Appreciation is a wonderful thing;
it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.
I'm a Southern Girl. Oh, I'm no Georgia Peach and my brand of South isn't the cornbread and biscuits, fried chicken and yams, collard greens and black-eyed peas South, ya'll. I grew up in Florida along the dunes and waves of Cocoa Beach and in the shadow of the rockets of NASA. My South is flavored by the tropical fruits and citrus that grow in the lush and savage flora along the Indian and Banana Rivers, the seafood fished in those rivers and in the ocean, coming in through the ports of Titusville. My Southern cuisine is shrimp, crab legs and catfish, steamed or fried, the mangoes and avocados, oranges and grapefruit, peaches and watermelon indigenous to the area, most eaten as is, fresh from the tree, rather than being elaborated in a dish. Cool respite from the sweltering heat of the Florida summer.
I am part of a great and exciting project created to spread the love of good, homemade food: 12 food bloggers have gathered together and created Progressive Eats, a virtual dinner party in which we each create a recipe, prepare a dish along a theme chosen by one or the other, the chosen host of the month. Our goal? Create a menu (something that I'm particularly bad at, so this is great even for me!) and bring our readers delicious, often quite simple from-scratch home recipes. The community dinner parties with real meals from scratch was created by Barb of Creative Culinary.
This month's dinner - the very first Progressive Eats theme - is hosted by Lana of Never Enough Thyme and Lana invited us to a Summer in the South buffet dinner!
Southerners can’t stand to eat alone.
If we’re going to cook a mess of greens we want to eat them with a mess of people.
- Julia Reed
Summer in the South means fresh fruit and shrimp. Summer in the South means food that is light, cool and revivifying, a dish that balances out a barbecue or picnic's naturally more filling mains and sides. For Lana's Summer in the South themed dinner, I offered to bring a cool salad using quinoa, my newest passion, as a base. Quinoa adds great texture, chewy and dense, while remaining rather light, not smothering or hiding the other ingredients, and adding a tasty, slight nutty flavor to the salad. Much better than our other old faithful salad base of rice. I then added cooked shrimp – I buy pre-cooked, as fresh shrimp are impossible to find in Nantes – but freshly grilled shrimp would be even better! To that I added paper-thin slices of red onion for crunch and zing, crumbled feta (or goat's cheese!), just enough for flavor but again not so much that it smothers the light taste of the shrimp or overpowers the sweetness of the fruit. Chopped fresh flat parsley adds both a bite and a touch of green. I then added pitted and halved cherries, plump, juicy and sweet, grilled peach slices and avocado.
You could change out the peach and cherries for chunks of fresh mango and watermelon, either lightly grilled, both Florida summer fruit! You could also add fresh coriander/cilantro for extra zing!
Follow the links to see what the other Progressive Eats members created and brought to the party and get the recipes!
Old Bay Shrimp Boil Skewers from Jane on The Heritage Cook
Fried Green Tomatoes from Megan on Stetted
Creamy Cole Slaw from Milisa on Miss in the Kitchen
Maque Choux Soup from Ansh on Spice Roots
Creole-Style Smothered Chicken from Lana on Never Enough Thyme
Jalapeno Cornbread from Julie on Savvy Eat
Bacon and Caramelized Onion Creamed Corn from Barb on Creative Culinary
Spicy Succotash from Jenni on Pastry Chef Online
Watermelon Lemonade from Lauren on Healthy Delicious
Key Lime Pound Cake from Barbara on Barbara Bakes
Banana Cream Cheesecake Pie from Liz on That Skinny Chick Can Bake
COOL SHRIMP, GRILLED PEACH, CHERRY, FETA & RED ONION SALAD
I made the salad for JP and I, just the two of us, but the ingredients can easily be increased for more (for a barbecue party!). He gave it a double thumbs up!
1 ripe yellow peach
2 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup per person)
3 ½ oz (100 g) cooked (peeled and deveined) shrimp, rinsed and patted dry
3 Tbs chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ red onion sliced thin
3 – 4 Tbs crumbled feta or goat cheese
8 ripe cherries, pitted and halved
3 Tbs excellent quality olive oil, more to taste
1 ½ Tbs balsamic vinegar, more to taste
1 tsp raspberry vinegar, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
½ an avocado sliced lengthwise into 6 or 8 wedges
Brush a stovetop grill with olive oil and heat over medium to medium-high heat. Slice a peach in 8 – 10 wedges and carefully place the wedges on the hot grill. Allow to cook until softened just a bit and grill marks appear. Carefully flip the peaches and allow to grill on the other side. Remove the peach wedges to a plate.
Place the cooked quinoa – mine was still warm – into a mixing bowl; add the shrimp, the chopped parsley, the sliced onions, the cherry halves and the crumbled cheese. Season with the olive oil and the two vinegars with a grinding or two of black pepper. Toss, taste and add more of what you like to your taste.
Divide the quinoa salad between two plates. Place grilled wedges of the peach and wedges of avocado around or on the salads and serve.