At 8:30 am this Sunday, while I wiped the sleep from my eyes and noticed that my only snuggle partner was my fourteen year old dog (lifted lovingly onto the bed each morning by her papa), I heard a familiar muffled clamor coming from the kitchen. My husband was making fresh sausage for us to have for breakfast.
He is a man of simple pleasures. He doesn’t ask for much in life. Conversely, he’s quite the giver, making coffee at the crack of dawn each day, emptying the dishwasher and garbage can so I can start my cooking for clients with a clean slate, and just generally setting me up for success. He’s my anchor- that sounds so cliche…but it’s true. When I get a crazy idea in my head that’s larger than life and I get all emotional about it (which may happen kind of often), spinning thoughts like a wild woman, my husband gently pulls me back down to where my feet can firmly root back into the earth, somehow without ever dismissing me or popping my bubble of excitement. And then, he helps me to give that idea life, shape, and structure- taking all of the necessary steps with me to reach my goals with gusto.
Adam Price is the baker in our family. A master biscuit-baker to the maxx.
He is also the cocktail-maker. I mean the Mixologist (said in snarky hipster voice).
He’s the smoother of edges and the most fun partner in crime. He has a gigantic, warm heart, the patience of Job, and he giggles before he even starts to tell a story that tickles him. He is the cheese to my cracker, the jelly to my crunchy peanut butter, the other pea in my pod. Almost a decade into our relationship, he lights me up all day everyday. And I am so thankful that I truly won the Husband Lottery. There are a few things in the Universe that get Adam super excited.
1. Going on a trip. Before we go on any kind of adventure, that boy does not sleep. He’s up at four in the morning, like a kid on Christmas, gearing up for the journey.
2. The Sea. Like me, Adam Price would do just about anything to find his way to a beach. One day, we will live there for good. But, until then, we treasure every moment on the water, knowing that Mother Ocean heals all and brings us the most peace.
3. Sandwiches. I swear, Adam would eat sammiches three meals a day if it were good for his body and his wife wouldn’t nag him about it. This entire meal was born out the craving for one super-over-the-top bbq sandwich.
4. Live music. A shared love of both of ours. And thank g-d. If Adam didn’t enjoy grooving to the sounds of a wide spectrum of music and soaking up the energy of a peaceful crowd gathered to take in the tunes, I would have surely been destined to grow into an old spinster all by myself.
5. Grilling. This is a true passion of Adam’s, and since we’ve got a charcoal grill with a smoker attachment on our back porch, this is the pleasure that gets indulged the most in our life currently. Planning to smoke a pork butt for eight hours brings Adam serious giddiness. It’s fun to watch his eyes get big and his eagerness build. He will wake up early on a Sunday to concoct a spice mixture and get the Butt rubbed and ready,
and he delights in staying home all day to babysit- making sure the temperature remains constant and the fire stays just strong enough to cook her low and slow.
So, this meal is an ode to Adam Price, and his love of the grill, and my love of him. I get just as jazzed to plan the sauces, salads, and side dishes that will accompany the tender piece of meat that I know he will execute. It’s a funny dialogue back and forth between us, mapping out the perfect meal, incorporating the season’s finest fruits and veggies. I know it sounds super dorky, but, hey, this is how we have our fun. That’s how we roll. To that end, here it is:
Smoky Blueberry Barbecued Slow Smoked Pulled Pork with Pimento Cheese Mashed Potatoes, and Summer Salad of Local Corn, Cucumbers and Celery.
Smoky Blueberry Barbecue Sauce
1 onion, diced
a few peppers of your choice, smoked or grilled, then peeled and diced (optional- you can use a raw bell pepper)
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 C ketchup
3 T dijon or whole grain mustard
3 T worchestershire sauce
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T real maple syrup
1/2 C water
1/4 C beer
1 t spice rub (Adam usually uses a combination of spices that looks like this: 3 T paprika, 1 T ground chipotle or another chili powder, 1 ½ T ground mustard, 1 ½ T garlic powder, 1 T onion powder, 1 rounded T brown sugar, ½ t cayenne, 3 T sea salt, A pinch of dried oregano, A bunch of fresh cracked black pepper)
1 Pint fresh blueberries
1 sprig fresh thyme
To make the sauce:
Heat a small pot with a good drizzle of olive oil to medium heat. Add the onion and a good pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion starts to soften. Add your peeled and diced peppers and your pressed garlic. Stir another minute or so. Then, add all of your remaining ingredients and another pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well to combine. Float your sprig of thyme right in the sauce. Bring the pot up to a quick boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and let the sauce hang out for about 30 minutes or so. Then, remove your sprig of thyme, and use an immersion blender to puree the sauce until smooth. Give it a taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Ours was tangy and smoky and had just a hint of fruitiness to it. Yum.
Let’s talk salad.
Summer Salad with Corn, Celery, and Cucumber
3 or 4 stalks of celery, with the leaves, rinsed and dried well, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 ears fresh corn, kernels stripped from the cob
3 small or one large cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and sprinkle the flesh with salt. Place the cukes cut-side down on a towel for 20 minutes to eek out some of the moisture. Then, pat the cukes dry and dice them up.
3/4 Cup – 1 Cup raw pepitas, roasted in a 300 degree oven with a touch of olive oil and salt until golden. I like to place them in a paper bag after roasting and shake them up to remove any excess greasiness. Cool them before adding to the bowl.
Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
Sprig or two of fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the stems
Red wine vinaigrette:
1/4 Cup red wine vinegar
Squeeze of honey- about 1/2 – 3/4 t
1 garlic clove
Good pinch of salt and pepper
Place the above ingredients in the cup of an immersion blender, or in the blender/ food processor of your choice. Whir to break down the ingredients. Then, slowly drizzle in about 1/2 Cup of olive oil while you whir. Continue to work the machine and drizzle slowly until you see/ hear the dressing start to change/ thicken/ emulsify. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
Pulling the salad together:
Simply combine all of the salad components in a large bowl and drizzle with some of your dressing. Start with about half and toss to coat. You can add a bit more dressing at a time as you like. Just don’t overdress her! Allow the salad to chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes before serving. It was delicious the second day too, so feel free to prepare the salad a few hours a head of dinner.
Now, I mentioned that Adam wanted to make a big, crazy bbq sandwich with lots of layers, pimento cheese being one of them…
So, I thought, for my un-sandwichy barbecue dinner, why not make mashed potatoes with pimento cheese IN THEM???? Adam’s Pimento Cheese is famous around these parts. Here’s the recipe.
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
8 oz medium cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 Cup roasted red peppers/ pimentos, diced
1 Cup mayonnaise
Good pinch of granulated garlic and salt
Lots of freshly cracked black pepper
2 T of the brine from the pepper jar
Simply combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir/ smash with a fork until they become one. Taste. Your pimento cheese mixture should have a little tang to it, and the texture should be spreadable. Tweak seasoning to your liking. Before serving, allow the cheese to come to room temperature, or close to it, so that it’s easy to scoop and shmear.
Pimento Cheese Mashed Potatoes
8 medium to large potatoes, washed well and cut into 2 – 3 inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, halved
1 1/4 Cup milk, heated
2 T butter
1 Cup pimento cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
Place cut potatoes and sliced garlic in a large pot of well-salted water and bring it up to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat a touch to prevent boiling over. Let potatoes boil about 15 – 20 minutes, until they are soft and easily smash-able with the back of a spoon. Drain the water from the potatoes and place them back in the hot pot. Add butter and about half of your hot milk, and use a sturdy potato masher to mash potatoes well. Continue adding milk as needed while you mash. Add several good pinches salt and pepper. Once you’ve got the mixture to a consistency you like, stir in the pimento cheese. Yeah!!!!!! Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with fresh parsley.
One more finishing touch…Maple Mustard Painted Bacon.
Adam mixed up 1 T real maple syrup with 2 T dijon mustard. He painted that onto the top side of the raw bacon and added a bunch of freshly ground black pepper. Then, it roasted in a 375 degree oven for about 15 – 20 minutes, until it was caramelized and crispy.
With the beautiful smoked pork pulled and ready to toss into our Smoky Blueberry Barbecue Sauce, we were amped to plate our meals. Adam’s looked like this, complete with homemade “Texas Toast”.
Don’t even ask how he got that thing into his mouth… And mine looked like this.
YUMMMMM! All of our summertime barbecue fantasies came true. The salad was just as crisp, light, crunchy, and fresh as I wanted it to be. The sweetness of the corn played so nicely against the bitterness of the celery, and the cucumber was bright and refreshing. The roasted seeds brought forth a spot-on nuttiness and the dressing tied it all together.
Those potatoes. I don’t even have to tell you, right? You can imagine. They were out of this world. Creamy, decadent, savory perfection.
The pork itself was sultry. Every bit of the time and love that was put into creating the pulled meat was apparent. And the tang, fruitiness, and smoke of the barbecue sauce wrapped around each bite of meaty goodness- oh my! It was just spectacular.
This whole meal rocked my socks off. And as summer draws to a close (tears streaming down cheeks), I’m thankful that we will still have a serious abundance of fresh, local fruits and vegetables coming out of the ground and inspiring our menus until about December. At which point, I will crawl into a little personal cave and wait impatiently until spring.
As always, please feel free to make any of these recipes your own. Use what you like. Play around with the goodies that are available to you. That Summer Salad is absolutely divine when substituting a diced apple for the cucumbers. And the mashed potatoes are still magical, even without the pimento cheese. I hope that you’ve enjoyed every last moment of this glorious summer.
Happy cooking and eating to you,