Monday, August 30, 2010

Late Summer Vegetable Soup with Basil Pesto

late summer vegetable soup with pesto

Do you hear them? I do. It's the collective groan of gardeners across the country desperate to eat, cook, and preserve their stockpiles of late summer vegetables and herbs such as corn, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and basil.

I'm here to help. Toss them all into a big pot for this Late Summer Vegetable Soup with Basil Pesto. You can double it, triple it and even freeze it. What more can you ask for?

See that? It's quieter already.

Late Summer Vegetable Soup with Basil Pesto
Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.

If you choose to freeze the soup to enjoy during the winter months, then undercook the vegetables and allow soup to cool completely before pouring into freezer-safe containers.

Basil Pesto:
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 cups firmly packed basil leaves
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 carrots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium zucchini, sliced into half moons, about 11/2- 2 cups
4 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 ear sweet corn, kernels removed from the cob (about 1 cup)
2 cups sliced green beans (about 4 ounces)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shredded parmesan cheese, optional

1. To make basil pesto heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add garlic, and heat through until slightly golden (about 2-3 minutes). Transfer to a food processor.

2. In the same skillet, add pinenuts, and toast 1-2 minutes, until golden; add to food processor. Add basil leaves, cheese, water, salt, and pepper. Pour olive oil though processor chute (or simply add with other ingredients), and process until smooth. Note: If you’re not going to use your pesto immediately, then pour in a small sealable container and cover with a layer of olive oil. This will prevent the pesto from turning brown.

3. Heat oil in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery  and cook 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add red bell pepper and zucchini, and cook 3 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Add corn and green beans; cook another 3-4 minutes, until string beans are cooked through yet firm. Add cherry tomatoes and 1/2 cup pesto; stir well to combine for about 1 minute and remove from heat. Taste. Season with salt and pepper, and add more pesto, if desired. If you prefer it thinner, add a little more broth. Garnish individual servings with shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

You might also enjoy these pesto recipes:
Cilantro Pesto recipe from Whipped
Individual Pesto Lasagnas recipe from Food Blogga
Lemon and Almond Basil Pesto recipe from Cookin' Canuck
Pasta with Arugula Pesto and Tomatoes recipe from Food Blogga
Foil Baked Salmon with Basil Pesto and Tomatoes recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen
Rigatoni with Walnut, Parsley, and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto recipe from Food Blogga

Thursday, August 26, 2010

TGIF Foods: Kid-Friendly Lemonade Cookies!

lemonade cookies

Lots of kids are back in school already across the country, and they're going to need something to cheer them up this weekend. Forget lemonade stands and soft serve ice cream cones. It's time to pull out the big guns: cookies.

Get the kids in the kitchen and bake a big batch of these sweet-tart lemonade cookies. They're easy to make and can be frosted, an activity universally loved by kids. I first posted on these cookies a year ago, and they're so fabulously fun I had to share them again.

Oh, and don't forget to pack a cookie in your little one's lunch box on Monday morning. It may be as healthy as an apple, but it's guaranteed to bring happiness.

Lemonade Cookies
Makes approximately 30 cookies
Printable recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 large egg
1/2 cup lemonade concentrate, thawed

Lemonade icing, optional:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemonade concentrate
a few drops of whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

2. Using an electric mixer cream butter, sugar, and lemon zest on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and mix until combined. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the 1/2 cup lemonade concentrate, mixing until just combined.

3. Drop tablespoons of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet at least 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on wire racks for at least 30 minutes if frosting.

4. For the icing: Whisk the confectioners' sugar, lemon zest, and lemon concentrate in a small bowl. Add a few drops of milk and continue whisking until the icing is smooth and opaque and clings to the back of a spoon. Taste it, and adjust flavors as desired. When it's ready, pour icing through a fine mesh sieve to remove any tiny clumps of confectioners' sugar. For easy clean up, place a sheet of parchment paper under the cookie rack before frosting. Dip the top of the cookie in the icing and place on rack. Allow to dry completely before storing in an air-tight tin or plastic container. Place wax paper between layers to protect the icing.

Note: The cookies are delicious plain; however, the icing adds an extra layer of tang that'll make you pucker. My only caveat is that icing on cookies prefers chilly winter weather to hot summer weather. So if you ice them, be sure to let them dry thoroughly in an air-conditioned room.

You might also enjoy these kid-friendly cookie recipes:
Cowardly Lion Cookies recipe from Sweetnicks
Oatmeal Everything Cookies recipe from Food Blogga
Classic Snickerdoodle Cookies recipe from Pinch My Salt
Fluffernutter Cookies recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod
Big and Dense Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from Cookie Madness
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and Chocolate Chunk Cookies recipe from Food Blogga

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Raw Corn Stars in Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia with Mango, Corn, and Cucumber Salsa

white sweet corn from Little Italy farmers market in San Diego

Where would I be without California farmers? If it weren't for them, I would never have discovered the sticky, caramel bliss of Medjool dates, the tropical pina colada flavors of cherimoya, or the simple joy of munching on raw summer sweet corn. Yes, raw corn.

At first, I was skeptical. Having grown up in New England, I was accustomed to bright yellow, fat kerneled ears of corn steamed to perfection and doused with melted butter and salt. But the LA farmer insisted I taste the raw corn he was offering: raw, white, small kerneled corn. How could such puny corn possibly be good without butter and salt?

Still, I held out my palm while he filled it with a scoop of raw corn kernels. With one swift swoop of the arm, I popped the entire handful in my mouth. It was crunchy, as in snap! crackle! pop! crunchy and surprisingly juicy. As for the flavor, well, it was natural. Just unadorned, mildly sweet, old-fashioned corn flavor. I was hooked.

That was about four years ago, and I still anticipate sweet corn season every year so I can nosh on raw corn. If you feel weird eating a raw cob of corn, then cut off the kernels and add them to salads and salsas, or eat them by the spoonful. Have them plain, or sprinkle them with lemon and cayenne pepper or lime and chipotle powder.

Then give thanks for California farmers, well, actually for all farmers. Where would we be without them?

Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia with Mango, Corn, and Cucumber Salsa

Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia with Mango, Corn, and Cucumber Salsa
Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.

This simple salsa celebrates the clean, fresh flavors of summertime. It's a natural pairing with seafood but is also delicious with chicken, beef, and pork.

1 cup diced ripe mango
1 ear of sweet corn, kernels cut off from cob
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup diced cucumbers with the skins on
2 teaspoons fresh ginger
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
The juice of 1 large lime (about 2 tablespoons)
The zest of 1/3 lime (about 1/8 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint

4 (4 ounce) filets of tilapia, or other thin, white fish such as Dover Sole
2 egg whites
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (also called grits and polenta)
A couple of pinches of salt
A couple of pinches of freshly ground black pepper
6 cups mesclun

1. Combine all salsa ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a large, rimmed baking sheet or baking dish with cooking spray. Place egg whites in a shallow bowl and lightly beat with a fork. In another shallow bowl, place cornmeal seasoned with salt and pepper. Pat fish dry with paper towel. Dip each piece of fish in the egg whites then dredge in the cornmeal until completely coated. Place on prepared baking dish and cook for 20 minutes, turning once mid-way through. The fish will be cooked when the cornmeal becomes golden and crunchy and the fish is opaque when pierced with a fork.

3. Place 1 1/2 cups mesclun on each plate. Place a fish filet in the middle and top with a 1/4 of the salsa. Repeat with remaining dishes.

Alternative stove-top method: In a large skillet over medium heat, warm 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil. Place fish in pan and cook for 4-5 minutes without touching. Flip once, and cook another 3-4 minutes, or until the cornmeal is golden and crunchy and the fish is opaque when pierced with a fork.

You might also enjoy these corn recipes from Food Blogga:
Elote - Mexican Corn
Sauteed Corn with Mint, Butter, and Lemon
Creamy Corn, Potato, and Sausage Chowder with Corn Relish

You might also like these raw corn recipes:
Raw Corn Chowder recipe from A Veggie Venture
Fresh Corn and Avocado Salsa recipe from The Pioneer Woman
Raw Vegan Thai Sweet Corn-Coconut Salad recipe from She Simmers

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Time for Fall Salads and Asian Chicken and Soba Noodle Salad

Asian Chicken and Soba Noodle Salad

At this time of year, everyone is talking about back-to-school foods and lunches and are packing up their picnic gear and beach chairs. So I'm packing up my summer salads. Fear not. Fall salads are here.

This Asian Chicken and Soba Noodle Salad is a transitional salad that's refreshing enough to keep you cool on a steamy August afternoon yet substantial enough to fill your belly after a hard day in class.

With red bell peppers, sugar snap peas, and peanuts, it's got standard salad crunch and nutrition, but unlike most salads it's got long, slippery, tasty soba noodles that make it so much more. Asian soba noodle salads are like soup, salad, and noodle bowls all rolled into one gloriously healthy and satisfying meal.

So make this Asian Chicken and Soba Noodle Salad, grab a set of chopsticks, and start twirling and slurping. And be sure to bring leftovers for lunch the next day. It's so much better than a ham and cheese.

Asian Chicken and Soba Noodle Salad 
Makes 2 large or 4 small servings
Print recipe only here.

6 ounces soba noodles
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (rotisserie chicken works well)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 cup thinly sliced red bell peppers
1 cup sugar snap peas
1 cup thinly sliced cucumbers, seeds removed
3 scallions, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
4 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
2-3 teaspoons sriracha sauce*
Juice of 1/2 lime (about 2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or mint

2 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts for garnish

1. Cook soba noodles according to directions on package

2. In a large bowl combine chicken through scallions.

3. In a medium bowl whisk all dressing ingredients.

4. When noodles are cooked, transfer to the bowl with the chicken and vegetables. Add dressing, and toss until well coated. Divide evenly among 4 bowls, and sprinkle each with 1/2 tablespoon peanuts. Garnish with additional sliced scallions if desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Shopping Note: Sriracha sauce is a spicy Thai hot chile sauce that can be found in Asian specialty markets as well as the Asian food section of most supermarkets.

You might also enjoy these summertime salads:
Sweet Corn Salad recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod
Quinoa and Summer Fruit Salad recipe from Tasty Palettes
Grilled Shrimp and Avocado Salad recipe from Food Blogga
Cucumber Salad with Rice Vinegar Dressing recipe from Dine and Dish
Crunchy Veg Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing recipe from Food Blogga

Thursday, August 19, 2010

TGIF Drinks: Sparkling Rosemary-Ginger Lemonade


It's the end of August, which likely means you're sunburned, overtired, and ready for your kids to go back to school. I'm here to help. Are you ready for some relaxation? Here's what you need to do this weekend:

1. Make a batch of this Sparkling Rosemary-Ginger Lemonade and refrigerate it. Chill a tall glass in the freezer, and fill it with the ginger lemonade.

2. Find a comfy hammock or chaise lounge, preferably in a shady spot. Recline on it while sipping your ginger lemonade.

3. Tell your significant other, your kids, the dog to leave you alone. OK, maybe not the dog.

4. Listen to the hum of bees. Smell the sharp scent of freshly cut grass. Watch the clouds float by. It's a lazy summer day. Make the most of it.

5. If you're still not relaxed, pour yourself a second glass of ginger lemonade and add a shot of vodka or gin. Repeat steps 2-4.

sparkling rosemary-ginger lemonade

Sparkling Rosemary-Ginger Lemonade
Makes 4 cups
Print recipe only here.

With fresh rosemary, ginger, and a little sugar, this refreshing lemonade is both savory and sweet. The flavors in this lemonade intensify with time, so if you're not serving it right away, you might want to add more sparkling water when you do serve it.

4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh ginger
2 whole lemons, chopped with rinds, seeds removed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 cup water
3 cups lemon flavored sparkling water

1. Combine ginger, lemons, sugar, rosemary, and water in a blender. Puree until well blended and no clumps remains. Pour through a sieve into a bowl, using the back of a spoon to squeeze the lemon mixture and extract all the juice. Pour into a pitcher with 3 cups sparkling water and lots of ice. Garnish servings with a lemon slice and a sprig of rosemary. Serve immediately. If you're not serving it immediately, then omit the ice and chill in the refrigerator.

You might also like these refreshing summer time drinks:
Creamsicle Power Smoothie recipe from Food Blogga
Watermelon Aguas Frescas recipe from Elana's Pantry
Tropical Papaya and Kiwi Smoothie recipe from Food Blogga
Creamy Brazilian Limeade recipe from From Our Home to Yours
Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade recipe from Willow Bird Baking

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Summertime Smoothies: Blackberry-Yogurt Power Smoothie

blackberry-yogurt smoothie

Super foods come and go. Prosaic broccoli and kale were replaced long ago with colorful sweet potatoes and blueberries, which in turn have been eclipsed by trendier foods like goji berry and mangosteen.

I think yogurt should trump them all as the world's best super food. It's been around for over 4,500 years, so clearly it's not a fad. And what other food has been associated with reducing body fat, building stronger bones, calming tummy troubles, reducing inflammation, lowering blood cholesterol, and boosting immunity?

Yogurt also makes the ultimate super thick, frothy smoothie -- the kind you eat with a spoon. With the heat wave that's currently blanketing most of the country a chilly, healthy smoothie is just what's needed to cool you down. I like non-fat vanilla yogurt for smoothies because it adds protein, calcium, and potassium without the fat and calories of many dairy products. It's sweeter than plain yogurt and gets along with virtually all fruits and spices, such as tangy summer blackberries and sweet cinnamon in today's recipe for Blackberry Yogurt Power Smoothie.

Now, if only yogurt could smooth wrinkles, I'd be golden.

Blackberry Yogurt Power Smoothie
Makes 1 serving
Print recipe only here.

With whey or soy protein powder, this is the ideal post-workout muscle-building drink. Of course, it's delicious without it too. For variations, try other berries, ripe mango, or pineapple.

1 cup non-fat vanilla yogurt
1 scoop whey or soy protein powder
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 teaspoon honey
a couple of dashes of cinnamon

1. Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and frothy. If you prefer it thinner, then just add a little water or milk.

This is the third smoothie in my Summertime Smoothies series. Don't forget these:
Cinnamon-Spiked Cherry and Banana Smoothie
Blueberry, Oatmeal, and Honey Breakfast Smoothie
Tropical Papaya and Kiwi Smoothie

You might also enjoy these healthy smoothies:
Green Tea Smoothie recipe from Stir Crazy
Blueberry Smoothie recipe from Gluten-Free Gourmet
Raspberry, Lime, and Mint Smoothie recipe from Perfect Pantry

The winner of the Strauss Free Raised Veal Dogs is ironically Two Barking Dogs! Please email me your name and address so you can receive your dogs. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Sexy Side of Blueberries: Arugula, Baby Spinach and Blueberry Summertime Salad

arugula, baby spinach, and blueberry salad

Moms and grandmas love blueberries. Think about it. Doesn't your family have cherished recipes for blueberry pie and blueberry muffins? What about blueberry cobbler and frosted blueberry sweet rolls?

Why are blueberries so beloved? It could be their association with lazy summer days, Fourth of July cookouts, or time spent baking in grandma's cozy kitchen. Whatever it is, blueberries are sweet and easy-going, like the girl next door.

But like the proverbial librarian who lets down her hair, blueberries can also be sexy. That's right. Sprinkle plump, juicy summertime blueberries on peppery wild arugula or watercress for a stylish salad. Top crostini with warm goat cheese, fresh blueberries, and rosemary for a sleek summertime appetizer. Add them to a martini made with blueberry vodka for a sophisticated summertime cocktail.

So while they're in season, explore the sexy side of blueberries. Just don't tell grandma. She wouldn't approve.

Arugula, Baby Spinach and Blueberry Summertime Salad 
Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.

4 cups arugula
4 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup blueberries

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
Zest of 1/2 lemon (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2-3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Place arugula, spinach, and blueberries in a large bowl.

2. Whisk all dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over salad, and gently toss. Divide evenly among four plates.

Here are some variations for this salad you might enjoy:
Top with a filet of roasted salmon.
Top with chili-lime shrimp.
Top with slices of grilled chicken and fresh watermelon chunks.
Sprinkle with crumbled goat or blue cheese and toasted pecans.

You might also enjoy these wild summer salad recipes:
Arugula Pesto Potato Salad recipe from Food Blogga
Tropical Fruit Salad with Peppery Arugula and Pickled Shallots recipe from YumSugar
Wild Purslane Salad with Cucumber & Summer Tomatoes recipe from Family Style Food
Wild Arugula, Cantaloupe, and Watermelon Salad with Prosciutto and Blue Cheese recipe from Food Blogga
Strawberry Walnut Salad with Fried Goat Cheese and Orange Blossom Honey Dressing recipe from The Bites Site

Friday, August 13, 2010

TGIF Drink: Summertime Sunburned Berry Cocktail from Spice & Ice

sunburned berry cocktail from Spice & Ice

Sunburned? You could either call my husband who is a dermatologist or make this cocktail.

Or you could do what I would do: both.

Sunburned Berry Cocktail
Makes 1 serving
Print recipe only here.

This summertime cocktail is from Kara Newman's spirited book, Spice & Ice, which includes 60 tongue-tingling cocktails. Kara says to take this drink to the "I dare you" level, rim the glass with a mixture of sugar and chili powder. With tart raspberries, fiery chili powder, and full-bodied bourbon, this is one feisty summertime cocktail.

1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I prefer 1/4 teaspoon)
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce lime juice

1. In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle the berries and chili powder. Add teh bourbon, simple syrup, and lime juice. Shake together with ice and strain into a martini glass.

How to make simple syrup:
1. Place equal parts water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously until the sugar dissolves. Low the heat, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat; cool. Pour into a container and refrigerate.

You might also enjoy these refreshing summertime cocktails:
Creamy Limoncello recipe from Food Blogga
Banana Margarita recipe from Food Blogga
Menorcan Basil Pomada recipe from Glutton For Life
Watermelon-Cilantro Margaritas recipe from In Jennie's Kitchen
Rosemary Lemon-Ginger Vodka Spritzers recipe from Family Style Food

WAIT! Want a chance to win all-natural, delicious veal hot dogs for your next cookout? Then GO HERE and tell me your favorite way to eat a dog! Good luck! 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Strauss Free-Raised Veal Review

Strauss veal hot dog DSC_0015

If Oprah likes it, then it must be good. If she likes it twice, then it must be fabulous.

Nearly two years ago, Strauss Free Raised Veal was featured on the Oprah show as part of a story called "How We Treat the Animals We Eat." They were commended for their humane practices raising calves. This past July their veal was recommended by O Magazine in an article titled "Meet Your Meat."  

Well, if you don't believe Oprah (you do, though, don't you?), then believe me when I say you should know Strauss Free Raised Veal.

The Wisconsin-based company is committed to raising calves more humanely. According to their website:
  • Calves roam freely in pastures with mother and herd.
  • They are never confined.
  • They are never given hormones or antibiotics.
  • They have unlimited access to the mother's milk
  • They are strictly vegetarian-fed.
  • All veal is traceable to the place of birth.
Recently, I received a package of several cuts of Strauss veal and am pleased to say that it's delicious. I enjoyed working with Strauss. My package arrived on time; and the meat was still cold and neatly wrapped in brown paper when I opened the package. Unlike supermarket veal, the color of Strauss veal is a deep rose color, which according to Strauss results from an iron-rich diet of the mother's milk. Once cooked, the veal is remarkably tender and succulent and intensely flavorful.

So far I have made Italian-style veal hot dogs, transformed ground veal into meatballs, and made rosemary scented veal chops. All were wonderful.

If you like veal and you're a conscious eater, then you should consider purchasing Strauss veal. It is sold in many Whole Foods stores and online.

Strauss veal hot dog DSC_0022

Italian Style Veal Hot Dogs with Onions, Peppers, and Mushrooms
Makes 4
Print recipe only here.

Strauss veal hot dogs are fully cooked, skinless, all-natural meat dogs. No nitrates or MSG are added.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, thinly sliced
1 medium red or yellow bell peppers, cut into strips
1 1/2 cups sliced cremini or white button mushrooms
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 Strauss veal hot dogs
4 hot dog buns, lightly steamed
Stone ground or Dijon mustard

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions; saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add peppers and mushrooms; saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the sherry vinegar and cook 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

2. Cook hot dogs according to your preferred method: grilling, broiling, steaming, boiling.  Steam buns by placing them in a steamer basket for a couple of minutes until soft and plump.

3. To assemble, place hot dog inside bun, and top a generous squirt of mustard and 1/4 of the sauteed veggies. Eat it while it's hot!

You might also enjoy these meat recipes from Food Blogga:
Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Grilled Steak Tacos with Watermelon-Mango-Jicama Salsa
Grilled Lamb Sandwiches with Sage Aioli and Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade
Veal Cutlet Sandwich with Garlicky Greens, Smoked Mozzarella, and Prosciutto

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why You Should Buy Heirloom Varieties


Has this ever happened to you? You're strolling through the farmers' market on a balmy August day when you spy a table heavy with heirloom tomatoes.

There's a youthful, striped Green Zebra sitting next to a grandfatherly, bulbous Cherokee tomato the color of red wine. You scoop up a couple of each. Your mind is swimming with juicy possibilities -- tomato and mozzarella salad, tomato and goat cheese tart.

As you're walking toward the farmer to pay for your tomatoes, you spot a perfectly scalloped white patty pan squash. You've never seen a white squash before, so you select three. Then the farmer points out his captivating purple string beans. You say you'll buy a pound of those too. No one passes up purple string beans.

You hand your heavy sacks to the farmer who weighs them and says, "That'll be $28 dollars, please."

You blanch. You only have $20 left in your wallet. What do you do?

Here's my advice. At this point, excuse yourself. Walk to the nearest ATM or hit your kid up for the money. Whatever you do, buy the vegetables. This is a case where they really are worth the price.

heirloom pattypan scallop squash and green and purple string beans
(Bennings patty pan scallop squash and Hopi purple string beans from Tenenbaum)

What makes heirloom crops so special? Lots of things. I have spoken with many San Diego farmers about heirloom varieties, and most recently with Ari Tenenbaum, master gardener at Revolution Landscape in La Jolla. (I interviewed him for an upcoming piece on kitchen gardens in Edible San Diego.)

When planting kitchen or community gardens for clients Tenenbaum uses almost exclusively heirloom crops. Why? "We love to show people what kind of diversity there is out there. Most people know about heirloom tomatoes, but they might not know that there's also heirloom peppers, eggplant, squash, and melon too. And [the flavor] is not like anything they have had before."

Indeed, heirlooms taste the way fruits and vegetables used to taste. That's because heirloom crops are bred primarily for flavor. In contrast, traditional crops are bred for durability -- to withstand cross-country truck drives -- and for uniformity in size, shape, and even flavor. That's why tomatoes and peppers and corn typically look and taste the same in supermarkets across the country.

Not only do heirloom varieties taste better, but they also benefit the environment: “I personally love heirlooms because they promote bio-diversity (living ecosystems) which is good for the planet," said Tenenbaum.

The day I met Tenenbaum he sent me home with my arms full of heirloom vegetables including Bennings patty pan scallop squash, Hopi purple string beans, watermelon beefsteak tomatoes, and lemon verbena which became today's recipe: Sauteed Patty Pan Squash, String Beans, and Tomatos with Lemon Verbena. This citrus-spiked vegetable saute is the ideal accompaniment to grilled fish, chicken, or steak on a hot summer night. It's also delicious mixed with quinoa or barley for a satisfying vegetarian meal.

If you're still not convinced about paying top dollar for heirloom crops, then consider their fanciful names like "California Wonder" peppers, "Moon and Stars" watermelon, and "Tongues of Fire" beans. I mean, really, who could pass those up?

Sauteed Patty Pan Squash, String Beans, and Tomatoes with Lemon Verbena
Makes 6 side servings
Print recipe only here.

Lemon verbena is an intensely aromatic and flavorful herb that can be found at farmers' markets and some specialty markets. If you can't find it, then you could substitute lemon basil, or use extra lemon zest mixed with parsley or basil. For different herbal flavors, try rosemary, cilantro or fresh oregano.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds patty pan scallop squash, sliced (about 4 cups)
1/2 pound string beans (about 3 cups)
1/4 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (about 1 cup)
1 large lemon, sliced with rind on, seeds removed
The juice of 1/2 large lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon verbena (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Warm olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 3-4 minutes, or until softened and translucent. Add squash and cook 3-4 minutes, or until lightly browned and softened. Add string beans and cook 3 minutes until just softened. Add tomatoes and cook 2 minutes until wilted. Add remaining ingredients, tossing well until warmed through. The vegetables should be cooked through yet still firm, not mushy. Remove from heat. Serve hot or at room temperature.

You might also enjoy these summertime vegetarian dishes from Food Blogga: 
Elote - Mexican Corn
Grilled Eggplant Napoleons
Quick Corn and String Bean Saute
Creamy Corn and Zucchini Curry Soup

Friday, August 6, 2010

TGIF Foods: Blueberry and Ricotta Stuffed French Toast Breakfast Sandwiches

Ricotta and Blueberry Stuffed French Toast Sandwich

Got anything fun planned for Sunday brunch? You do now.

Pillowy, Cointreau-spiked ricotta and juicy fresh blueberries are nestled between two buttery slices of French toast. After just one bite, you'll be laughing.

Blueberry and Ricotta Stuffed French Toast Breakfast Sandwiches
Makes 4 sandwiches
Print recipe only here.

French Toast:
8 slices Texas toast (thickly sliced challah bread works well too)
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole or low-fast milk
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 large orange (about 3-4 teaspoons)
butter for griddle
confectioners' sugar for dusting

3/4 cup whole or part-skim milk ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoons Cointreau or Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)
4 teaspoons sugar
1 cup fresh blueberries

1. In a shallow bowl or pie plate, lightly whisk eggs; add milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and orange zest and whisk until well combined.

2. Place griddle over medium-low heat. (Note: If the heat is too high, the butter will burn.) Melt about 2 teaspoons butter until the griddle is just coated.

3. Dip one slice of bread in the egg mixture until well coated on both sides, allowing excess to drip into the bowl. Place on the griddle. Cook 1 minute per side, or until golden brown and the egg has set. Transfer to a warm plate and cover until ready to serve. Repeat with remaining slices, buttering the griddle as necessary.

4. In a small bowl whisk ricotta cheese, orange zest, Cointreau, and sugar. To assemble sandwiches, spread 1/4 of the ricotta filling on a slice of French toast. Top with 1/4 blueberries. Close the sandwich with another slice of French toast. Dust with confectioners' sugar.

You might also enjoy these fun breakfast sandwich recipes:
Monte Cristo recipe from Food Blogga
Homemade Egg McMuffin recipe from Kitchen Parade
Grilled Cashew Butter and Blueberry Sandwich recipe from Oh She Glows
Breakfast Egg Sandwich with Avocado and Chipotle Mayo recipe from Food Blogga
Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin Breakfast Sandwiches recipe from Confabulation in the Kitchen

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Summertime Smoothies: Tropical Papaya and Kiwi Smoothie

papaya-kiwi smoothie

The TSA guards in the Maui airport are surprisingly nice. Consider this: While waiting in line to leave Maui, they were asking visitors what we liked best about our trip. Some people said the beach; others said surfing; I said eating papayas.

Want a beautiful beach? Go to Florida. Want to surf? Go to California. Want a tantalizingly sweet and custardy papaya? Go to Maui.

And if you can't, then make this smoothie. You don't need ambrosial Maui papayas to make one. Any sweet papaya and tart kiwi will make a refreshing combination. Although I will admit that it does taste better if you drink it while wearing a Hawaiian grass skirt.

Papaya and Kiwi Smoothie
Makes 1 serving
Print recipe only here
1 cup milk of your choice (I prefer vanilla soy milk)
1 cup ripe papaya
1 peeled ripe kiwi fruit
1/2-1 teaspoon honey
A couple of dashes of cinnamon
A few pieces of ice
Hawaiian grass skirt, optional
1. Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and frothy. Add more milk if you prefer it thinner.

This is the third smoothie in my Summertime Smoothies series. Don't forget:
Cinnamon-Spiked Cherry and Banana Smoothie

Here are more tropical smoothies you might enjoy
Watermelon Smoothies recipe from Sailu's Kitchen
Pineapple and Banana Smoothie recipe from Dani Spies
Pineapple and Orange Smoothie recipe from Sweetnicks

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dine Out in San Diego and Raise Money for Hungry Children

Do you live in San Diego? Will you be visiting San Diego anytime in August?

Then do yourself and hungry San Diego schoolchildren a favor: Dine at any of the delicious restaurants below, order the listed dish, and a dollar will be donated to the Food 4 Kids Backpack program.

That's right. You eat a great meal and help feed hungry children!

Bon appetit!

Restaurants -- Dollar-a-Dish Entree

Alchemy -- Sea Bass Ceviche

Bencotto -- Pollo alla Pizzaiola

Café Chloe -- Steak Frites

Casa de Bandini -- Fish tacos

Casa Guadalajara -- Fish tacos

Casa de Pico -- Fish tacos

Cosmopolitan Restaurant -- Watermelon Salad

Cowboy Star -- Meyer Natural Certified Humane Filet

Croce's Restaurant and Bar -- 3 Desserts: Fondant Au Chocolat, Vanilla Lavender Honey Crème Brulee, and House-made White Chocolate Macadamia Coconut Ice Cream
Cucina Urbana-- Pizza ordered at lunch

Dining Details -- Catering company
Flippin Pizza -- Tomato Basil Pie available at all 4 locations and truck
Gaglione Brothers -- “Father Joe” Meatball Sandwich

George's at the Cove -- Date Salad with Arugula, Goat Cheese, Walnuts, Pomegranate Vinaigrette

JRDN -- Lamb Lollipop

Jsix -- Monthly Sustainable Seafood

Kensington Grill -- Hog Bar

Lotsa Pasta -- Timpano

Nine-Ten -- Hamichi Sashimi with Marinated Baby Shiitake Mushrooms and Scallion Vinaigrette

O'Brothers -- Big O Burger

Pizza Fusion -- Farmers Market Pizza

Playa Grill -- Carnitas Plate

Rimel's -- Hot Rock at Zenbu

Ritual Tavern -- Niman Ranch Skirt Steak Served with Roasted Market Vegetables, Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes, & Sherry Demi Glace

Roseville -- Pan Roasted Local Halibut, White Truffle Corn Puree, English Pea, Corn, Radish, and Pea Vine Salad

Royal India -- Chicken Tikka Masala

Sessions Public -- Ribeye Fries

Soleluna Café -- Pasta of the Day

SoNo Trading Company -- Cuban Sandwich

Starlite -- Jidori Chicken

Stingaree -- Minage a Trois: Fried Point Vincente Calamari/Mexican White Shrimp/Bay Scallops/Sherry Chili Aioli/Lemon

Terra- Sea Bass

The Red Door -- Meat Loaf 

Urban Solace -- Duckaroni: Mac n’ Cheese with Blue Cheese, Duck Confit, Roasted Garlic, Arugula, Scallion and New York White Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese, Caramelized Bacon, Charred Tomatoes

Wine Steals -- Full Size Pizzas at all 4 locations  

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For more information about Food 4 Kids and how you can help, please read this post.