injera BreadDoro Wot, Homemade Injera Bread, Misir Wot and FossoliaHomemade Injera Bread, Misir Wot and FossoliaDoro Wot (Ethiopian Chicken Stew)

Fifteen minutes. That’s approximately how long it took to find a parking space. Five minutes. That’s exactly how long it took for me to figure out that the call-to-pay-to-park parking meter was malfunctioning. Ten minutes. That’s approximately how long it took to find another parking space. America’s capital city seemed bound and determined to keep us from having our nice morning outing, but with a little perseverance and a display of some better-than-I-expected parking skills, I did it – rather we did it – my two children and I. Although I was about ready to head home before our actual outing even began, I loaded Easton and Elle into their respective seats in the tank that is otherwise referred to as a “double stroller,” lathered them up with sunscreen, gave Elle an apple with which to calm her “rumbling tummy,” and forged on. Up and down the streets of Washington D.C. on a crowded Summer morning we went. Yes, merrily and literally we rolled along, with Elle offering cheery “hello’s” and “oh, hi there’s” to every single being with whom we shared a sidewalk, be it man, animal, or statue.

“We’re hiking, Mom! We’re hiking!!” Elle declared, completely thrilled at the thought.

“No. No not really, sweetie.” I started to correct her as I slowed the stroller to a stop to grab her a cup of juice that I’d stashed in one of its thousand storage compartments.

“This isn’t really a hike at all. It’s just a walk; a walk through the city …” I explained, thinking that it was about as far from a hike as any outdoor walk could hope to be. I watched as the smartly suited business men and women passed us by, clutching their obligatory Starbucks; some giving Elle a “hello” in return. I revved up the stroller again, as the smell of diesel fuel from an idling truck parked in a nearby loading zone began to intensify. From the large gray, cracked sidewalks, bespeckled with old chewing gum to the black asphault that stretched up and down Calvert Street as far as our eyes could see, we seemed surrounded by anti-nature. Elle waved to her reflection in the large window of a shawarma shop.

“Look, Mom! It’s meat on a grill! They’re camping!” she exclaimed. “This is a really nice hike we’re taking.” Continue reading


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the baked brownie

The Baked BrownieThe Baked BrownieThe Baked BrownieIMG_3516The Baked BrownieThe Baked Brownie

After standing in line for what seemed like an eternity, I’d finally made my way up to the very front. The sounds of men, women, and children shrieking in delight were ringing loudly in my ears, and I had a momentary flashback to the last time I stood in this exact spot, the front of the line at the famed Vortex roller coaster.  I was 11 then. This time, I was 27.

“Ma’am? Umm, excuse me, ma’am? Are you going to ride? Are you okay?” The ponytailed, teenaged boy stared at me as I stood there, too nervous to push through the metal turnstile and take my seat in the car.

“Actually, on second thought,” I muttered, “I think I’ll just sit this one out, or something …”

Excuse me … pardon me … coming through … sorry! Excuse me … 

My lengthy wait had produced an unexpected result. Rather than boarding the car and enjoying the 2-minute ride of death, I meandered my way back through the curvy line of eager roller coaster enthusiasts, trying hard to avoid making eye contact with anyone. What a chicken! I thought to myself, embarrassed by my choice to retreat at the last minute. I could ride this thing when I was 11 but apparently I’ve turned into quite the scaredy cat at my ripe old age of 27. That, or it was the brownie I ate in the car on the way. Yes, that might have been it. I should have never taken a bite of those things. Stupid magic brownies … Continue reading


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to crab or not to crab

Fresh Crab Cake Sandwiches with Spicy Tartar Sauce and Homemade Sesame Seed BunsIMG_3406IMG_3416Fresh Crab Cake Sandwiches with Spicy Tartar Sauce and Homemade Sesame Seed BunsIMG_3273Homemade Sesame Seed Buns

Jockey. Librarian. Dermatologist. Britney Spears. What do these things all have in common? Probably not a whole lot besides the fact that they were all typical responses given by me, at one time or another, to the age-old question: what do you want to be when you grow up?

For me, this list could go on and on, with dream jobs and various professions that ebbed and flowed right along with whatever phase I was was in at a particular time in my life – as is the case for just about every child on the planet, I would imagine. However, there was one “when I grow up” job that seemed to always have a placeholder beside it’s name – it was permanently dogeared – even when I entertained alternative options, like becoming the next Britney Spears or opening my own small chain of restaurants that ONLY served variations of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Yes, becoming the future editor-in-chief of Southern Living Magazine seemed, to me, to be the ultimate dream job. I figured that this job title would allow me to flip through the pages of the ubiquitous Southern glossy as much as I darn well pleased, and get PAID FOR IT. I spent an inordinate amount of time reading SL when I was growing up, but mostly just the last bit of each issue … because as any culinarily curious Southerner would tell you, that is where all of the magic happens. Continue reading


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where the honeybees go

Raw HoneycombLemon Cheesecake with Chamomile Glaze and Honeycomb Two WaysLemon Cheesecake with Chamomile Glaze and Honeycomb Two WaysIMG_2758IMG_2799IMG_2795 “No! No Mommy, don’t go outside. There’s lots of bees out there!”

Tugging on my shirt sleeve with a look of complete desperation in her big blue eyes, Elle’s plea for me to stay in the house, in avoidance of the buzzing, stinging dangers that lurked outside had become something of a daily ritual recently. She experienced her first bee sting this summer, and with it came the understandable hesitation to ever venture into the great outdoors again. I’d reassured her that there were not many bees, that they would leave her alone and that it was safe to play outside, but she stuck to her guns. I’ve never known anyone who enjoys being outside more than my daughter – it is truly her happy place – so the fact that she’d recently become content to stay put inside all day, quietly reading books and making things out of Play-Doh, was an indication of the true extent of her new fear of bees.

Prior to the fateful sting, she’d viewed bees as helpful little bugs who are responsible for providing the golden, deliciously sticky honey that drips from the peanut butter sandwich she eats almost everyday. The name of this blog wasn’t plucked out of thin air, after all. We eat honey on a daily basis in my house, in one way or another. It just always seems to make an appearance. In almost prayer-like fashion, Elle used to thank the bees for their hard work in making her beloved honey, saying with closed eyes and whispered words,”Thank you honeybees for this honey. It is my favorite.” Continue reading

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