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Archive | Appetizers

How The Naked South makes dinner easy, fun, and light

There are two things I’m always looking to do to make dinner fun, easy, and not too heavy: 1. Turn appetizers into meals, and 2. Make it on the grill. This recipe accomplishes both. Anyone who doesn’t despise mushrooms enjoys them stuffed. (I’ve heard those mushroom-hating people are out there, but I choose to believe that’s an urban myth, because who could truly despise mushrooms?) Stuffed things are just superior to non-stuffed things in general. Quail, pizza crusts, stockings — all benefit from adding the word stuffed. Mushrooms are no exception. These were inspired by my love for pizza and my love for not feeling how I do after I eat pizza.

Key Components:

I’m so excited to talk to you about coconut aminos. This product is truly amazing (until research comes out that it’s bad, which is always possible).  It’s the sap tapped directly out of the coconut tree and aged with sea salt, creating a sort of sweet and salty soy sauce without the soy. It’s naturally abundant in 17 amino acids (the building blocks of protein), B-vitamins, vitamin C, minerals, and a probiotic! And it tastes delicious, addictingly so. In case you’re wondering, amino acids are important because they repair and rebuild muscle tissue, help to enhance overall brain and nervous system function, and assist in boosting the immune system and physical energy levels. Find it next to the soy sauce and tamari in health food stores such as Earth Origins and Whole Foods.

Millet is an underutilized, gluten-free grain that is as versatile as it healthy. It can be soft and creamy or slightly crunchy and fluffy, depending on how you cook it. One thing that sets millet apart from other healthy grains is its particularly high content of magnesium, which research shows can lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack.

If you are someone who doesn’t consider mushrooms a favorite food, you may want to reconsider. Mushrooms are so good for you. Most interestingly, research is finding that Portobello mushrooms provide vitamin B12, which is typically reserved for animal products and is an important vitamin to include if you’re eating more vegetarian meals. Mushrooms are amazing for immune system support and are anti-inflammatory. They’re also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant boosting phytonutrients.

Millet-Stuffed Mushrooms with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Yield: Makes 4 mushrooms

Millet-Stuffed Mushrooms with Tomatoes and Mozzarella


  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 packed cup arugula, lightly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup cooked millet (or cooked quinoa)
  • 4 large Portobello caps, gently wiped clean
  • Basil, for serving
  • Toasted rustic bread, for serving (optional)


  1. To cook the millet: Rinse ½ cup millet thoroughly. Combine with 1 cup water and pinch salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes. Turn off heat, place dry paper towels under lid and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.
  2. Combine tomatoes, arugula, olive oil, coconut aminos, and garlic in a large bowl. Add cheese and season with salt and pepper. Add cooked millet (or quinoa) to tomato mixture and toss to combine.
  3. Prepare a grill for medium heat. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper. Fill each with tomato-millet mixture and carefully transfer to grill.
  4. Cover grill and cook until cheese melts, about 4 minutes. (This can also be made in an oven set to broil. Arrange mushrooms on a baking sheet and transfer to oven and cook until cheese melts.) Top with basil leaves and serve over toasted bread, if desired..

Recipe Editor Charlotte Abrams serves up weekly recipes for "inspired food your body will appreciate" in her new column. The Naked South.About The Naked South with Charlotte Abrams
Charlotte’s mission is to teach, inspire, and empower you to make small changes toward a healthier diet while enjoying all the deliciousness food has to offer. The healthy eating “rules” are always changing and everyone’s body has a different relationship with food, so The Naked South focuses on variety and moderation. No rules, no judgment, just inspired food your body will appreciate.



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What to grill for a long weekend in The Naked South

Whenever I contemplate becoming a sworn vegetarian, I think of shrimp. Shrimp make me happy. Maybe because my grandma (the love of my life) has a thing for them, too. And Ursula. Remember that scene in The Little Mermaid when Ursula grabs the lazy shrimp (or shrimp-looking creature anyway) that didn’t scurry away from her approaching hand and devours it? That part always made me hungry. And like many women in their 30s, The Little Mermaid and my grandma are pretty much responsible for the person I am today.

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, I figured it was time to take matters into my own tentacles (that one was for the true fans) and make a grilled dish that both my grandma and I will be more than happy to sink our teeth into. Plus, Florida peaches are still going strong, so get them while you can. I’ve been finding them at the Farmers’ Market, Whole Foods, and Detwiler’s.

Key Components: 

Herbs like cilantro and basil are time-honored for being antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and supporting heart health. Making a chimichurri or pesto sauce is a great way to get a concentration of these healthy benefits. 

Shrimp are a surprisingly healthy choice when choosing animal proteins. Most notably is their high concentration of the antioxidant selenium, which prevents cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Although shrimp are high in cholesterol, recent research has not concluded whether or not shrimp should be avoided because of cholesterol levels. It is known, however, that shrimp have a beneficial ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, which is important in combating obesity and high blood pressure. Eating animal proteins in moderation is always the best way to limit health concerns. To find out which shrimp are the most environmentally friendly, visit 

Rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, peaches are among the most beneficial fruits. Especially the skin. This can be tricky, though, as peaches are often heavily sprayed with pesticides to protect the sweet, delicate flesh from bugs. And finding organic peaches can be a challenge. I recommend seeking out a local farmer who opts not to spray their fruit. King Family Farm in Bradenton is a good resource, but not always easy to get your hands on. If you can’t find someone who doesn’t spray, then you may want to peel the skin off to minimize exposure, or scrub the peaches well to at least get the residue off the surface. Since the season is so short, I accept the pesticide risk and enjoy one of nature’s most delicious fruits. I think you should, too.  

Grilled Shrimp and Peaches with Basil Chimichurri

Yield: Makes 2 main course servings, or 4 as an appetizer or accompaniment

Grilled Shrimp and Peaches with Basil Chimichurri


  • ¼ cup packed basil
  • ¼ cup packed cilantro
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 2 scallions, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 peaches, pitted and quartered
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Combine basil, cilantro, oil, scallions, garlic, lemon juice, water, and salt in a blender. Blend until smooth. Set chimichurri aside.
  2. Heat grill to high. Thread shrimp and peaches on grill-safe skewers. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil. Grill until shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.
  3. Arrange skewers on a serving platter and drizzle with chimichurri.

Recipe Editor Charlotte Abrams serves up weekly recipes for "inspired food your body will appreciate" in her new column. The Naked South.About The Naked South with Charlotte Abrams
Charlotte’s mission is to teach, inspire, and empower you to make small changes toward a healthier diet while enjoying all the deliciousness food has to offer. The healthy eating “rules” are always changing and everyone’s body has a different relationship with food, so The Naked South focuses on variety and moderation. No rules, no judgment, just inspired food your body will appreciate.


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Summertime is coming soon to The Naked South

Local watermelon has arrived at the farmers’ market just in time to help us cope with the heat. The arrival of watermelon lets me know it’s time to buy a new swimsuit, because summer-like weather is quickly approaching — and the only way to beat the heat in the South is to stay wet. And to eat watermelon; see below for why.

In this week’s recipe, I put a spin on a classic summer salad pairing: watermelon and feta.  

Watermelon with Feta & Cayenne

Key Components:

When it gets hot, it’s important to stay hydrated — watermelon to the rescue! This warm weather-loving fruit is over 90% water, helping to keep us hydrated when we start sweating. It’s also high in vitamin C, phytonutrients like lycopene (awesome for heart health), and antioxidant carotenoids, making this a surprisingly anti-inflammatory and healthful fruit. This is news to me! The riper the watermelon, the healthier it is, and the best way to know if you’re getting a perfectly ripe watermelon is to trust the farmer you’re getting it from. Luckily for us, there are local farmers who can help you out with that, such as Worden Farm.

Microgreens are the baby sprouts of vegetables and herbs, usually harvested within the first two weeks of growth. Yes, they are a somewhat annoying restaurant trend, but don’t let that stop you from making them a part of your diet. They are too healthy to dismiss! Some varieties have up to 40 times the nutritional content of their fully-grown counterparts! Think of them as juiced-up superfoods.

Cayenne pepper is one of nature’s hardest-working medicines. From easing cold and flu symptoms, preventing migraines, and relieving allergies; to aiding digestion, preventing blood clots, and supporting weight loss, this spice is one worth having on hand and using often.

Watermelon with Feta and Cayenne

Yield: Makes 4 servings (2 slices per person)

Watermelon with Feta and Cayenne


  • 2-pound piece of watermelon, sliced into 1-inch-thick rounds
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
  • Juice and zest of ½ lemon or lime
  • Handful microgreens or sprouts
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Sea salt, optional


  1. Cut each watermelon round into 4 triangles. (If watermelon is already quartered, simply slice into wedges.) Arrange on a serving platter.
  2. Combine feta, mint, and scallions in a small bowl. Squeeze lemon over watermelon slices.
  3. Top with feta mixture, microgreens, and a tiny pinch of cayenne. Season with salt, if necessary (the feta may provide enough salt, depending on the brand). Serve immediately.

Recipe Editor Charlotte Abrams serves up weekly recipes for "inspired food your body will appreciate" in her new column. The Naked South.About The Naked South with Charlotte Abrams
Charlotte’s mission is to teach, inspire, and empower you to make small changes toward a healthier diet while enjoying all the deliciousness food has to offer. The healthy eating “rules” are always changing and everyone’s body has a different relationship with food, so The Naked South focuses on variety and moderation. No rules, no judgment, just inspired food your body will appreciate.



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Curried Deviled Eggs with Mango Chutney


Serves 6


6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons mango chutney


Cut hard-boiled eggs in half lengthwise. Scoop yolks into a medium bowl and mash with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, curry powder, and salt. Mix ingredients until smooth. Divide filling among egg halves. Garnish each egg with a small dollop of mango chutney.

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Introducing The Naked South with Charlotte Abrams

Recipe Editor Charlotte Abrams serves up weekly recipes for "inspired food your body will appreciate" in her new column. The Naked South.

Recipe Editor Charlotte Abrams serves up weekly recipes for “inspired food your body will appreciate” in her new column. [Photo by Kathryn Brass-Piper]

Welcome to the very first post in my new column, The Naked South. When I decided to launch a food blog with recipes representative of my lifestyle, I thought I had it all figured out. And I did … except for the name. I knew I wanted it to be simple, fresh, rooted in the South, and have a common thread of clean eating woven throughout. After weeks (okay, months) of agony and daily harassment by my friends, husband, sister, editor, publisher, web content manager, and cashier at the grocery store, The Naked South was born.

My goal is to teach, inspire, and empower you to make small changes toward a healthier diet while enjoying all the deliciousness food has to offer. The healthy eating “rules” are always changing and everyone’s body has a different relationship with food, so I focus on variety and moderation. No rules, no judgment, just inspired food your body will appreciate. 

I hope you enjoy following this blog as much as I’m going to enjoy researching, developing, and testing these recipes for you. XOXO — Charlotte

Post #1: Vegan “Crab” Cakes

When I keep hearing about the same recipe over and over, I know it’s time to give it a whirl. Such is the case with Vegan “Crab” Cakes starring hearts of palm. Heart of palm is a tangy vegetable harvested from the core of specific palm trees, hence the name. In Florida we call this “swamp cabbage,” although the harvesting technique I watched as a kid is not what’s used for commercial purposes. Google the method if you’re interested. Anyway, it’s similar in taste and texture to artichoke hearts but more mild. And lo and behold, it makes a fine substitute for crab in this otherwise classic crab cake recipe.

Key Components

Heart of palm is a very good source of fiber, vitamin C, iron, folate, calcium, and several other minerals. Having vitamin C and calcium together in one vegetable is a bonus because vitamin C helps our bodies absorb calcium. So that’s cool. It’s also very low in fat (not that I care about that, but I know a lot of people do) and has virtually no cholesterol. Plus, it’s a vegetable, and we should all be eating more of them.

Vegan mayonnaise is, well, heavily processed — I can’t lie. But it tastes amazing (I prefer it to regular mayonnaise) and the brand Vegenaise is made from stellar ingredients. It’s great if you have an egg sensitivity or are, in fact, a vegan. It’s also free of cholesterol, trans fats, and preservatives.  

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast cultured for nutritional value. It is a complete protein and a good source of B vitamins, even B12, making it especially valuable to vegans. It also contains natural glutamic acid which gives it a umami taste like you experience in mushrooms, meats, parmesan cheese, and crab.

Vegan "Crab" Cakes

Yield: Makes 8 cakes



    For the crab cakes:
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans whole hearts of palm
  • ¼ cup vegan mayonnaise (such as Vegenaise)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon raw honey
  • ¾ cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, plus more for serving
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Coconut oil, for cooking
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced
  • For the remoulade sauce:
  • ½ cup vegan mayonnaise (such as Vegenaise)
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced capers
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Drain hearts of palm and press in a towel to remove access moisture. Roughly chop (or pulse in food processor) to resemble lightly shredded crab meat; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine vegan mayonnaise, lemon zest, garlic, nutritional yeast, mustard, Old Bay, and honey. Add shredded hearts of palm, breadcrumbs, and parsley and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.
  3. Form into 1/4-cup patties and fry in coconut oil over medium-low heat. Or follow the directions at the end for using a waffle iron to cook them.
  4. Now, prepare the remoulade:
  5. Combine all remoulade ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. To cook "crab" cakes in a waffle iron:
  7. Let mixture rest while heating waffle iron, about 10 minutes.
  8. Tightly pack mixture into ¼-cup portions and gently flatten into thick patties. Place in heated, generously greased waffle iron. Cook until deep golden brown -- be patient, a long cooking time ensures a crispy outside and hot center that will not fall apart. Cooking times vary between waffle irons; mine took about 10 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately with diced avocado and remoulade sauce.


I tested these with both wheat breadcrumbs and gluten-free breadcrumbs. Both worked beautifully, so feel free to use either.

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Makes 8 poppers

4 jalapeños
4 ounces crab meat
4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 slices bacon, cut in half

Heat oven 400°. Slice jalapeños in half, lengthwise.

Remove the ribs and seeds. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine crab, both cheeses, and paprika. Stuff crab mixture into the jalapeño halves and wrap each with bacon.

Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until bacon is crispy and cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.

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Cheese Board with Honey-Herb Candied Nuts


4 different cheeses, room temperature (preferably an aged, a soft, a firm, and a blue)
Crackers or flatbread
Dried figs and apricots
Olives and/or tapenade
Orange marmalade
Honey-Herb Candied Nuts (recipe follows)

Honey-Herb Candied Nuts


¾ cup orange blossom honey
3 cups roasted, salted mixed nuts
¼ cup Herbes de Provence

Heat honey over medium heat in a large skillet until bubbly. Add nuts and herbs and toss to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Let cool, tossing occasionally as the nuts harden.

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Pineapple-Shrimp Cocktail




1 small pineapple
Juice and zest of 2 limes
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 pound peeled and deveined small Gulf shrimp, cooked
½ red onion, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup diced avocado
2 tablespoons minced mint


Halve pineapple lengthwise and remove flesh leaving a ¼-inch border. (Cover hollowed out pineapple halves and refrigerate until ready to serve.) Remove fibrous core from flesh and discard core. Chop remaining flesh and set aside, you should have about 3 cups.

Combine lime juice and zest, lemon juice and zest, honey, garlic, and jalapeno in a large bowl. Add shrimp, onion, and reserved pineapple. Season with salt and pepper. Let marinate in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, add avocado and mint. Serve in hollowed out pineapple halves garnished with tarragon.

NOTE: Tr y serving this tucked in lettuce wraps.

Recipe courtesy of Charlotte Abrams

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Apple Stacks




1 large Granny Smith apple
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup all natural granola


Core apple, removing seeds and stem. Slice apple crosswise into ¼-inch thick rounds. Combine peanut butter and granola. Sandwich 2 apple slices with about 2 tablespoons peanut butter mixture.


Recipe courtesy of Get Fit Fuel:
2063 Siesta Dr, Sarasota; 941-554-4567;
8327 Market St, Sarasota; 941-961-8207;

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1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 thick slice rustic bread, toasted, preferably
Farmer Bread from C’est La Vie
1 tablespoon tzatziki sauce
3 slices smoked salmon
2 slices cucumber (sliced lengthwise)
Handful microgreens


Spread butter on bread and toast. Spread tzatziki sauce on toasted bread. Top with salmon, cucumber, and microgreens.




1 (16-ounce) container Greek yogurt
½ cucumber, puréed
1 stalk celery, finely diced
6 leaves fresh mint, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste\


Combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

Recipe courtesy of Lolita Tartine: 1419 5th St, Sarasota; 941-952-3172;

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Sugar & Spice Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Photo by Elizabeth Sniegocki

3 cups (approximately) fresh pumpkin seeds
¼ cup organic cane sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt

Rinse the pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings. Soak seeds overnight, and then spread out to dry. (Soaking can be skipped, but seeds may be less crunchy.) Place dry pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with five-spice, sugar, and salt. Stir to coat. Bake at 325˚ until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes. Let cool and store in an air-tight container.

NOTE: Sugar Pie pumpkins have great seeds for roasting.

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Nacho Kale Chips



1 cup raw cashews
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for coating pans
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1 bunch Tuscan kale, stems discarded and leaves torn into 2-inch pieces

Heat oven to 325°. Combine cashews, water, lime juice, oil, salt, cumin, chili powder, and paprika in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Distribute kale between two lightly oiled baking sheets. Use your fingers to lightly coat each kale chip with nut mixture. Bake until crispy, 15—17 minutes, tossing once. (They will continue to crisp as they cool.) Store remaining nut mixture covered in fridge for up to a week.

NOTE: Not crazy about kale? Try using another hearty green like Swiss chard Or forget the greens and use tortillas cut into triangles

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Farmers’ Market Special Avocado Toast




1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar
Kosher salt
1 Florida avocado, halved and pitted
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
8 slices good, crusty bread, toasted
1 jalapeno, sliced into rings and seeded, if desired
½ cup cooked black-eyed peas
¼ cup sprouts, such as radish


Place onions in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat, strain, and transfer to heat resistant medium bowl. Combine vinegar, sugar, and pinch of salt in now empty saucepan and bring just to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Immediately pour over onions. Let sit until cool.

Mash avocado with lemon juice and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Top each piece of toast with mashed avocado, pickled onion, jalapenos, beans, and sprouts. Serve immediately.

NOTE: Pickled onions will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe courtesy of Charlotte Abrams

Florida avocados are larger, higher in moisture, and lower in fat than their California cousins. This high-in-fiber fruit is a summer staple in these parts. The bright yellow flesh can be sliced onto sandwiches, diced onto salads, pureed into dips, blended into smoothies, or, as it is in this recipe, smashed and served with a variety of fixin’s. Look for firm, bright green skin that gives slightly when pressed.

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Raw Sprouted Hummus




1 cup sprouted garbanzo beans
¼ cup tahini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh herbs (such as cilantro and parsley)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Follow instructions above to sprout the beans. Combine sprouted garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, herbs, and salt in a food processor. With motor running, add olive oil, processing until smooth. Garnish with paprika and a drizzle of olive oil.

Recipe courtesy of Elizabeth Sniegocki

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  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup crème fraiche
  • 1 2-ounce package Lipton Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried lemon thyme
  • 2 tablespoon Crystal Hot Sauce
  • 1 pound smoked mullet, shredded by hand
  • Toast points

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the smoked fish. Gently fold in the fish, but do not over mix. Refrigerate 2–3 hours to let the flavors get to know each other. Serve with toast points.

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Courtesy of Libby’s Cafe + Bar

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