August 6th already? How did that happen?
If you’ve been following along here, you may have noticed that things have been quiet the last few weeks at littleclove. I’ve missed you, too.
Hadley and I were in Miami visiting Mom and Rich, and I wanted to unplug for a while, since my summer hiatus is about to come to an end very very soon. It’s nice to sort of let go of life’s little surprises for a week. Such as, the surprise! $400 I spent on my dryer that stopped drying…and the surprise! $500 I spent on my fancy stove to fix the broiler that blew up…and the surprise! $250 I spent to have a giant tree lugged out of my yard after an electrical storm. And did I mention that somewhere in my house a smoke detector is chirping, the dog’s bangs are so long he can’t see, and I’m way overdue for an oil change?
Ah… It was really easy for me to just let it all go, while floating around on a raft in my mom’s pool eating mangos.
We had a great time. We swam (meaning from the minute we woke up, ’till the minute we went to bed because I could not get fish-girl out of the water), we snorkeled around the Keys, took an airboat ride through the Everglades, ate lots, drank lots and had much needed togetherness time.
It was fun being a part of my mom’s world for a week. One day she took me to her exercise class where I worked out with the 60+ crowd! I must admit, I did break a sweat doing lunges and squats using the hand weights. Those seniors can move!
Mom and Rich own an airboat and have a camp about an hour from land out in the Everglades, or the woods, as they call it. I was calling it the swamp but I sensed that wasn’t going over so well so I stopped. Oops.
Look! It’s Hadley driving the airboat! Of course she floored it and practically sent me into cardiac arrest.
Their camp is an actual house in the woods and it’s pretty amazing. It has a generator so there are lights, a stove, running water, air-conditioning, beds, a bathroom, a giant deck with a grill, and more. Pretty cool. They have been working on it for a long time and tell me that it’s still a work-in-progress.
He’s an outdoor pet. A wild, toothy, beautiful, mysterious, daunting, and non-aggressive (so I was told) pet. Mom and Rich told me about him before our trip and I had also learned that they feed him (kinda crazy, just sayin’) so he lingers around waiting for them to come back every weekend.
They told me that the house is raised-up high enough so that he could never jump up and get us, so I relaxed a little bit. Once I was there I saw that indeed this was the case and of course they would never put us in danger. Even so, I kept one eye on Spaulding the entire 2 hours we spent there. Knowing how clumsy I am, I kept thinking; one false move, I’m in the swamp and I’m guessing I taste a little bit better than the Ritz crackers they feed him.
Rich char-grilled some kielbasa for us (you’ve gotta eat stuff like that when you’re roughin’ it in the woods) that we cut up, dipped in spicy mustard, and washed down with a few ice-cold beers.
I also had the chance to try alligator meat while I was down there. No, we didn’t throw Spaulding on the grill. Come on, he’s practically family. My friend Mike dared me to try alligator while I was there, so I had to (it being a double dare and all) and was happily surprised that I liked it. We had “gator bites” from an alligator farm that were coated in corn meal and deep-fried. Delicious!
It was nice having mom’s cooking for a week. She made us our beloved neck bones that I told you about here, and we also had blackened dolphin fish, and homemade pizza.
Last Monday was Rich’s birthday and his son Joe decided to make bbq’d ribs for dinner which made me very very happy. He made them in this really cool smoker that they have. It has room for numerous racks of ribs and does all kinds of stuff that you can learn about here.
I’m fascinated by bbq and rubs and sauces and smokers and slow cooking and all of that stuff. Joe rubbed the ribs with 2 types of spice mixes to start with. Hog’s Breath Blackening Seasoning (don’t you love that name?)
which is a blackening spice made in Key West. Notice their motto, “Hog’s Breath is better than no breath at all!” I would have to agree.
And a Spicy Cajun Style Seasoning that my mom picked up at The Spice House in Evanston when she was here in June.
He hung the racks of ribs in the smoker for a few hours, and when they were ready, he coated them in his favorite BBQ sauce and finished them on the grill. WOW. They were delicious! We also had sweet corn and grilled yellow squash.
So as all of this rubbing and smoking was happening, I decided to make an appetizer for the birthday party. My mom has fresh thyme growing in her garden (along with a rosemary bush bigger than me!) and this reminded me of a delicious roasted red pepper crostini that I make every once in a while.
Aren’t they pretty?
And there are only 4 main ingredients: bread, goat cheese, thyme and red pepper. Simple! The saltiness of the goat cheese, mixed with the smoky sweetness of the roasted peppers, the fresh thyme and the crunch of the baguette make this a really yummy crostini.
Roasting the red peppers is really easy. I did it right in my mom’s toaster oven set to broil. You can also roast them on the grill, or even right on your burner so I’ve heard (I’ve never tried that). They develop this great smoky flavor and then you toss them with some olive oil and sea salt until you’re ready to use them. I also love these on sandwiches or in pasta dishes. Sometimes I roast a whole bunch just to have them in the fridge to use during the week.
I made this for our block party one year and the entire platter was gone in 5 minutes. Which reminds me, our block party is tomorrow and I have to come up with a salad or a side dish….hmmmm…..I’m thinking about smoky chipotle mayo and roasted corn potato salad.
Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Crostini
fresh goat cheese, 10 oz.
1 very large bunch of fresh thyme
3 red bell peppers
extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp, plus more for brushing the baguette slices
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
First slice the baguette into about ¼ inch slices. Brush one side of each slice with olive oil and broil until golden brown. Flip them all over and slightly brown the other side. (I also did this in my mom’s toaster oven which works very nicely for these!) Set aside.
Now it’s time to roast the peppers. Wash and dry the peppers and place them under the broiler. Let them sit there until the top of each one is charred (black). Turn them with tongs and repeat this until all sides are charred. They should be pretty black.
(I should have taken a photo of this)
While the peppers are roasting, run your finger down each stem of thyme and peel off all of the little leaves, discarding the stems. You should have a nice sized pile of leaves when you’re done. It’s hard to completely remove all the tiny stems so don’t worry about it. Just give the pile a good chop. Combine the thyme with the goat cheese so it’s evenly mixed.
When the peppers are done, put them in a bowl and tightly cover it with plastic wrap. Let them sit for 30 mins. This will allow the skin to easily peel off. After 30 mins, peel the skin off each pepper with your fingers and a small knife if you need it. Remove the stem and seeds and discard. Carefully slice the peppers into thin strips, about 1/8 of an inch. Put the pepper strips in a small bowl and mix in the 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
You can keep the goat cheese mixture and the peppers in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. When you are about 10 minutes to serving, spread a knife-full of the goat cheese mixture onto each toast, top with a few red pepper strips, and pop in your mouth!