Just like the rest of us, our panelists for the Taster’s Choice food column have been cooking more than ever since March. We asked them for some of their menu suggestions and they sent some great ideas. Here are more of the meals they have been serving their families.
Julie Overton, a trained cook, avid canner and mother of four, steps up her game every Sunday. During the week, she is careful to make heart-healthy, calorie-conscious meals. But, Sundays, she said, “are my husband’s cheat meals — so we really go all out with dinner and dessert.”
Cheddar Biscuits and Shrimp and Andouille Gravy: The dish includes Andouille sausage, bacon, corn and condiments including Creole mustard and Worcestershire sauce. She follows a recipe at closetcooking.com and says: “I buy Pillsbury Grands frozen biscuits and I don’t worry about not having cheddar cheese on them. This is a full meal so it really doesn’t need any sides or salad.“ For dessert: “I made an Ice Cream Sandwich Cookie Cake from Pinterest. It is one of my favorites for the summer months,” she said. “The sweet part about this dessert is you can make it as big or as little as you like. I’ve used 18 sandwich bars for a crowd and six for the two of us.”
Salmon Nicoise Salad: “I made this for my book club last year and it was a huge hit. I actually took two recipes and combined them,” said Overton. The salmon is from chef Ina Garten (Roasted Salmon Nicoise Salad) and the rest of the salad is from Cosette’s Kitchen (French Nicoise Summer Salad). The dressing is made with fresh herbs and a tablespoon of toum. “I made the toum, which is a Lebanese garlic sauce,” said Overton. She said the sauce was good but the recipe makes too much for one meal so she recommends cutting it down.
Tuna Tacos: “Tuna Tacos are a quick and easy dish that we all love,” said Overton. “I start by getting a thick piece of tuna and putting salt and pepper on both sides.” She uses cooking spray in a very hot, cast iron pan to warm some corn tortillas and sets them aside. “I like mine a little crispy,” she said. “I spray the pan again once the tortillas are done and add the tuna. We like our tuna rare, so I only leave it on for a couple of minutes on each side.” She does some prep work for this meal, cutting the Napa cabbage and radishes, cleaning the cilantro and slicing the limes. “When ready to serve, we put the sliced tuna, cabbage, radishes, slices of avocado and cilantro in the tortillas and top them off with a drizzle of Makoto Ginger Dressing.”
Red Curry Chicken Rice Bowls: Taster Janet Keeler, a food writer, former food editor and assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, shared her recipe for Red Curry Chicken Rice Bowls. “These are easy, especially because you can use a rotisserie chicken for a head start,” she said. “I cook a pot of rice, brown or white depending on preference. Then I prepare a frozen Asian vegetable medley according to package directions and drain or saute broccoli florets, snow peas and bean sprouts in vegetable oil,” she said. “I mix shredded cooked chicken and red curry sauce (not curry paste; Kikkoman, for example, makes a jarred Thai red curry sauce) and then scoop rice into individual bowls and top with the chicken mixture.” She garnishes the bowls with cashews or peanuts, chopped scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil.
Shrimp Stir-Fry Salad: “I like to make big salads for dinner as a welcome change from the meat-veggie-carb meal,” said Keeler. “My Shrimp Stir-Fry Salad is a good alternative to that.” In a large skillet or wok, she sautes peeled shrimp in vegetable oil. Then she removes the shrimp and adds chopped peanuts, grated fresh ginger and about ¼ cup of Asian sesame salad dressing (Annie’s Homegrown brand has several versions) to the pan. She removes the pan from the heat and returns the shrimp to the pan. “In a large bowl, I toss baby spinach leaves, packaged broccoli slaw, thinly sliced cucumber and red pepper strips with another ¼ cup of the dressing and finish by tossing it with the shrimp mixture.”
Salmon and Goat Cheese: John Hehn, the owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc., has been a longtime taster and home cook. One of his favorite summertime recipes is Salmon and Goat Cheese. “I take salmon pieces and cut a pocket in the middle and insert goat cheese,” he said. “I use plenty of salt and pepper and smear the fish with Dijon mustard.” He bakes the fish at 350 degrees for about 15 to 18 minutes. “This meal takes only about 10 minutes of prep time and it makes a fantastic dish,” he said. When he buys a large salmon fillet, he often makes salmon BLTs with the extra portions. He has also been buying chicken in bulk to prepare a variety of meals including chicken curry, chicken sliders and chicken and mushroom pasta. After starting his own herb and vegetable gardens during the quarantine, Hehn also started experimenting with cocktails, adding squash slices to his Bloody Marys, limes to homemade mango daiquiris and basil to Limoncello martinis.
Summer Tomato Pie: Personal chef Kay Hodnett makes a favorite Summer Tomato Pie from Entertaining at the College of Charleston by Zoe Sanders. She starts with two prepared pie crusts, 1.5 pounds of ripe tomatoes (cored and diced), 1 cup onion, salt and pepper to taste, 3 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, 6 tablespoons fresh basil and 1 cup mayonnaise. The mixture is divided between the two crusts and bakes into bubbly goodness similar in texture to a quiche. “I sprinkle more basil on the top and serve it as the entire meal,” said Hodnett. “It’s even great re-heated the next day for lunch.”