Until I moved to Rhode Island a decade ago, I'd never heard of johnnycakes (which are also spelled jonnycakes, so let's get that out of the way up front). Johnnycakes, made of cornmeal and gluten-free, are to Rhode Islanders what pancakes are to the rest of the world. Most often they're served just like pancakes, with butter and a glug of local maple syrup. These savory two-bite roasted red pepper, basil and parmesan johnnycakes fit nicely into the end of the day, as a cocktail party appetizer or snack at a barbecue. As with any recipe that has just a few ingredients, be sure to use the best cheese, basil and pepper you can find. Serve them hot off the griddle, and spell them whichever way you like.
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Until I moved to Rhode Island, I'd never heard of coffee syrup. (It's like Hershey's chocolate syrup, except made from coffee. If that helps.) The state drink, coffee milk, combines coffee syrup with, well, milk, and the favorite iced treat, a coffee cabinet, is a milkshake made with coffee ice cream and coffee syrup. Sweet, sweet, sweet. When I met up with my friend Jen of Savor the Thyme at Dave's Coffee, in the opposite end of the state, I bought a bottle of their all-natural coffee syrup, and couldn't resist experimenting with some savory recipes. I packed this slow cooker coffee-chipotle pulled chicken into a piece of oat-bran lavash bread with some lettuce and this smoky spicy cole slaw. That's a lot of Rhode Island goodness rolled up into one great sandwich. Not to worry: you can make this in your own kitchen even if you don't have our coffee syrup. Or you can come to my kitchen and I'll make it for you.
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Every day, green shoots (chives! daffodils!) appear in the garden where snow and mud used to be, so I'm pushing the season and planning ahead for picnics and porch dinners. You really can't have a party without cole slaw, at least not in New England. There's nothing wrong with the traditional cabbage-and-mayo recipe, but this smoky spicy cole slaw seems tailor-made for barbecue. I love to make it with Rhode Island's own Cowboy Ketchup, a magical blend of ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce flavors; you can swap in your own favorite homemade or store-bought barbecue sauce. To keep this slaw on the lower-fat side, I use two parts nonfat Greek yogurt to one part mayonnaise. Make the slaw a day or two in advance, and serve it cold, atop your favorite ribs, hot dogs or burgers.
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Here in the hills of northern Rhode Island, we're surrounded by farms -- goat farms, herb farms, blueberry farms. We have horse farms, too, and plenty of them, but I have yet to run into any cowboys. Still, our village market sells Cowboy Ketchup, a heavenly condiment that's a little bit ketchup, a little bit mustard, and a little bit barbecue sauce. It's good enough to attract cowboys, and maybe that's the plan. You can slather some on a burger, of course. I really love to use it in this cowboy turkey meatloaf, where the sauce adds moisture to the very lean turkey, along with a little bit of the smoky flavor of barbeque.
I always have a bottle or two in the pantry, so if you're reading this and you're a cowboy, come on by. I might have a meatloaf or two in the freezer.
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