Southern Seasonings's been an entire week since I last posted.

I have to admit, it's been entirely too hot to cook. 100+ degrees F every day for an entire week, no lie. I download the weather page at the newspaper where I work, so I know. I've eaten nothing but salads, bowls of cereal, cubes of frozen Crystal Light, and JELL-O sugar-free pudding cups (and I don't really like pudding).

Yesterday, in the usual Sunday fashion, I made a killer dinner for myself and my family. I stayed up ultra-late Saturday night to make the menu:

Smoked BBQ on crispy dill pickle

Fresh summer salad with herb balsamic vinaigrette

House smoked chicken with citrus beurre blanc or creamy mushroom gravy

Southern succotash

Banana sorbet or banana souffle

There was an amendment to the dessert portion of the menu: I didn't feel like making any dessert, so I brought out leftover chili-lime chocolate cupcakes.

The smoked BBQ was from 2 weeks ago. I froze a good portion of it to have for later and it was a nice amuse bouche to whet everyone's appetite.

Crispy Dill Pickles

1 jar Sandwich-style dill pickles
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chipotle flakes

1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water (or 1 egg white with 1 Tbsp water or 1/4 cup mayonnaise)
1 cup Ian's whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
oil for pan-frying

Drain pickles on paper towels, blotting each one until most of the moisture is removed. Set aside.

Set up standard breading station: 1 plate with flour, seasoned with the above seasonings, 1 small bowl with beaten egg or mayonnaise, 1 plate with panko breadcrumbs. Dredge each pickle in order of the procedure. Set aside and heat up oil in skillet or pan to 375 degrees F. Test a breadcrumb as a gauge to insure proper oil temperature, if needed. It should take 20-30 seconds for it to reach a golden brown.

Pan fry each pickle until golden brown, on each side. Let drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Keep in a slow oven to keep warm.

The summer salad came out of a need to get rid of my bell peppers in the fridge. Red, yellow, orange. Beautiful. I am still slightly obsessed with my mother-in-law's tongue designer pasta. The fresh veggies of the season definitely accompany the streaks of red, purple, green, orange, and yellow of the pasta. The salad is simple enough to put together at any time but complex enough to make people think you spent hours composing it. The pasta should be al dente, slightly toothy, to match the crunch of the fresh veggies. The accompanying herb balsamic vinaigrette is a nice acidic sweetness.
Pretty ribbons of the mother-in-law's tongue pasta. $4.99 at TJMaxx. Oh, and let it be known that I usually don't go cruising discount retail clothing chains for my foodstuffs.

This was the best I could do to show the salad. You can kinda see what I was going for. Right? Right?

Summer salad
1 red onion, julienne
1 red bell pepper, julienne
1 yellow bell pepper, julienne
1 orange bell pepper, julienne
1 English cucumber, sliced 1/16" on mandoline
1 pkg mother's tongue pasta, al dente, cooled

Herb balsamic vinaigrette
The key is a 3:1 ratio of vinegar to oil. Start with small droplets or a slow stream of oil into a food processor, blender, or in a bowl with a whisk.

3-4 Tb chopped herbs (ie. parsley, oregano, thyme, cilantro, basil)
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 squirt mustard (yellow is fine)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup salad oil
salt and pepper to taste

Now that I've put up these few recipes, I realize what an undertaking this meal really was. No wonder I didn't feel like banging out a dessert! It took a little less than an hour (minus the smoking of the chicken) to cook and plate everything, but it was an intense hour, in the intense heat of my little piddly-poop of a kitchen.

I have to tell you about my chicken. I love my little smoker. It came with a few small tubs of chips and I haven't been compelled to go out an purchase any more yet, but I'll have to soon because I plan on smoking everything I can get my hands on this summer. Ever had smoked fruit?...

I made a spiced butter to put underneath the skin for flavor and imminent crispness. The inspiration behind the butter was from niter kibbeh, a spiced, clarified butter that is used in Nigerian cooking. My butter was not clarified, but that did not detract from the flavor at all.

Spiced Butter
4 TB No-Salt seasoning
1TB smoked salt
1 stick salted butter, softened

Mix all ingredients together.
No-Salt Seasoning Shake** Yield: 2/3 cup

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons celery seed
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried lemon peel

Chicken quarters ready to be patted, flipped, and rubbed down. <---5 a="" for="" href="" lbs="" on="" sale="" usd="">

Fresh, shucked corn frying in the faux niter kibbeh.

Normally, succotash is made with corn, butter beans (also called lima beans), tomatoes, or any combination of the three. My mother doesn't like butter beans, so her succotash is only corn and tomatoes. I like all three, so in they go! For a quick fix, canned veggies can be used. Since I like to pretend I'm hardcore, I used fresh corn from the cob, beans shelled from their pods, and fresh Roma tomatoes. My tomatoes were so fresh and delicious, I couldn't bear putting heat to them. I simply sliced them and put them on the side, like a garnish. This succotash is definitely NOT sufferin'!

Southern Succotash

2-3 bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips, cooked until crisp

2 tablespoons butter or spiced butter

2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3 to 4 ears)

1 lb fresh lima beans in pods, shelled or 1 (10oz) package frozen baby lima beans, thawed

Put corn and butter in pan. Cook corn until charred and juices turn sweet. Add beans and cook until beans are no longer raw tasting. Add bacon, salt and pepper to taste.

Mushrooms cooking down, getting ready to be immersed in a dark roux.

Creamy Mushroom Gravy
It was too salty, so I added nonfat sour cream to cut it, alternatively making it creamy. Smooth move, Nik!

1 lb white mushrooms
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour dissolved in 1 1/2 cups cold water
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup nonfat sour cream (optional, for creaminess)

In a 10-inch heavy non-stick skillet cook garlic in butter and over moderately low heat, stirring, until pale golden. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened. Add mushrooms season with salt and pepper. Sauté until liquid is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown.
Add wine and cook down until liquid is evaporated. Stir in flour mixture. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring or whisking to prevent lumps and incorporate all ingredients (take care not to get mushroom stuck in the spokes of the whisk!), and simmer 2 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper. Add sour cream, if desired.
Adding tarragon will make it kinda French. Dill, paprika, and lemon will make it kinda Dutch.
A complete meal. If only I had made biscuits... Maybe next time!

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

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  1. I've always wanted to try fried pickles. Your recipe is getting me excited to do it myself.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one cooking crazy when it's this hot outside.

  2. Your entire menu sounds wonderful! I"m love the idea of bbq on a dill pickle as an amuse bouche. How great is that!!

  3. Crispy Dill Pickles!!!
    I'm in love.
    Happy to find your blog.

  4. Your family certainly reaps the benefit of your creative meals Nik:D

  5. What do you mean you didn't make the biscuits? LOL!
    It would take me forever to put a feast like this together. It all looks very delicious indeed!

  6. I've never tried frying pickles, but I do have sandwich sliced dills.

    We have used pickles, cured dills and curry pickles, in a Mongolian hot pot. Pretty good.

  7. Wow! Fried pickles! I'm down!

    Love the entire meal. Makes me hungry right now.

    I have to wait for the obligatory afternoon thunderstorms to clear before I can grill this chicken. It has been marinating for 30 hours and I am ready!!!

    Nice post Nikki!

  8. Hi I'm Jena and I've been lurking around your site for a while and just wanted to say Hi . Fried Pickles ? Hmmm

  9. Lys: Thanks, my friend. :)

    Rachel: Is it OK if I call you Rachel? You should try the pickles. I bet you'll like them. You've already got the fried chicken down :)

    Renee: Thanks a bunch! It went over very well. I even added a dot of ranch dressing on top.

    Cookiecrumb: Happy to have you visit! Come back again soon! :)

    Val: They sure do. And they call me every day asking for more!

    ntsc: I've never used pickles in a hot pot. I bet they're amazing.

    Nic: I know! I'm ashamed! LOL When I started cooking I seriously thought it was going to take hours. But yeah, it was all over before I knew it. I was kinda sad.

    Don: I just braised the left over chicken quarters in the left over balsamic vin. Ooh-Wee!

    Jena: Hi again. Lurk some more! Glad to have you stop by!

    N33ma: Yes, it was a lot of food. My kitchen was wrecked. But there were no left overs either!


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