fish & shrimp ceviche

I took a much needed beach vacation this weekend.  Pensacola was beautiful, but the food was really what made the trip.

Any time my Italian family gets to together, the resulting food is incredible.  And I’m talking quantity and quality here.  We don’t just do pasta and meat balls either.  Everyone has their own style and eclectic taste – probably has something to do with the Italian heritage, growing up in New Orleans, and then moving all over the country.  Whatever it is, I love it.  I love how at any given moment, someone is in the kitchen making something.  Even on a beautiful day at the beach.  And how we have to make daily grocery store trips where we buy enough food to last most families an entire week.  Somehow we never have any problems with leftovers.

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key lime pie

Ok I will be the fist to admit that I am a bit of a key lime pie snob.  I think I have a right to be since I grew up in Florida…right?  I think that’s how that works.  Like when New Yorkers come down to to the south and laugh at anyone who thinks Panera bagels are good.   Ummm I’ll keep my grits, mint julep, barbecue, pecan pie, sweet tea, and bread pudding and you can go back up north.  Also, Panera bagels are good.

I remember growing up my family would drive down to the Florida Keys every summer for vacation.  On one particular trip we decided that we would eat key lime pie at as many restaurants as possible to try to find the best one.  This was my favorite trip, for obvious reasons.  Unfortunately this experiment was not well documented (understatement) and we are not sure which pie was this winner.  I am pretty sure one of the best pieces was from my favorite restaurant in Key West, Blue Heaven, and looked something like this.  It was the tallest pie I have ever seen.  The meringue was a solid 4 times taller than the filling and it was simultaneously fluffy and crisp.  If you want to see more of this pie check it out on the Key Lime Pie episode of Food Wars on the food network!….or Rachel Ray, or Man vs Food.  This pie is a pretty big deal.

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watermelon mojitos

Have you ever had a watermelon that had the most perfect flavor but was a little mushy and overripe?  Well this is the most amazing thing you could possible do in those circumstances!  I have been loving mojitos recently and thought that adding watermelon juice would make the most amazing summer cocktail!  I was right.  Everyone drank these until we were completely out of juice (which means we saved an entire watermelon from the garbage!)  This did take a little bit of time to make – but I can assure you that it was well worth every minute.  The color of this drink is just so beautiful!

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grilled panzanella salad with grilled peppers, squash, and tomatoes

Creole tomatoes are one of the many reasons that I love summer.  They are so vibrant and fresh that I find myself trying to work them into every meal that I eat! Toast, eggs, and tomatoes for breakfast, Caprese sandwiches for lunch, pasta with fresh tomato sauce for dinner – I think you get the picture.  For everyone not fortunate to enough to live in Louisiana, any tomatoes can easily take the place of these (I just find myself to be a little bit partial…).  I’ve somewhat lost interest in leafy green salads after it became a go-to meal at the beginning of summer, so that was definitely out.   While rummaging around trying to think of something, I found a loaf of rejected, slightly stale French bread and knew it was time to make a panzanella.  This salad is perfect for so many reasons.  Really, anything goes here.  Leftover asparagus?  Toss it in.  Can’t find squash?  Substitute a cucumber.  Also, the grilled French bread makes this salad a little heartier than your typical lettuce-tomatoes-light vinaigrette combo .  With the  fresh grilled veggies and lemony dressing, this panzanella is sure to be a hit regardless of what you throw into it.
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