Bloody Mary Tomato Salad with Pickled Shrimp

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The heirloom tomatoes are coming in at Pepper Place and I’m a huge fan. We buy them every chance we can get. Personally, I can eat them like an apple, but this recipe is the perfect marriage of those tomatoes with some fresh Gulf shrimp!

  • 3# assorted tomatoes, sliced (heirlooms are best, such as Cherokee Purple, Beefsteak, Brandywine, etc but any good southern ripe tomato will do)
  • 1/3 cup celery sliced thin on the bias (diagonal)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed celery leaves (celery leaves are great for seasoning dishes and for garnishes, so don’t automatically toss them like many people do

Using a chilled serving platter, arrange the sliced tomatoes and celery. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste. Drizzle with the Bloody Mary Vinaigrette (recipe below) and spoon the pickled shrimp over the top (also below). Top with the celery leaves and garnish with pickled okra or pickled green beans. You can even add some crumbled Feta if you’d like!

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup spicy Bloody Mary mix (like Zing Zang)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 3/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine ingredients in a bottle with a lid, shake and chill.

To make pickled shrimp:

In a zip top freezer bag (gallon size), add 1 pound of medium-sized peeled fresh shrimp. To the bag, add the following ingredients, then place the bag in your refrigerator for at least 2 hours but the longer you leave it in, the better. After 6 hours the shrimp will get rubbery, so 2-6 hours is the processing time.

  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp each chopped fresh dill and flat leaf parsley
  • 1 1/4 tsp Creole seasoning (I use Old Bay)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
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Caramelized Onion & Tomato Tart

With the abundance of delicious tomatoes coming to market these days, I decided to dust off an old recipe from my “Secrets of the Chefs” days when I worked for Bruno’s Supermarkets as an in-store personal chef for customers. This was one of the recipes I created that was featured in weekly store promotions and one of the dishes I prepared on Good Day Alabama. It was my take of the traditional Pissaladiere pastry. It’s really quite simple to make and it can be tweaked to your specifications. Although not in this recipe, I will usually brown and crumble some really good Italian sausage on top of the tart if I’m in the mood for meat, but the recipe is wonderful as written. It really showcases the flavors of fresh summer Alabama tomatoes!

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed enough to work with
  • 3 pounds red/purple onions, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 jar Kalamata pitted olives, sliced lengthwise
  • 8 ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced (or 2 pints grape tomatoes sliced in half lengthwise if making when fresh garden tomatoes aren’t in season)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sea Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • Sprigs of fresh Thyme

Start by cooking the onions over low heat in the olive oil in a large skillet, until soft (this takes about 30-40 minutes). Be careful to not brown the onions. Add the tomatoes and garlic to the pan and continue cooking until the water from the tomatoes has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large cookie sheet (with sides) with parchment paper.

Working on a lightly floured surface, form the puff pastry sheet into a rectangle the size of your cookie sheet. Work a little of the dough up the sides of the pan to create an edge once it bakes. Dock the dough (pierce the surface all over with a fork if you don’t have a rolling docker).

Put the onion, tomato mixture in the sheet of pastry, smoothing it out to cover the entire surface (but not the sides of course). Sprinkle top with cheese (and cooked meats if so desired). Finish with sprigs of fresh thyme.

Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and cook for 20 minutes more. Tart will puff up as the pastry cooks and will turn golden brown.

Enjoy the tart either warm out of the oven, or at room temperature if you prefer. You can also cut the tart into multiple bite-size pieces and use as an hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party.

Mediterranean Chicken

A few years back, I was the chef at an establishment where half of my customers would be on Weight Watchers about this time of the year, so I would offer a low-fat, healthy lunch option daily in the cafe. I created this recipe and it has been one of my “most requested” by customers at every place I’ve worked. In fact, most are surprised to learn this is actually a healthy, low fat recipe!

When you first read the ingredients, you may question this one, but everyone does. Once they try it, they are hooked. I made it this past week at work (first time at newest cafe) and everyone has been asking for the recipe. As you read the recipe, several things are “optional” ingredients. They add to the dish, but they are not required, as I’ve made the recipe with those items and without, depending on what I’ve got in my pantry. Give this one a try and you’ll agree it’s really quite tasty, and for those of you “counting points”, this one is 7 points!

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or you can use boneless tenders)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup raisins (any color)
  • 1 cup green or black olives, sliced (don’t use ripe black olives.. you want tart, brine soaked olives so it’s best to stick with regular old pimiento stuffed spanish or queen olives unless you want to drop a few bucks on some kalamatas)
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained (optional)
  • 1 4oz container Feta cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the bottom of a glass casserole dish with olive oil and arrange chicken in one layer in the dish. Size of the dish depends on size of your chicken. A 9×9 will normally hold 4 breasts, a 13×9 might be needed if you use boneless tenders. Top the chicken with the minced garlic.

In a small bowl, combine the curry powder, cinnamon and salt, then sprinkle mixture on top of chicken. Top chicken with the raisins and olives and pour the wine over the top. If using the artichoke hearts and Feta, add it last in that order.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F.

Serve with rice, couscous, fresh spinach, sauteed broccoli, etc for a light complimentary dinner.

Hoppin’ John Salad

I came up with this recipe a few years back to use up some leftover black-eyed peas and it was a hit with my customers. They always got excited to see Hoppin’ John salad on my menu. Technically, it’s not really a true “hoppin’ John” because I don’t use rice, but you could toss in some wild rice and it would only add to the flavor. In the South, this salad is similar to what some people call “Redneck Caviar”. Like any good marinated salad, it can be made just prior to serving, but it’s even tastier if made a day or two ahead. The longer it “marinates” in the frig, the better it tastes.

For 4 to 6 servings:

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen black-eyed peas
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (the tomatoes, not the pint)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
Put the frozen peas, bay leaf and salt in a pot. Cover peas with water and cook at a slow boil for 45 minutes, or until peas are tender. Drain, rinse with cold water and place peas in a large salad/mixing bowl.
Add all remaining ingredients to the chilled peas, using salt and cracked pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.