Browsing Tag

summer

Spicy Nectarine & Tomato Salad

I feel like every week this summer I have a new favorite salad recipe.  Ok, this is REALLY my favorite salad so far!!! If summer fruits and veggies are like fireworks (they totally are), then when stone fruits and heirloom tomatoes hit their peak it’s like the best firework finale ever. You can make this is less than ten minutes. You might have extra vinaigrette to use later (a very good thing) I used fresh mozzarella here, but can I suggest burrata? Even blue cheese would be so good and take it in a whole new direction. Or skip the cheese altogether and add extra greens. YUM. Make it more than once and most importantly, make it your own <3.

Ingredients
for the vinaigrette:
¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. hot sauce
2 T. apple cider vinegar
drizzle of honey, to taste
salt and pepper to taste

for the salad:
2 lb. heirloom tomatoes, quartered or sliced
2 lb. ripe nectarines, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
1-2 c. fresh basil leaves, left whole
2 ripe avocados, sliced
1 c. fresh mozzarella pieces (or a couple balls of burrata)

Method:

  1. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, hot sauce, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt and pepper.
  2. Arrange tomatoes, nectarines, red onion, basil, avocado and mozzarella on a large platter or individual serving bowls. Generously drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.

Summer Cauliflower Soup

This soup was a plan that turned into a delightful surprise. I knew I wanted to make a cauliflower soup since they are just starting to show up at markets and I knew I wanted to use coconut milk, but that was about it. Then I kind of followed the trail from one flavor to another, until I came upon a combo so delicious, I can’t wait to make this again. I had originally intended to eat this cold, but we couldn’t wait (and it was perfectly lunchtime) and it was so delicious hot, I forgot all about my plan for cold soup. 

Ingredients:

for the soup:
1 medium head of cauliflower, florets and stems cut into 1” pieces
3 garlic cloves, halved
1 can, unsweetened coconut milk
1-2” piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
water, to cover

for the salad:
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ c. roasted almonds, sliced or chopped
1 peach, diced
1 chile pepper (poblano, bell, jalapeno, etc.)

for the szechuan oil:
½ c. grape seed oil
3 star anise, whole
1 T. black peppercorns, whole
1 cinnamon stick, whole
¼ c. red pepper flakes

Method:

  1. Make the soup: In a pot add the cauliflower, garlic, coconut milk, ginger and water to cover. Simmer over medium-low heat until the cauliflower is tender. Blend until smooth in a blender.
  2. Make the szechuan oil: In a small dry pot add the star anise, black peppercorns and cinnamon stick. Toast for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the oil and let cook on low for around 20 minutes to infuse the flavor of the spices into the oil. Drain the oil through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl with the red pepper flakes. Let cool and store in the fridge.
  3. Roast the chile pepper: On a grill, over a gas grate or under the broiler, roast the pepper on all sides until charred. Transfer pepper to a bowl and cover for ten minutes to steam. Peel the skin off the pepper and remove the seeds. Now you are ready to dice the chile for the salad.
  4. Prepare the salad: Right before serving the soup gently combine the scallions, almonds, peach and roasted chile pepper.
  5. To serve the soup: Spoon a bit of salad into the bottom of each bowl. Top with the soup and drizzle with oil. Enjoy!

Caponata

In this story, the hero is my Aunt Jessie, Grandma, Great Grandma and all my other aunts spread across New York’s boroughs back in the day. This is the cold eggplant dish that was a staple for any special family gathering. This is the exact recipe that has been in my family for years. I have been trying to replicate it but just recently my mom found a photocopy of the actual handwritten recipe and it puts my other versions to shame.

I love that this recipe is completely opposite of how I would typically go about making it if left to my own devices, cooking in aromatic layers of flavor taking into consideration each ingredient. I LOVE how this recipe is like “Oh, you’re a chef? That’s nice. Take a seat and let me show you how an Italian grandma gets it done.” Sometimes it really is as simple as throwing everything in a pot and letting the ingredients and fire do the work.

Caponata is the Sicilian version of ratatouille. You can fill lettuce cups, spread it on garlic toast (my favorite), on sandwiches, etc. You could also go wild and eat warmed up with some pasta. shhh..don’t tell my mom:)

Ingredients
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
1 c. mushrooms, diced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
⅓ c. olive oil
1 can tomato paste
½ c. water
2 T. red wine vinegar
½ cup pimento stuffed olives, sliced
1 T. granulated sugar
1 t. dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Method
1. In a large pot over medium heat combine eggplant, green bell pepper, red onion, mushrooms, garlic and olive oil. cook for around ten minutes, stirring occasionally. season with salt and pepper.
2. Add tomato paste, water, red wine vinegar, olives, sugar and oregano and cook over low heat covered for around 30 minutes, or until eggplant is tender.
3. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary.
4. Let cool.

Component in Action
-serve as an appetizer on toast, crackers, along side cheese and/or sliced meats
-make it a salad with fresh greens and a lemon vinaigrette
-caponata sandwich anyone?! yes please. with some fresh mozzarella and bread like toasted ciabatta

Ratatouille

There is a window of time each year where the stars align, the warm winds blow during the day (and maybe could do a better job of cooling at night) but hey it’s worth it, because the queen of all summer dishes has arrived…ratatouille.

The summer staple is smooth and elegant, has a complex texture, bright and bold flavors, and can be enjoyed in oh so many ways. Ratatouille originated in Nice, France where poor farmers cooked this simple vegetable stew to put to use vegetables available to them in the summer months.

This is also where the dried herb blend, herbs de Provence comes in. There are many variations to this regionally inspired spice blend, but the key ingredients are:
summer savory
thyme
basil
marjoram
lavender
parsley
oregano
tarragon
fennel seed and
mint.

This is optional, but adds a third dimension to the dish. I kind of think of it as without herbs de Provence you are sitting in a beautiful restaurant enjoying a simple and delicious summer lunch. When you add herbs de Provence to ratatouille, it’s like the window next to your table is pushed open and a balmy summer breeze enters the room. All of a sudden you notice the garden outside, you can smell the fresh herbs and onions growing just a stones throw away, the stalks of purple lavender sway back and forth and you relax back into your chair and reach for your wine, THAT’S the (totally optional of course) magic of this herb combination.

This recipe calls for the vegetables to be cut into a 1/2 inch dice. You can easily change this to 1 or even 2 inch. This is a rustic dish so it is not as important how big or small the pieces are, but rather that all the pieces are roughly the same size so they cook evenly.

Ingredients
4 T. Olive oil
1 T. Herbs de Provence
Pinch of dried chili flakes (optional)
1 large red onion, 1/2 in. dice
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 T. Tomato paste
1 medium eggplant, 1/2 in. dice
2 red bell peppers, 1/2 in. dice
2 medium zucchini, 1/2 in. dice
3 ripe medium tomatoes, 1/2 in. dice (or can of whole tomatoes, crushed)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. Fresh basil leaves, sliced or torn

Method
1.) preheat oven to 400.
2.) heat oil in a Dutch oven style heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.
3.) add herbs de Provence, dried chili flake and cook for a minute or two.
4.) add onion and garlic and cook for about five minutes stirring frequently.
5.) add tomato paste and cook another minute.
6.) add eggplant, red bell pepper, zucchini and tomatoes to pot and stir everything together.
7.) transfer pot to oven and cook for about one hour.
8.) add fresh basil before serving.
9.) enjoy hot or cold!

Components
-serve over pasta or quinoa
-enjoy warm on its own
-serve over squash or sweet potatoes
-serve cold on sandwiches
-serve on toasted bread
-serve over polenta/grits

Rhubarb Coulis – The sauce of early summer

There is no question, rhubarb is my favorite fruit of early summer.  It begins raw and inedible, streaky red and green stalks that are usually in need of a good scrub when I lug them home, sticking this way and that out of the bag, already tart and sassy before I even get them home. All that’s needed is care and a bit of time, to coax out their bright flavor and luscious texture. With a bit of sugar to balance out their natural acidity, this humble fruit transcends to its full potential and is always the highlight of the season.

A few weeks ago my husband was making his famous Swedish pancakes for brunch. At the store I was looking for a jar of lingonberry jam (if only we lived near Ikea!) and couldn’t find any, so instead I picked up a few stalks of rhubarb. I ended up making this coulis and to everyone’s surprise, even the Swede in the group, it was a perfect match for the light and airy pancakes. The next day I served the left over coulis with some soft cheese and that awesome. The next morning, we drizzled it on plain greek yogurt for a delightful breakfast treat. I’m only sad we used it all up before I could spoon it on ice cream, but hey, I still have a little time before the rhubarb harvest is over.

A coulis is a French sauce, thick and velvety smooth, made with vegetables or fruit. I could have just cooked the rhubarb and not blended the mixture. This would have been called a compote. Enough cooking vocab, let’s get to the sauce of the season<3.

Ingredients
1.5# rhubarb (washed, trimmed and sliced)
1 c. sugar (granulated or raw)
2-4″ strip of orange peel (or lemon..or both<3)
1 c. water

Method
1.) Bring everything to a boil.
2.) Simmer for 20 minutes.
3.) Turn off the heat and let the fruit steep (just sit around like you’re making a cup of tea) for 30 minutes.
4.) Blend until smooth.
5.) Taste. If is tastes too sweet, add some fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Component in Action
-drizzle over pancakes, french toast, crepes
-spoon over ice cream
-serve with goat and soft cheeses
-use to flavor your own yogurt
-use as a jam substitute (think toast & biscuits)
-make with other fruits too! blueberries, strawberries, cherries, plums, peaches…