Monday, June 30, 2008

Grilled Steak Tacos with Watermelon-Mango-Jicama Salsa

watermelon half

How much watermelon does the average American consume each year? (answer below)

A. 6 pounds
B. 16 pounds
C. 38 pounds
D. 312 pounds

It's already the Fourth of July, and if you haven't had a watermelon yet, then this is the week to start. I mean, really, a Fourth of July without watermelon is like a birthday without a cake.

I love eating plain watermelon in its simple, sweet glory, but it’s also fantastic in savory dishes. The key is to pair it with contrasting flavors such as salty cheeses, bitter salad greens, acidic vinegars, or smoky grilled meats to balance the watermelon's sweetness.

grilled steak tacos with watermelon-mango-jicama salsa

In fact, why not try something different for this Fourth of July -- like my new Grilled Steak Tacos with Watermelon-Mango-Jicama Salsa? For this dish, char-grilled steak is topped with a sweet and tangy watermelon salsa and crumby Mexican cheese. This salsa is so refreshing that you may want to make extra so your guests can dunk their tortilla chips in it while they're waiting for the steak to grill.

Then, while they're munching, you can show off your watermelon knowledge: the average American eats 16 pounds of watermelon a year! Course, I have over 20 pounds a year myself, so there a few people out there eating less than 16 pounds to average things out.

watermelon-mango-jicama salsa

Grilled Steak Tacos with Watermelon-Mango-Jicama Salsa
Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.

2 cups diced watermelon
1 cup diced mango
¾ cup diced, de-seeded, peeled cucumber
¾ cup diced jicama
2-3 green onions, finely chopped
1 serrano chile, with half the seeds
1 small avocado, diced
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons each of fresh chopped mint and cilantro
Salt, to taste

4 (4-6 oz.) top sirloin steaks
Salt and pepper
8 white corn tortillas
½ cup Cotija Anejo cheese

Heat the grill to high. Season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper. Place steaks on the grill, close cover, and cook until charred, about 5 minutes. Closing the cover will help create a charred exterior and a softer, juicer interior. Turn steaks over, lower the heat to medium-high, and cook another 3-4 minutes for a medium-rare steak or 5-6 minutes for a medium steak. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Heat tortillas on the top rack of grill for about for 1 minute per side or until warmed through.

Place the sliced steak on the tortilla shell, spoon some salsa on top, and sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

Note: Cotija Anejo is a mild flavored Mexican cheese with a crumbly texture and can be found in the refrigerator section of most major supermarkets.

And don't forget about grilled watermelon
for dessert!

Grilled Watermelon Slices with a Honey-Lime Syrup

You might also like:

Watermelon and Green Olive Salad

Susan's Summertime Salsa

Swordfish with Pineapple-Mango Salsa

Shrimp Tacos with Citrus-Avocado Salsa

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Patriotic Potato Salad for Your Fourth of July Cookout

patriotic potato salad

Generally I'm not one for "themed" food. But a girl's gotta have some fun. So for the 4th of July, I'd like to share a patriotic potato salad made with three kinds of spuds: old fashioned white russet, delicate red-skinned taters, and sassy All-Blue potatoes (which are sometimes labeled purple Peruvian).

raw red, white, and blue potatoes

This potato salad is just kitschy enough without being tacky. Though I recommend using red-white-and-blue checkered cloths, I don't think sticking sparklers or miniature American flags in the potatoes is necessary.

The potatoes you see here are called All-Blues. They are slightly starchier but the same color as purple Peruvians, which are technically fingerling potatoes -- smaller, thinner potatoes. Apparently, both get their brilliant color from iron. The color will fade when cooked, but try this trick to minimize the fading: add a couple of splashes of white vinegar to the cooking water.

Well that's it for today. Now I've gotta get crackin' on my American flag-shaped hamburgers....

patriotic potato salad for the 4th of July

Patriotic Potato Salad

Serves 4-6
Print recipe only here.

2 pounds total of russet, purple, and red-skinned potatoes
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar**
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons each fresh basil and parsley, thinly sliced
6-7 cranks of freshly ground black pepper
a generous sprinkling of salt, to taste

Scrub the potatoes well, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Add to a medium size pan of water (with a couple of splashes of white vinegar, if desired). Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are tender yet still firm to the touch, about 8-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, water, herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl, and set aside.

Drain potatoes, and place in a large bowl. Add diced celery, and pour vinaigrette over the potatoes. Gently stir to avoid breaking the potatoes. Serve at room temperature or chilled. (Potato salad tastes better after it sits at least a few hours.)

**White balsamic vinegar is available at Trader Joe's as well as most major supermarkets. It's similar in flavor to regular brown balsamic vinegar but doesn't stain the potatoes.

You might also like:

Watermelon and Green Olive Salad

Sauteed Corn with Mint, Butter, and Lemon

Barbecue Pizza with Fresh Summer Corn and Sweet Onions

Lamb Kebabs

Here are more potato salads for your cookout:

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Blackberry Oatmeal Cake + Latte + Drizzle = Vancouver

a piece of blackberry oatmeal cake

When Jeff and I planned our trip to Vancouver, BC Canada a few years ago, we scheduled it for July -- the month with the lowest probability of rain. We were assured of beautiful weather -- I didn't even pack an umbrella (not that I had one to pack).

When we landed in Vancouver, it was raining.

It continued to rain for three days straight. So we skipped a few attractions like Butchart Gardens and spent our time in beautiful museums, quaint book stores, and charming cafes instead.

blackberry oatmeal cake

One drizzly afternoon we enjoyed a memorably good fresh blackberry and oatmeal cake with a couple of cafe lattes. There is something about a cake with fresh berries, a hot latte, and a light rain that makes for a perfect lazy afternoon.

Vancouver, like Oregon and Washington State, boasts some of the continent's best berries. We savored fresh tart loganberries, a succulent boysenberry tart, and even gooseberry ice cream.

farmers' market blackberries

So when Jennifer of the Domestic Goddess (the founder of Sugar High Friday) announced that this month's SHF theme was Mmm ... Canada, I knew I had to make a blackberry-oatmeal cake. Since I didn't have time to fly to Vancouver for blackberries, I settled on these plump locally grown ones from the farmers' market. I wasn't disappointed.

Each bite is a sensory pleasure: the crunchy oatmeal-cashew topping gives way to a soft, moist cake punctuated with bursts of warm, juicy sweet-tart blackberries. As soon as I tasted it, I felt magically transported to Vancouver. The only thing missing was the rain.

another piece of blackberry oatmeal cake

Fresh Blackberry, Oatmeal, and Cashew Cake

Print recipe only here.

I lowered the fat and cholesterol in this cake by using less canola oil than usual, low-fat buttermilk, and egg whites only. Of course, full-fat versions work as well.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup fresh blackberries (cut in half if very large)
1/4 cup chopped cashews

3 tablespoons chopped cashews
3 tablespoon rolled oats

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter or coat with cooking spray an 8 inch square pan.

In a medium bowl, sift the flours. Add baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a separate large bowl, beat the sugars and egg whites at medium speed until light. Beat in the vanilla, buttermilk, and oil. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients, including the oats. Beat until just incorporated and the flour is dissolved. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the blackberries and cashews until well blended.

Pour the batter into the pan and gently shake it to even it out. Sprinkle the chopped cashews and oats evenly over the top of the cake and lightly coat with cooking spray.

Bake for 45 - 55 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool at room temperature.

Unmold the cake, and place on a rack. Allow to set for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Other fruit-filled baked goods you might like:

Fresh Apricot and Cherry Cobbler with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust

Fresh Cherry and Peach Upside-Down Cake

Fresh Apricot Muffins

Fresh Strawberry, Almond, and Coconut Muffins

More berry good recipes I found:

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fresh Pineapple, Banana, and Pistachio Cake with Rum Icing

pineapple fresh 2

Buttercups, bananas, baby chicks.

Apricots, tulips, lemon trees.

Sunflowers, sweet corn, French's yellow mustard.

Peaches, pineapple, polenta.

Warblers, wildflowers, nectarines, and mangoes.


These are a few of my favorite (yellow) things. Thanks to Livestrong, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, yellow has become the color of the fight against cancer -- the color of hope.

So this brilliant yellow pineapple is my entry to Bee and Jai's special yellow Click! event on behalf of Bri Brownlow from Figs with Bri who is battling breast cancer.

pineapple banana cake slice yellow

As most of you know, my husband Jeff is a dermatologist and has a blog called the Derm Blog. At the risk of sounding shamefully biased, his blog really is good. Even O The Oprah Magazine thinks so.

I'm proud to announce that Jeff is honored to be one of a handful of physicians in the country who is helping Lance Armstrong launch It's a new internet health and wellness site for all of your health care and fitness needs. You should definitely check it out!

Here's Jeff's profile page which also lists his articles on the site.

pineapple whole

Now for the cake. Since my local market recently had large fresh pineapples on sale 2/$3.00, I bought four. I mean, come on, 2 pineapples for $3.00? That's crazy! (Which I actually said out loud to myself in the store). The money I saved almost paid for the gas to get to the store. (Actually, at $4.69 / gallon, maybe not).

Yes, four pineapples is a lot. That's why I made this cake. The tropical flavors of pineapple, banana, coconut, and rum marry beautifully in this moist, richly textured cake. And isn't there something wonderfully old-fashioned about a cake with crunchy white icing and shredded coconut?

pineapple banana cake blue sliced

Fresh Pineapple, Banana, and Pistachio Cake with Rum Icing

Makes 2 (9-inch) round cakes; serves 16-20
Print recipe only here.

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 sticks (12 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1/2 cup golden raisins (or chopped dates)
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios

Icing and Garnish:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons rum extract
several drops of milk
1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut, toasted, divided
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachios, divided

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Coat two 9 X 2-inch round cake pans, or five (6 X 2 3/4-inch ) mini-loaf pans with cooking spray.

To toast the coconut, place in a dry skillet over medium heat, and gently stir until aromatic and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Keep your eye on it since it burns quite quickly! Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium size bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger together.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and beat at medium speed for a couple of minutes. Add eggs and beat well. Add the honey, vanilla, and coconut milk, and beat until batter is silky. Lower the speed, add the bananas, and beat briefly.

Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients, and mix until just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the pineapple, raisins, coconut and pistachios. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cakes are a deep golden brown. You'll know they're done when a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Meanwhile, make the icing in a small bowl by whisking together 1 cup confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon rum extract. Add a few droplets of milk and continue whisking until the icing is smooth and thin yet clings to the back of a spoon. Taste it; add more rum extract, if desired. When it's ready, pour it through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any tiny clumps of confectioners' sugar (thanks, Mom!).

Invert cakes onto a rack, then turn right side up. Using a spoon, drizzle the icing over the top of the cakes, and spread it with a thin, metal spatula. Sprinkle each cake with 1/4 cup of toasted coconut, and 1 tablespoon chopped pistachios. Allow to set for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

More yellow foods you might like:

Sauteed Corn with Mint, Butter, and Lemon

Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Chives and Thyme

Potato, Pepper, and Onion Frittata

Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Fresh Pineapple Chutney

Mini Custards with Limoncello-Spiked Raspberry Sauce

I'm also sending this cake to Suganya, of the beautiful Tasty Palettes, for this month's AMAF: Coconut. Here are more wonderful savory and sweet pineapple recipes:

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pork Tenderloin with Strawberry-Mango Salsa

pork strawberry salsa

Strawberry season is in full swing across most of the country, so chances are you're buying lots of them. You are, aren't you? Then that also means you likely have a few soft or slightly bruised berries -- good enough to eat but not pristine enough to showcase on the top of a strawberry shortcake.

Well I'm not going to suggest you use them to make sweet jam or a smoothie (though I love both). I'm going savory with strawberries. That's right. If you've never paired strawberries with meat, then expect to be wowed. Succulent strawberries and creamy mango are enhanced with aromatic anise seed in this simple yet flavorful salsa. The fruits' sweetness provides the perfect balance to the savory, buttery flavor of the pork tenderloin.

I hope Jeanne of Cook Sister! likes savory strawberries because this is my entry for this month's WTSIM: Berried Treasure.

pork strawberry salsa cut

Pork Tenderloin with Strawberry-Mango Salsa
Serves 4
Print recipe only here.

1 1/4 pound pork tenderloin
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons butter

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sweet onion, such as Vidalia
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 cup diced mango
2 cups chopped strawberries
salt and freshly ground back pepper, to taste
2 cups cooked grain of your choice, such as cous-cous, quinoa, or white rice.

Cut the tenderloin into medallions, and season with salt and pepper. Let stand for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the salsa, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the sweet onion for 3-4 minutes, or until slightly softened and browned. Stir in the anise seed and diced mango, cooking for 2 minutes more. Add strawberries and cook 2-3 minutes, until slightly softened. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 teaspoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons butter. Add the pork; cook for 3-4 minutes, until crispy and browned, then flip and cook until browned all over and just cooked through (the meat should be tender).

Place cooked grain on a platter, add cooked pork, and cover with warm fruit salsa. Serve immediately.

Other meat dishes you might like:

Lamb Kebabs

Savory Sausage and Fennel Galette

Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) and Sausage Sandwich with Sharp Provolone

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fresh Apricot and Cherry Cobbler with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust

apricot cherry cobbler full plate

I love reading your comments on my blog every day. This recent one on my fresh apricot muffin post caught my eye. Lovely Ann of Redacted Recipes wrote: *sigh* Every time I read a new post of yours I fall into a geographical depression. Your apricots are so beautiful! And those muffins! I love the way each one coyly shows a little fruit... :-)

Though I had never heard of "geographical depression," I know what Ann means. I used to have it myself (though I referred to it less genteelly). Trust me, I don't post on these gems to make you depressed or envious; I do it because I get so ridiculously excited that I just have to share my finds. That's why I'm posting another picture of fresh farmers' market apricots and cherries.

cherries and apricots fm again

When I saw that 20-foot-long table covered with plump, brilliant red cherries and velvety soft golden apricots I audibly gasped (hey, I wasn't the only one). Then I turned to Jeff and said something like, "I'm making an apricot and cherry pie when we get home! Or should I make a crumble? Ooh-ooh, I know, how about a cobbler?" See what I mean? Waaay too excited.

apricot cherry cobbler plate fork

We decided on a cobbler. I wasn't sure what I wanted to use for the cobbler top, but I didn't have to search too long. My mom and dad had recently sent me Nick Malgieri's How to Bake. When my mom realized I didn't have his book, she was shocked:

"What?! How could you not have Nick Malgieri's book? I love his book! Well, that's it. Your father and I are going to Border's this weekend to get you one," she said.

"Mom you don't need to--" I started to say.

"Susan, listen to your mother," she said.

A week later, the book was in our mail box.

Though Malgieri's book isn't new, it's a treasure trove of classic dessert recipes. Considering that he is an award-winning author of 5 cookbooks and has been the director of the baking program at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC for the last 12 years, I think he knows what he's talking about. I like the way he covers baking basics such as how to make flaky pie dough and perfect tarts and how he offers suggestions for variations (like Dorie Greenspan, whose book is a bible among food bloggers.)

So here is my mildly adapted version of Nick's Cobbler with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust. I made a spicier, sweeter fruit filling and cut out circles of biscuit dough for the top instead of making one solid crust.

apricot cherry cobbler pie dish

This cobbler is a comforting, old-timey dessert. From the moment you smell the sweet buttermilk biscuit topping baking in the oven to the first taste of luscious, warm, sweet apricots and tangy cherries, you'll want to sit out on a rocking chair on your grandmother's porch and listen to her spin tales from her youth.

Fresh Apricot and Cherry Cobbler with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust
Makes 6-8 servings.
Print recipe only here.

3 pounds ripe fresh apricots, about 15
1 cup pitted fresh cherries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg, optional
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Buttermilk Biscuit Crust:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour (I just used all-purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2/3 cups buttermilk

1 tablespoon buttermilk, cream, or milk
1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons raw sugar crystals, for sprinkling on top

Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Use a 9 or 10-inch pie plate or a 1 1/2 quart deep oven-proof baking dish.

To make the filling, lightly cut an X on the bottom of each apricot and place them into a large pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water. If the apricots are ripe, the skins will slip off easily. If not, then use a sharp paring knife to remove the skins. Cut each apricot into 5-6 wedges and place in the baking dish along with the pitted cherries.

Combine sugars, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg; pour over the fruit and stir gently. Add dots of butter all over the top of the filling. Set aside while preparing dough.

To make the crust, combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Cut the butter into 8 or 10 pieces and rub into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal (or pulse in a food processor fitted with a metal blade). Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk. Stir gently with a fork, being careful not to overwork the dough (or it will become leaden.) Let the dough stand in the bowl for a couple of minutes to let the flours absorb the liquid.

Flour a work surface and turn the dough onto it. Fold the dough over itself 2 or 3 times, until smoother and less sticky. Lightly re-flour the work surface and roll the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. For circles, using the top of a drinking glass or a round cookie cutter, make about 12 rounds. Gently place the rounds on top of the filling, slightly overlapping the edges. Brush with glaze, and sprinkle with raw sugar crystals.

Alternatively, you could make a full top crust by rolling the dough out slightly larger than the size of your baking dish. Trim excess dough and flute the edges of the dough at the rim of the dish. Make 4 or 5 (1-inch) slashes in the center of the dough.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is deep golden brown and filling is bubbling gently. (For easy clean-up, you may want to place a sheet of tinfoil on the rack under the baking dish to catch any drips.) Cool before serving. Cobbler is best served warm or at room temperature. It can be enjoyed plain or with some whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

You might also like these fruity desserts:

Coconut-Lime Rice Pudding with Mangoes and Cashews

Fresh Cherry and Peach Upside-Down Cake

Mini Custards with Limoncello-Spiked Raspberry Sauce

And, boy, do food bloggers love a good cobbler! You could stay busy all summer long with these:

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