Recently, a group of our friends came over to help Vince and me test some new recipes. Local photographer, John Wollwerth, joined us and took these great photos! Thank you to our models Mark and Audra Alexander, Mike and Kim Clark, Steve Danko and Vince Covington.  And, a special thank you to Sue Merrill for the beautiful flowers!

Raspberry Margarita
Salt your glass by rubbing a slice of fresh lime around the rim and then dipping the glass in coarse salt. For added flair, serve individual margaritas with a slice of lime on the side.
1 (12-ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed
3 (6-ounce) cans frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
12 ounces tequila
4 ounces triple sec
Puree raspberries and limeade in a blender until smooth. Pour through a fine sieve to remove raspberry seeds; return to blender. Add tequila and triple sec. Blend until smooth. Serve over crushed ice. Garnish with fresh lime. Serves 10 to 12.

Black Bean-Goat Cheese Dip
This chip and dip combo is so savory and satisfying, you’ll never notice it’s actually good for you!
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 (15½-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed, divided
1 cup chicken broth
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large poblano peppers
½ cup sliced green onion
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 (11-ounce) log fresh goat cheese, crumbled
6 whole-grain tortillas (cut into wedges)
Olive oil, for brushing
Sea salt
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in cumin and 1 can of black beans and lightly mash using a potato masher. Stir in chicken broth and remaining can of beans. Simmer until very thick, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool. Meanwhile, blacken poblano peppers on a sheet pan under a broiler, turning regularly, about 15 minutes. Place peppers in a paper bag; seal and let sit (and steam) until cool enough to handle. Peel peppers, removing as much of the charred skin as possible without rinsing. Seed and coarsely chop. Transfer to a small bowl and toss with green onions and cilantro. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bottom of  a 1-quart baking dish, spread half of the bean mixture. Top with half of the crumbled goat cheese and half of the pepper mixture. Repeat layering once more, ending with pepper mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is bubbling. Meanwhile, arrange tortilla wedges on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Place in oven with dip and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until crisp. Brush with oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve dip hot with tortilla chips on the side. Serves 8.

Jalapeno-Lime Chicken Thighs
Tangy, mildly spicy and tender, this chicken is delicious with fresh salsa!
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons jalapeno jelly
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lime zest
Pickled jalapeno slices
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10×15-inch jelly-roll pan with foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Arrange chicken thighs in a single layer in prepared pan.  Bake for 10 minutes; drain off juices. Combine jelly, olive oil, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, pepper and salt in a small bowl. Turn chicken; brush with half of jelly mixture. Bake 10 minutes. Turn chicken; brush with remaining jelly mixture. Bake chicken 10 to 15 minutes more or until juices run clear. Garnish with lime zest and pickled jalapeno slices. Serves 8.

Cilantro-Lime Rice
This rice with it’s fragrant hint of lime and cilantro makes a fine side dish for Mexican food as well as other dishes. It’s great in burritos, too!
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup basmati rice
1½ cups chicken broth
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Zest from one lime
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
Heat the oil in a saucepan and heat on low. Add the garlic and rice to the oil and saute for 2 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently.  Add the chicken broth, salt, lime juice and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes or according to rice package directions. When the rice is done, add the lime zest and chopped cilantro and stir to mix in. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Corn and Black Bean Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette
Southwestern Caviar!
2 (15.25-ounce) cans yellow corn, drained
2 (15.25–ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
¼ cup minced cilantro
½ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
In a medium bowl, combine corn, black beans, tomato, cilantro and red onion.  In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, vinegar, mustard, cumin and vegetable oil. Toss dressing with vegetable mixture. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.  Serves 8 to 10.

Cream of Cilantro Soup
Cilantro is a fresh herb with a lively, pungent flavor. It can be found year-round in most supermarkets and is generally sold in bunches. Cilantro may be stored for up to a week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Both the leaves and tender stems can be used in fresh or cooked dishes.
1 bunch fresh cilantro
4 cups chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup container sour cream
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Fresh cilantro sprigs, to garnish
Sour cream, to garnish
Remove the long stems from cilantro and coarsely chop leaves. Process cilantro and 1 cup chicken broth in a food processor until blended, stopping to scrape down sides. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat; whisk in flour. Gradually add remaining 3 cups broth, whisking constantly until mixture is smooth. Increase heat and boil 1 minute. Stir in cilantro mixture, cream cheese, sour cream, garlic, salt, ground red pepper and cumin; simmer soup for 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro and sour cream.  Serves 4 to 6.

Beef and Bean Tortilla Stacks
Flour tortillas are layered with with salsa-seasoned ground beef, cottage cheese and refried beans, then topped with enchilada sauce. This simple Mexican-style recipe will turn an ordinary meal into a fiesta!
2 pounds ground round
2 (1.25-ounce) packages taco seasoning
1½ cups fresh salsa
2 cups cottage cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 (10-inch) burrito-style flour tortillas
1 (16-ounce) can refried beans, divided
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce
½ cup chopped green onion
Sliced black olives
Brown ground round in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove from skillet; drain well. Place cooked beef in a large bowl. Add taco seasoning and fresh salsa; stir to combine. In a small mixing bowl, mix cottage cheese with beaten egg. Spray a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray; place on a baking sheet. Place 1 flour tortilla in bottom on pan. Spread half of refried beans evenly over the tortilla; top with a second tortilla. Spoon half of beef mixture evenly over tortilla; sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Place a third tortilla on top; spread evenly with cottage cheese-egg mixture. Top with fourth tortilla; spread evenly with remaining beef mixture and sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Top with fifth tortilla; spread evenly with remaining refried beans. Place remaining tortilla on top. Pour enchilada sauce evenly over the top. Bake, uncovered,  in a preheated 350 degree oven for 75-85 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven; let stand for 10 minutes. Remove ring from pan. Garnish with green onion and black olives. Serves 8.

Pico de Gallo
Literally meaning “rooster’s beak,” this is a spicy raw salsa that’s usually served as a condiment. It’s also really good served atop a bunch of mixed salad greens.
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Stir together all ingredients.  Cover and chill until ready to serve. Makes 3 cups.

Pineapple Salsa
Pineapple Salsa is a salsa cruda  which means “uncooked sauce.” The combination of pineapple, jalapeno and cilantro is a delightful treat! Serve it on the side with Jalapeno-Lime Chicken or as an appetizer with tortilla chips.
1 fresh pineapple, cored and diced
3 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and chill. Serves 6.

Tres Leches Cake
Leche (pronounced LAY-chay) is Spanish for “milk.” Tres Leches Cake soaked in three milks and rum and garnished with toasted coconut reminds me of my mother’s Sour Cream Coconut Cake. Delicious!
1 (18.25-ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1 cup whole milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup rum
2 tablespoons rum
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flaked coconut, toasted
½ cup chopped pecans, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9×13-inch baking dish. In a large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil and eggs with electric mixer.  Pour into pan.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes. In a large bowl, mix 1 cup whipping cream, whole milk, sweetened condensed milk and 1/3 cup rum. Pierce top of hot cake every ½ inch with long-tined fork, wiping fork occasionally to reduce sticking.  Carefully pour milk mixture evenly over top of cake. Cover and refrigerate about 3 hours or until chilled and most of the milk mixture has been absorbed into the cake. In a large chilled bowl, beat remaining 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons rum and the vanilla on high speed until soft peaks form. Frost cake with whipped cream mixture. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and pecans. Store covered in refrigerator.  Serves 12 to 15.

Mexican Hot Chocolate Fudge
True Mexican chocolate is flavored with cinnamon, almond and vanilla. This easy recipe mimics Mexican chocolate with an additional burst of heat – thanks to the spicy cayenne pepper.
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
½ teaspoon sea salt
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1 cup mini-marshmallows
Prepare an 8×8-inch pan by lining it with parchment or waxed paper; set aside. Place chocolate chips, condensed milk and salt in a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring, until melted and well combined. Remove from heat; stir in cinnamon, cayenne pepper, almond extract, vanilla extract and almonds. Let cool slightly, then stir in marshmallows. Pour mixture into prepared pan, being sure to ill the corners and spread evenly. Refrigerate until firm. When set, turn candy onto a cutting board, strip off paper and cut into small squares. Store, covered, at room temperature. Makes 20 to 25 pieces.

Debbi Covington is a chef, caterer, cookbook author and food columnist from Beaufort, SC. She has written two cookbooks, Celebrate Everything! andDining Under the Carolina Moon. Debbi writes the food column “Everyday Gourmet” in Beaufort’s Lowcountry Weekly newspaper and is a partner/food columnist with DIY Wedding Magazine. Debbi has been featured as a “Master of Entertaining” in Southern Living magazine and her recipes have been published in multiple cookbooks including Southern Living’s Best Kept Secrets of the South’s Best Cooks and The Best of The Best of South Carolina. Her food has been photographed for Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. She has been voted “Best Caterer” in Beaufort, SC since 2010. Debbi has a passion for cuisine and delights in creating seasonal and locally inspired menus.