Monthly Archives: July 2014

Tomato Appetizers

Tomatoes Apps KR Close Up

Our Ingredient of the month for July is tomatoes, so I’m squeezing this tomato post in just as we are about to flip the calendar to August (I know, deep breath, it is still summer!).  There are so many things you can do with tomatoes. It was hard to choose what to make for this post.  I settled in on two appetizers, Tomato Bruschetta, which is a classic and beloved by everyone everywhere; and Greek Salad on a Stick, which is a fun way to have the burst of Greek salad in one bite. By selecting these two appetizers, I was able to purchase beautiful heirloom tomatoes for the bruschetta and colorful cherry tomatoes for the Greek Salad (shown below). 

On that note, I have nothing to add. What do you say about tomatoes in the summer? They speak for themselves.  Here’s to summer, enjoy the warm sunny days!

Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 crusty baguette (cut baguette into slices on the diagonal)
1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved (optional)
Chopped tomato topping (see recipe below) 

Method

Coat rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and set bread slices on top in a single layer. Brush the tops with a little more oil and set aside until you are ready to grill.

Light charcoal grill or turn on gas grill to medium high. Grill the bread slices until one side has dark grill marks or is deep golden brown all over and then turn to toast the other side. Watch out, as these puppies can burn quickly. As soon as the slices are done, rub the bread with the cut side of the garlic (if using). Add chopped tomato topping. Enjoy!

Chopped Tomato Topping

1.5 lbs. ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced into ¼-inch pieces
Kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne
1 clove garlic, mashed into a paste with a pinch of salt (using a mortar and pestle or a knife)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 leafy sprigs basil, leaves picked and torn or roughly chopped

Method

Season the tomatoes with salt and put them in a colander to drain for 10 minutes. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl and fold in the cayenne, garlic paste, olive oil, and basil. Taste for seasoning and add salt or a pinch more cayenne if you would like.

Greek Salad on a Stick

Ingredients

1/4 English cucumber
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
¼ lb feta cheese cut into small cubes
6 pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
8 ripe grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quarters depending on the size
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Method

Cut four 1/2 inch thick slices from the cucumber then quarter each slice. Set the cucumber pieces on a platter and season with salt and pepper. Top each with a piece of feta cheese and an olive half. Stab a piece of tomato with a toothpick and then thread through one of the cucumber stacks, pushing the cucumber down to secure it. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a little more black pepper and serve.

A party in your mouth!

I love the beautiful colors

I love the beautiful colors

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Easy Grill Marinade for Summer Skewering

Skewers all around!

Skewers all around!

Bring skewers to your next cookout! You can prep them the day before and they are ready to go when you get to the party. Everyone loves to have their very own skewer loaded up with lots of tasty meats and fresh veggies. You can also use tofu for the vegetarians in the crowd. Skewers are fun and a change of pace from the standard hamburger and hot dog.  This marinade can be used on everything.  It is easy, light, and summery.

I got this recipe from the Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook. The Black Dog restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard is infamous for its fresh seafood and seasonal island dishes. Flipping through the cookbook almost makes me want to go there.  But then I remember that I break out in hives at the thought of crowds or traffic, so it’s really not an option for me. The only time I’ve ever been to the Vineyard was in November which was perfect – it was quiet and peaceful. It felt like I had the whole place to myself, just the way I like it.  Ah, I digress……back to the marinade and the skewers.  Here’s the recipe and tips for putting it all together. Happy skewering!

Ingredients

1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Method

Mix all ingredients and marinate your grilling choice in a large plastic container, covered and refrigerated. Makes 2 cups.

When you are making skewers, cut the meats and vegetables to similar sizes so they will cook evenly.  If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes before assembling skewers so they don’t burn on the grill (if the skewers are going in the oven you don’t need to soak wooden skewers).  Alternate the meats and vegetables on the skewers.

Rules of Thumb

1) Marinade tougher meats or large cuts for 1-2 days.
2) Marinate smaller or more tender cuts of meat or poultry from 1-8 hours
3) Marinate large cuts of fish up to 1 hour. 
4) If you use the marinade for fish, omit the red wine vinegar.
5) Have fun!

Variations

1) Use a different vinegar such as balsamic, sherry, or rice wine.
2) Use different herbs such as chervil, tarragon, or cilantro.
3) Sweeten it with brown sugar or honey.
4) Spice it up with crushed red pepper flakes, minced jalapeno, or other fresh hot peppers.
5) Make a side dressing of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and minced herbs to brush on after cooking (as shown in photo).

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Salty Malty Krispy Treats

 

Salty Malty Treats

There’s nothing like a classic… with a twist…and a swig of milk.

Malty Salty Krispy Treats

When it comes to recipes, what makes a classic? It has to be something so good that it stands on its own with no real need for improvement. It has to feature some basic key ingredients that are critical to its identity. It evokes nostagia as well as instant gratification.

I’d put Rice Krispy treats in that category. They are easy and inexpensive to make, tolerant of heat and cold, indestructible in their creation, transport and chosen arena of consumption. They require neither utensils nor serveware nor culinary skill. Oh, and most importantly, pretty much everyone loves them.

Truthfully, they warrant no improvement. But then again, sometimes it’s fun to take you and your snack over the edge to greatness by making a brilliant twist on a classic.

That’s what we’re doing here. We’re taking Rice Krispy treats and adding chopped up malted milk balls and a sprinkling of sea salt. Joy the Baker takes this experiment over the top by using browned butter (vs margarine) and adding malt powder. This gives them a hint of sophistication, which is important because when you spike your Rice Krispies and marshmallows with Whoppers you are definitely going for some high-brow cred.

There’s not a whole lot else to say about these, except that they earned the rare teenager rave at a recent party, which in my book is enough to make something a new classic.

Malty Salty Krispy Treats

Makes 9 big squares (no shame in doubling up!)

Ingredients

6 Tbsp unsalted butter
40 large marshmallows
1/4 tsp salt
6 cups rice cereal
1/3 cup malted milk powder (or “Classic Malt” Ovaltine if you can’t find the real stuff)
1 cup coarsely chopped Whoppers candy.
Coarse sea salt for topping

Method

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Melt butter until is begins to crackle and sizzle. Add marshmallows to the melted butter just as it begins to brown and reduce heat to low. Add salt and stir until the marshmallows are completely melted, and the marshmallows and butter are thoroughly combined.

Quickly add rice cereal and malt powder and stir to combine.  The mixture will be thick and sticky.

Allow mixture to cool just slightly before adding 3/4 cups of the Whoppers candy.  Stir until just combined.

Press the mixture into a 9×9-inch square greased pan. Sprinkle with salt. Use a greased piece of wax or parchment paper, or a sturdy clean plastic bag, to firmly press the mixture into the pan. The krispies will be thick.  Press the remaining Whoppers pieces into the top of the treats.

Allow to rest at room temperature (or speed it up in the fridge) until set and sliceable. Slice into 9 large squares.

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Three Lemonades

Rhubarb Lemonade

Pucker up! Rhubarb and lemons pack a double tang in this pitcher of pinkness.

I’ve had a nagging guilt pang for weeks, because I found this great recipe for lemonade that I made with rhubarb from my garden but didn’t get to posting it before the end of rhubarb season. Just like I forgot to post (or even enjoy) a Firefly cocktail before the little lightening buggers disappeared.

Anyway, I was in the store yesterday and what did I see? Yep! Big stalks of fresh rhubarb. I don’t know where the rhubarb stands in your part of the country, but somebody somewhere is still harvesting it, so that’s reason enough to run with it.

And while we’re at it, let’s just make this a big lemonadey post. The great thing about lemonade—other than it being delish and refreshing—is that you can flavor it with any summer fruit or even herb to make a familiar drink into something transcendent. My sister makes a mean lavender lemonade that is wayyyy cheaper than a trip to Provence.

A word here on lemons. If there is any way you can get Meyer lemons—the thin-skinned beauties that are sweet enough to eat on their own—get them! They make all the difference.

Rhubarb Lemonade

Note: This is very, very tart. Kids (and many adults) will probably prefer it with lemon-lime soda vs. sparkling water. Pucker up buttercup!

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 ½ cups water
5 cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen (20 ounces)
3/4 cups sugar
2  3-inch strips lemon zest
3 sprigs fresh mint
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups lemon-lime soda or sparkling water

Method

  1. In a saucepan, stir together the water, the rhubarb pieces, the sugar, the lemon zest and the mint. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Let the rhubarb mixture cool, the strain it through a wire-mesh strainer set over a large pitcher. Press on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids
  3. Stir in the lemon juice and soda. Serve over ice, garnished with a sprig of mint

These next two recipes came from Joy the Baker who clearly has a thing about lemonade, which is a good thing now that she’s moved to New Orleans.

Beet Lemonade

adapted slightly from Saveur; makes about 8 cups

Edie’s note: With the unique undertone of beets, this is decidedly adult tasting. As in, the kids won’t wrestle you for the last drop AND I’m pretty sure a splash of vodka or gin would make it a swanky cocktail. At any rate it is very pretty and refreshing. You might want to put away the white dress or t shirt for this one, just in case of an errant splash. It happens.

Ingredients

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (about 1 small) finely grated raw beet*
6 cups filtered water, divided

*You can use the fine grating side of a box grater, or a food processor with the shredder attachment. I found the box grater to be much easier.

Method

In a blender or a food processor (fitted with the blade attachment), blend together lemon juice, sugar, shredded beet, and 1 cup of water.  Blend for 1 minute until the mixture is bright pink and well combined.  The beets will never be fully smooth,  that’s ok!

Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer and into a medium bowl.  Use the back of a spoon to press any remaining juice out of the beets and into the lemonade.  Transfer strained mixture to a pitcher and discard the beets.  Add remaining 5 cups of water to the pitcher and stir.  Taste and add more lemon or sugar as necessary.  Store in the refrigerator and serve chilled.  

Fresh Blueberry and Mint Lemonade

makes about 2 quarts; adapted from The Lemonade Cookbook

Ingredients

2 cups fresh blueberries (frozen will also work)
1 cup (or one big handful) mint leaves (a few stems are fine too), coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar (you can add more sugar if you have a sweet tooth)
4 to 5 cups filtered water

Method

In a blender add blueberries, mint, lemon juice, and granulated sugar.  Blend until smooth and deep purple.  The mixture will look a bit like a smoothie.

Pour mixture into a fine mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl.  Use a spatula to press the liquid through the strainer leaving the blueberry pulp and fresh mint in the strainer.  Discard the pulp.  Pour the blueberry, mint, lemon juice into a pitcher and add water.  Taste and add more water or sugar according to your taste.

Serve chilled.  

Bring It

Bringing a pitcher or pitchers of different lemonades to a summer party or gathering will make you an instant hero. If you want extra credit bring adult (high octane) pour-ins, fruit garnishes or ice cubes made with frozen fruit or juice.

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Bulgur Salad with Fresh Veggies

Fresh from the garden

Fresh from the garden

With the theme of the month being tomatoes, I had my tomato game on. I went to my local farm stand and bought the most beautiful cherry tomatoes. I selected 2 pints of cherry tomatoes that came in vibrant colors — reds, yellows, oranges, and various shades in between. I tasted just a few, as I knew I wanted to use them in my bulgur salad which I would be making that evening. I brought them home, placed them on the counter and went to work on something unrelated to food and the kitchen. My bad! I got back and the tomatoes were gone. I found only remnants of the tomatoes which included a few green stems, a couple odd shaped misfits, and essentially empty containers. I can only blame myself for this rookie mistake. In my house, if I want to make sure something does not get eaten, I put a note on it that says “Do not eat” or I hide it. Neither measure is fail-safe, but rather my feeble attempt at preserving food that might be needed at another time. With my cherry tomatoes gone and my desire to post this luscious salad, I carried on using the two vine tomatoes I had bought a couple days earlier. Not that they were castaways by any stretch, but more a way of saying, beware of hungry family members because they are always out there lurking, ready to grab anything they find that is quick and easy. And who wouldn’t want to eat these beautiful tomatoes. I know they were tempting me.  I will come back another day soon with a tomato post. The consolation prize is that at least the offender was eating healthy instead of tapping into a less healthy snack option!

Now, on to the main event, the bulgur salad…

For this salad, use any grain you have on hand or use your favorite. This recipe happened to call for bulger, but I could have easily used brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, couscous or a variety of other options. What I learned about bulgur is that it is wheat that has been parboiled, dried and cracked into small bits. It cooks quickly and can be added to soups, stews, salads, and more. Use a gluten-free option if you can’t eat wheat.

I got this recipe from one of my newest favorite cookbooks, Forks over Knives, which is just great. It is a collection of plant-based recipes that will keep me entertained for a long time. 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium cucumber, halved, seeded, and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 green onions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup rosemary and parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot and add bulgur. Remove the pot from the heat, cover with a tight fitting lid, and let it sit until the water is absorbed and the bulgur is tender which will take about 15 minutes.
  2. Spread the bulgur on a baking sheet and let it cool to room temperature.
  3. Transfer cooled bulgur to a bowl and add all the remaining ingredients.   Mix well and let sit for 1 hour before serving so that flavors have some time to blend.
Bulger is a great grain if you want to switch it up

Bulgur is a great grain if you want to switch it up

 

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Cowboy Cookies

Looking very healthy.....

Looking very healthy…..

When you ask someone to bring dessert to a party, aren’t you sometimes secretly happy when they bring cookies so there are no extra plates or utensils to wash? I often think, thank god, cookies – less work for me. I decided to provide that type of BRING IT dessert to a party I went to last Saturday night. These cookies were such a hit. I’m not sure if it was because they appear to be healthy, or if they were just plain old good, or a combination of the two. Regardless, they got lapped up in no time and I was asked for the recipe several times. Someone actually said to me, “these cookies are perfect, don’t change a thing”.  So, next time you are asked to bring a dessert, this is a great option. And they make great trail food if they last until the next day. 

This recipe comes direct from the Moosewood Restaurant Favorites cookbook which is their 40th year celebration cookbook. It is loaded with great recipes. I am like ‘deer in the headlights’ when I open that cookbook. I don’t even know where to start. I’m glad I found these cookies. And if you want a healthier version, go to our famous yoga cookies.  They are a vegan, healthy, and zen-like alternative.

A couple footnotes:

** No worries if you bring a dessert that requires plates and utensils… you can never go wrong with a blueberry pie or chocolate cake.
** I know it is the height of summer and blistering hot most days, so if you don’t have a cool day or an early morning start on making these cookies, then opt for a dessert of fresh berries and some whipped cream.

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached white all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup salted butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks (12 oz)
1 1/2 cups raisins, dried cranberries, or chopped dried cherries
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well. Stir in oats. Fold in chocolate chunks, dried fruit, and nuts. The dough will be fairly stiff. It will be a little arm workout to mix thoroughly.

Drop spoonfuls of dough onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Cool completely before storing in sealed container.

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Tomato Jam, co-starring sugar and spice

spicy tomato jam

Tomato jam and all the fixin’s for an alfresco summer feast. As ever, bacon helps.

Oh yeah. We’re jamming on tomatoes because it’s the ingredient of the month. It’s a little early for many of you New England gardeners, but pretty soon we’ll be in full tomato overload, so I’m getting you prepped. Tomato cheddar pie, featuring big honkin’ full-sized red bombers will be coming at you soon. But let’s ease into tomato season, and give it some sass while we’re at it, with this sweet and spicy number.

 Let me first say that there’s nothing quite as perfect as a fresh tomato from the garden, so it feels a little sacrilegious to futz with fresh tomatoes in high summer. BUT, sometimes we go overboard, and just have too much of a good thing. When that happens, make this jam.

It adds some zing to a BLT (along with crunchy iceberg or romaine, not shmancy wispy greens) or any caprese type appetizer with basil and fresh mozzarella or my new best friend, burrata (thank you Jeanie!). Use it with a creamy base in bruschetta deconstructed, as an element of lunch deconstructed, put it in quesadillas, on pizza, over a poached egg or my favorite way, on a lusty piece of That’s Life Bread spread with avocado. It’s sort of like grown up ketchup, and you can dial the sweet and spice up or down as you see fit.

Ok, here we go.

 Ingredients

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or some finely diced jalapeno for extra cha-cha)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add tomatoes, brown sugar, garlic, shallot, vinegar, Worcestershire, red pepper flakes or jalapenos, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring until tomatoes are softened and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Bring It!

Bring this in your mason jar of choice, is a brilliant addition to any picnic, and an excellent contribution to any summer gathering, peace offering or gift basket.

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Guests Gone Wild

 

Trader Joes bonanza- Guests Gone Wild

A partial look at a nutty, grainy Trader Joe’s bonanza

Here comes 4th of July and the smokin’ hot heart of summer. If you’re lucky enough to have scored an invitation to the lake or the beach or any other fabulous summer getaway, you’ll be needing some accordingly fabulous host/hostess gifts, both to show your gratitude and for the all important purpose of GETTING INVITED BACK. This is no time to show up empty-handed.

For some good ideas on what to bring, take a look at our Good Giving page, or pick your favorite recipe and bring it along with a related container or decoration that will remind your hosts of what a tremendous time they had with you.

In my mind you can’t really go overboard with non perishable gifts, especially with people who have a houseful. And I used to think I did a pretty good job of overachieving on that score. That was until my sister started swinging by Trader Joe’s before her visits.

Knowing how much I love Trader Joe’s, nutty grainy things, value and weird food in general she now shows up with several bags of Trader Joe’s Bounty. Now I have a stash of farro and pink Himalayan sea salt, grab and go trail mix packets, five kinds of nuts and enough chia seeds to make a petting zoo. Here are just some of the ways this gift is thoughtful:

  • We don’t have a Trader Joes, so these are things I don’t often get my hands on.
  • Most of it is non perishable, so I can use it at my leisure, and my leisure is a big thing in the summer.
  • Most of it is either a healthy pre-made snack or the whole ingredients to make healthy food.
  • Lots of it is ready to serve, so when she showed up the night I was hosting Book Group and I had no plan whatsoever, I was completely rescued.
  • Many of the things are ingredients for recipes she had told me about, or that she knew I wanted to try. (She gave me all the things for my favorite Life Bread, right down to the psylium husks.)
  • Instead of even suggesting that I should be more Paleo and less gluteny she simply stocks my pantry with lots of the Paleo staples that are expensive and hard to find in my neck of the woods, so now I have no excuse for not giving her recipes a whirl. Bonus: we’ll have something to bond about bicoastally.
  • And finally (this is nice in more ways than I can possibly list but I have to stop somewhere), she goes overboard on coconut. I have an unreasonable love for coconut and now I have coconut flour, coconut sugar, coconut milk and even coconut cashews. Actually, those last ones are so good they’re actually mean.

So, that’s one example of a guest gone wild in all the right ways. Another tactic is to bring one special something that is both meaningful and useful, for which I turn the spotlight on my cousin Tierney from California who brought me this all time favorite dishtowel.

California Dreaming on a dishtowel.

California Dreaming on a dishtowel.

This works because:

  • It is pretty
  • It took up little space in her luggage and now in my kitchen
  • It reminds me of my roots in California
  • It will remind me of my cousin every time I use it.
  • I can use it every day.

 So there you have it. Two examples of awesome hostess gifts. If you’re really in a jam you can never go wrong by going to the farmers market and getting a whole lot of whatever is in season, some shmancy sparkling beverages and the most killer ground coffee you can find.

Since I’m working the family angle here, I have to give a shout out to my cousin Danielle, a devoted Bring It! fan who just hosted family and friends at her amazing wedding in Mexico, and posted the best wedding dress picture ever.  It sort of makes me want to renew my vows, underwater, with lots of agave. Congratulations Danielle and Eric and way to make us all want a do-over!

Happily ever after...and wedding dress storage solved!

Happily ever after…and wedding dress storage solved!

 Now go out there and be the best guest on the block this summer!

 

 

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