Archive for ‘Summer’

August 17, 2012

Why Haven’t I Done This Before? | Watermelon Rind Pickles

I picked up a beautiful, heavy and sweet local watermelon at my neighborhood Giant Eagle Market District.  I still can’t believe that this is my normal, everyday, hey-we’re-out-of-milk grocery store – it’s humongous.  But I have to give them props: for being as huge as they are, they do try for a couple of months to really bring in a bunch of locally grown and raised produce.  I really like that.

So back home, I was cutting it up and then slicing up all the leftover rinds so that they would break down faster in the compost pile and it hit me.  People make pickles out of this stuff.   And thankfully it’s less for the compost pile to try to digest, which is a good thing this time of year, just ask my husband, who often gets stuck with the job of carting out all the scraps.  He’s a good man.

Is that a cucumber in the foreground? No! Just a well trimmed watermelon rind.

So a quick browse around and it’s a simpler method than I even thought.  For half of a medium watermelon the brine is

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July 26, 2012

A Luxurious Dessert | Strawberries, Red Wine, Sriracha

My palate has wanderlust again.  I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Vietnamese food and the influences the French left behind.  I have a hankering for Pho.  I’m desperate for a good bánh mì.

So it should come as no surprise that when I was invited to put together a dessert recipe Yagööt and the launch of their new line of Yagööt@Home, I chose to go the Southeast Asian route and use some inspired ingredients: coconut frozen yogurt, Thai basil, a French red wine, ginger.  Sriracha.

Sometimes a recipe comes together so easily.  Ingredients fall into each other like long-lost friends, perfectly happy to hang out again.  And while everything except the sugar and strawberries (and the coconut Yagööt of course) in this dessert are savory, I can guarantee that it makes one of the sexiest desserts you’ve ever tasted.  And did I mention that it takes only ten minutes to make?

For the red wine in this recipe, I used a Beaujolais-Villages, because it’s widely available as well as relatively inexpensive.  An inexpensive pinot noir would work, too.  I use only a cup, so heck, you can kind of throw this together if you’ve got a bit of wine left over from dinner.   This time, I used fresh strawberries, but you can bet that I’ll be pulling out all those strawberries we picked and froze earlier this year when the weather gets colder.  The recipe calls for Thai basil, which is at every Asian grocery store worth its salt.  I think it’s pretty critical to the flavor profile of the dessert, but in a pinch you could substitute some standard basil.  Sriracha is another seemingly exotic ingredient, but widely available in most grocery stores.  Buy a bottle and you’ll find yourself putting this spicy hipster ketchup on everything from your morning eggs to Friday night pizza.  It’s delicious.

Feel like being daring?  Want to try this recipe?  How about some free Yagööt? 

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July 24, 2012

Despite the Heat | Tortilla Soup

Eating soup when it’s hot out can strike people as odd.  But think French-inspired Pho in steamy Vietnam, or British-influenced Mulligatawny in India.  There’s a point to eating something hot and spicy when it’s hot out: it makes you sweat (I glow).  And that helps you cool off.  So while it may seem counter-intuitive, now is certainly the season to give some spicy soup a go.

It’s always hot in Texas.  So it’s not surprising that tortilla soup is on just about every menu you peruse in San Antonio.   There’s something about it that San Antonians can’t seem to get enough of, no matter the season.   Perhaps it’s the mix of textures, but like Pho and Mulligatawny, it’s spicy and hot and a treat to eat.  (It also happens to the be the exact thing I was eating when Hades first fell in love with me fifteen years ago.  I even spilled it all over myself and he still loved me.  Magical stuff this is.)  And summertime is when the produce that comprises the bulk of the ingredients for tortilla soup are at their peak.

I like to play around with ingredients: if there’s corn, add some, if there’s not, no worries.  Zucchini and summer squashes work wonderfully, too.  Tomatoes, however are a requirement. 

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July 16, 2012

Monday Grill | My Favorite Okra

I came back from Georgia filled with Southern inspiration and several bagfuls of southern produce.  The okra purchased at a farmer’s market just before we left was my favorite.  And when I came home I was determined to try and remake it in a way that I found I loved.  In Athens, we were lucky enough to have a superb dinner at Five and Ten.  It was there I had some of the best okra I’d ever eaten.  It was very simply perfectly seasoned then lightly charred in – most likely – a cast iron skillet.

Fast forward to a night that I have almost no energy to cook and even less to clean the kitchen after dinner.

Enter this super-summery dinner that’s cooked entirely outside and takes no more than about 10 minutes to prep in the kitchen.  Tonight’s easy meal was chicken thighs (bone in, skin on please) rubbed with this quick spice mixture and left to marinate, and a ton of peak-season summer produce and a ton of flavor.  But the star is the okra.

I know, you might have a thing with okra, right?  Or you only eat it fried?  Or in gumbo?  Or perhaps, you just avoid it altogether.  I challenge you to give this quick cooking method a try, it leaves all that incredible fresh okra taste with almost none of the things you might not like about okra (ahem, the slime).  The trick is a high heat and, to begin with, a completely dry pan.

Favorite Athens Okra and Vegetables, serves two

15 small to medium sized okra pods, trimmed of the stem and halved on a deep diagonal

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July 12, 2012

The Teaches of Peaches | Herb Nectars

We just got back from vacation in Georgia. It’s such a great state with so many people committed to delicious food fresh off the farm.  My kind of place, really.  And to be honest, they make some mean fried chicken.

While I was there I couldn’t help but do some canning of some fresh Georgia peaches.  I basically followed this method for canning the teeny ten pounds I had into four quart jars.  In some of the jarred peaches I packed in some fresh basil,

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June 10, 2012

A Sadness and a Joy | Ball Jar Sour Cherry Pies

I had some sad news earlier this week.  We just won’t have a cherry season around here this year.  I think Michigan is all but given up hope of anything there, too.  And all the farms that might have had cherries this year have no you-picks, which make for some of the most beautiful shots of teeny little bare feet in trees climbing to help harvest.

Last year was monumental and to be remembered with deep affection.  Cherry shrub, pickled cherries, boozy cherry pie, cherry salsa, cherry shiso vinegar, cherry pound cake.  Oh my the pounds of cherries.

Excuse me.  I’ve wandered off remembering the bliss.

So I was of two minds about this sad state of affairs because I had been give exactly one large bowl of sour cherries from a friend in a new house with (what an amazing bonus!!) a mature cherry tree in her front yard. 

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June 4, 2012

Two Light and Easy Nights | Summer Miso Soup

This past weekend the most recent Top Chef winner Paul Qui was in town at Market District to do a demo and answer questions.  Honestly, I don’t think there has been a nicer, more unassuming winner of that crazy show.   He’s just such a humble, talented guy.  His dishes were lovely light versions of chicken rice (his with lots and lots of a lemony ponzu) and a summer miso soup.  Things, he says, are his comfort foods.  I can completely see why.

His cooking got me thinking about dishes I had made in the past but could bring together for the perfect, almost no effort summer dinner.  Granted, you’ll have Asian food a couple of days in a row, but I don’t think that ever hurt anyone.  Plus, this is the time of year that you can gather just about everything locally, aside from the kombu, katsuobushi and a couple of pantry items.

But perhaps the thing that makes me happiest about this kind of dinner is that since everybody gets to choose what to include in their bowls, it’s lots of fun for Cherub.  She amazed even me tonight by her choice of tofu, zucchini, carrots, green onion, bean sprouts and snap peas.  But she passed on the fresh sweet corn.  (What kid does that?)  And she even had seconds.

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