My Secret Weapon Flavor Bomb for Savory, Summery Vinaigrettes

Last night we had friends over for a Fourth of July warm-up dinner party. The hyper-local menu–Grilled Sumac Lamb Chops, Cherry Couscous Salad and Asparagus–was created with the bulk of ingredients sourced in a one-mile radius; easy to pull off at this time of the year in the orchards and farmlands of Northern Michigan.

Concentrated cherry juice processed from cherries up the road lends the acidity and sweet to this versatile vinaigrette.

The day before yesterday, I marinated lamb chops 24 hours (refrigerated) in a mixture of whole milk, plain yogurt, garlic, ground sumac and cinnamon. (I’ll post the recipe after re-proof.)

Then, I made a couscous salad and am particularly excited about the impromptu vinaigrette, which was simply delicious.  My secret weapon was cherry juice concentrate. With the acidity and sweet of fresh ripe cherries, it was a flavor bomb  in this salad. (Recipe below.)

This vinaigrette would be marvelous in any grain or leafy green salad or a lovely marinade for fowl, pork or lamb.  Oh my. This little vinaigrette is an absolute gem.

Fresh Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

Fresh Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

You don’t have to live in the middle of a cherry orchard–grocery stores across the world carry cherry juice concentrates.  Here’s a link to King Orchards, if interested, to purchase the exact concentrate I use. (And no. Uncle Jim and Aunt Sue aren’t the owners and, as always, I receive no compensations for my posts and recommendations on this site, which remains blissfully “ad-free”.)

The Fourth of July Grill

The Fourth of July Grill

In the spirit of the season, here are some more cherry-inspired blogs from seasons past to whet your whistle, many of which are perfect for the celebratory Fourth:

Fresh Cherry Goat Cheese CrostiniCherry GazpachoSmoked Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Sauce.


Explosively Delicious Recipes

Have a happy and safe Fourth, my friends! Some more non-cherry inspired ideas for the holidays: Firecracker Shrimp Firecracker Flank Steak with Margarita FlavorsFourth of July Sheet Cake.

Recipe: Fresh Cherry Couscous Salad


  • 2 teaspoons minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons concentrated cherry juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/3 cup nut oil, such as pistachio, walnut or peanut
  • 1 1/4 cups dry (uncooked) couscous
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1 cup quartered fresh pitted cherries (or 1/2 cup dried cherries)
  • 1 cup quartered fresh pitted apricots (or 1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced)
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint


  1. Soak shallot in cherry concentrate and orange juice ten minutes. Make a dressing by whisking oil into shallot/juice mixture.
  2. Cook couscous according to package instructions. (I used chicken stock instead of salted water.)
  3. Toss dressing into warm couscous. Season to taste with kosher salt and a pinch of cayenne. Toss cherries and apricots into salad. (May be made, at this point, up to 24 hours in advance.)
  4. Before serving, stir in pistachios and mint.

Total time: 25 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4-6 SERVINGS

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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Sweet Pea-Quinoa Fritters

Last week was a mother to digest. First the beloved fashion designer Kate Spade? And what’s to become of the global food scene without Anthony Bourdin to direct traffic? The man with such caustic, biting brilliance who had such a rich appetite for life? No one could even begin to replace this most empathetic of spokespersons for the world’s people, their food and their culture.

Streets of Hanoi.

His most recent documentary series, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” premiered in 2013. It won five Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award and, for this Bourdain groupie (who  recently spent ten days in Hanoi delighting in the street food scene because her guru led the way), the documentary was aptly named. Parts unknown, indeed, Anthony Bourdain. Shattering.

But back to the happiness that cooking can conjure.  As Bourdain famously wrote in Kitchen Confidential: “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” I bought into that maxim many, many years ago.

And when I returned to the South for a family reunion last mongh–when the skillets started sizzling and my tongue begged loosening–I welcomed the grease flowing through my veins and bourbon burnishing my soul. Classic Southern soul-food and beverage don’t conjure notions of mindful moderation and stoic sobriety.

Smoked Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

And I didn’t stop there. After returning to Michigan, Memorial Day rolled around. Sure. I could have made some summery salads and lean grilled meats but the caravan wasn’t stopping. On a fat-lovin high, I was livin’ in the moment, adding that extra tablespoon of mayo to make that tater salad just right and sucking fatty ribs from the bone.

“Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit,” Bourdain wrote in “Kitchen Confidential,” and went on to describe vegans as  vegetarians’ “Hezbollah-like splinter faction.” He threw political correctness out of the kitchen with every breath he drew and that, in part, is why this woman loves him.

His writings have always invited reflection into the USA’s love/hate relationship with food and have inspired my culinary musings and practices for decades. The word diet, for example, to me means denial.  Just that one, four-letter word sets off  cravings for fried foods, buttery breads and creme brûlée. It’s not in my vocabulary.

So it follows I’m not beating myself up for the excess baggage I packed around my midriff in the past month. Just sayin’ I’m feeling sluggish and the word––reboot–– is a part of my vocabulary.

The following bean fritter recipe is Vegan, part of the Hezbollah-like splinter faction of recipes (-:  Lucky for me, I find veggie recipes an amusement park for my body, just as I do a well-marbled rib-eye.

Potato, Radish and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Potato, Radish and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Here  are some other recipes I intend to shuffle (until the Fourth of July when I’ve got some brisket and fatty-laced fixings planned). Quinoa with Black Beans, Avocado and Corn,  Curried Couscous-Lentil Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Lemony Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Crunchy Vegetables, Quinao Salad with Shrimp and Eggplant, Potato, Radish and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing, Roasted Broccoli and Farro Salad with Feta.

Pork Belly Tacos

Pork Belly Tacos

To balance the scales with all of these rosy-cheeked recipes, allow me to present a recipe for Pork Belly Tacos.

It’s in respect and reverence of the man who taught us so much about our world’s people and cultures who, in the end, chose to leave us behind.



Recipe: Sweet Pea-Quinoa Fritters


  • 1/2 cup extra-firm silken tofu
  • 2 tablespoons white, all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 1/3 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup snipped chives, plus chive blossoms for garnish, if available
  • Grapeseed or olive oil, as needed
  • Your choice of toppings such as chopped tomatoes, lemony yogurt or smashed avocado


  1. Process tofu and flour until smooth. Add cumin, garlic, quinoa, peas, snipped chives and pulse until combined. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2-3 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Shape pea mixture into 4 patties. (They will firm up as they cook.) Add patties to skillet and cook until browned on bottom, 6-9 minutes. Adjust heat so the patties cook but do not burn. When fritters have browned on bottom, with a spatula, carefully turn and cook until nicely browned on both sides.
  3. Serve with desired topping.

Time to Make (after quinoa is cooked and peas are thawed): 5 minutes

Time to Cook: apx. 15 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 2 SERVINGS

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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She-Deviled Diva Eggs

Stuffed Eggs with Bacon & Shrimp

Deviled Eggs (aka: Stuffed Eggs) have taken on star-status in the past few years. No more are a plate of these rich and tantalizing mortals content to find themselves nestled up to a Maraschino Cherry Jello Mold on a boomerang-patterned formica counter.

For good reason. Stuffed eggs are a great canvas for a variety of flavors. A perusal through the web will find Stuffed Eggs with Olive Tapenade, Lobster-Salad Stuffed Eggs,   Southwest Deviled Eggs  (I’m thinking a crushed tortilla chip garnish would make a great addition to this recipe) and more.

She-Devil Diva Eggs (Recipe Below)

My featured photo is a recipe for Stuffed Eggs Florentine (that includes chopped spinach and bacon) and another yummy recipe for Stuffed Eggs with Bacon and Shrimp is pictured above.

Want to add a pickled flavor to the yolk? Take a bottle of pickled beets and soak the egg whites in the liquid for several hours. Stuffed eggs make a great summer appetizer and I served the pickled eggs (recipe below and photo on the left) and Stuffed Eggs Florentine at a family reunion we’re having this week.

30 A

We booked a couple of beach houses in the Florida Panhandle, 30A precisely, “…the greatest strand of white sand on earth”. If you’re interested in learning more about this laid-back, food-rich culture,  I wrote a blog while traveling solo down there one fall, with a slideshow describing the area.

Stuffed egg aficionados  advise  starting with eggs that aren’t super fresh as eggs fresh from the hens are often difficult to peel––from my point of view this is the  only drawback of purchasing a local freshly laid eggs. Also, my hard boiled eggs are not necessarily hard, but have a bit of creaminess in the center. My method for boiling eggs is below.

I’m also celebrating the completion of my first draft of THE MAIDEN TOWER, which is now in the hands of my editor–one of many drawn-out, complicated and gut-wrenching steps. The novel’s a contemporary legend–a bit of magical realism thrown in– set in the quirky landscape of Key West, Florida, a place of which I’m intimate. It’s the story of a mother and her three daughters held hostage by secrets, desires and fear. And then Hurricane Irma pummels their town, changing their lives forever.

My publishing company has reduced the price of the WELCOME HOME DINER in the USA only for Kindle devices to $1.99 through May. If interested, now’s a good time to grab it.

Back to eggs. Here’s how I hard cook mine that yields a creamy, slightly undercooked center:

  • Start by bringing a large saucepan of water to a boil (to cover the eggs by a good inch) over medium-high heat. Carefully lower large eggs into water using a slotted spoon. Cook 10 minutes, lowering the heat if necessary to maintain a gentle boil. Transfer to an ice bath or very cold water and let cool until just slightly warm, about 2 minutes—this stops the eggs from cooking further and makes them easier to peel. Gently crack eggs all over and peel, starting from the fattest end containing the air pocket. Refrigerate if not using right away.
Recipe:She-Deviled Pickled Diva Eggs


  • 2/3’s cup beet juice* (from a jar of beets; reserve beets for another use)
  • 1 cup water
  • 9 large hard cooked eggs, chilled (see above notes)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Assorted fresh garnishes such as thin, blanched asparagus tips, bacon, snipped chives, lumpfish caviar, shrimp, lobster, crab, smoked salmon, tiny wedges of bell pepper


  1. Combine beet juice and water (see notes about beet juice). Cut eggs lengthwise in half, remove yolks and reserve. Place egg whites in a shallow containe., cut side down, and pour beet juice mixture over eggs. Let marinate, refrigerated and turning occasionally, until desired shade of purple is reached, about 2-8 hours.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mash yolk together. Combine with mayonnaise, sour cream, dill, shallot and Dijon. Reserve, refrigerated, until ready to stuff into eggs.
  3. When egg whites are picked as desired, remove from liquid and pat dry. Spoon or pipe 1 tablespoon of egg yolk mixture into the cavity of each egg. Top with desired garnishes.
  • I used a bottle of Trader Joe’s Pickled Beets. The pickling marinade included vinegar ad herbs so there was no need to add additional vinegar to the marinade.

Egg marination time: 2-8 hours

Yolk preparation time: 15 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 18 stuffed eggs

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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