Liquid Gold

At a time like this, we all have questions. For the less pressing ones, I have an answer, and it involves sauce. The one, big, solvable daily question we are all facing is this: how am I going to make all these random leftovers into a meal without going to the store? This leads to satellite questions like, how much broccoli salad can one person eat in a day (answer: a shocking amount); and, when we’ve reached that point, what am I going to do with all this tahini I bought for that recipe

I’m so glad you asked. Thankfully the internet is now mobbed with tips like this on how to use the things that have been hanging in your pantry, waiting for their moment and your desperation. As mentioned in “get saucy with me,” (a darned useful collection of taste sensations), the right sauce or dressing is sometimes all you need to pull together humble ingredients and make them a feast.

Even though tahini opens up many options, you may need to wait for your next store run to make this baby that minimalist baker calls “liquid gold.” It is easy, fast and delicious, but requires some advanced pantry staples, all of which I promise we’ll use in the weeks to come. Namely, you’ll probably need to wrangle up some nutritional yeast and chickpeas* (Vegans can relax–I know you have these on auto delivery). The rest of you for sure have curry powder, right? And likely turmeric, from that time you vowed to mix up a comforting mug of golden milk to drink after your daily yoga. Or maybe because you actually are drinking golden milk after daily yoga. Namaste you! The rest is all pretty standard pantry fare.

This goes well as a dip or a dressing, and can transform rice, pasta, baked potatoes, sandwiches, quesadillas, salads, etc into something a little more exciting that “that stuff in Tupperware.” Bake up a couple loaves of easiest French bread ever, and you’ve just bought yourself a day off from lunch and snack duty.

Check out Lunch Deconstructed as a solid starting point for how to make leftovers into a feast, and stay tuned for some crock pot clinics on mass production of foundational lunch/snack fare. Does it get more exciting???

I hope you all are staying healthy, sane and well-fed!

*careful and prompt readers will note that the first version of this called out raw cashews. In my isolated state I somehow forgot that no cashews will be pulverized for this sauce. Bonus!

Liquid Gold Sauce

From Minimalist Baker

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 small cloves garlic, skin removed
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (or sub lime)
  • 1 Tbsp tahini (or cashew butter)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin (for milder sauce, omit the cumin and use only curry powder)
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper (optional // omit for less heat)
  • 2 tsp maple syrup (plus more to taste)
  • 1/3 cup water, plus more as needed

Method

  1. To a small blender or food processor (though it won’t be as creamy), add chickpeas, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon, tahini, salt, ground turmeric, curry powder, ground cumin, cayenne (optional, but c’mon), maple syrup, and water.
  2. Blend on high until creamy and smooth. Add more water as needed until a thick, pourable sauce is achieved.
  3. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more salt to taste, curry powder for spice, tahini for creaminess / nuttiness, lemon for acidity, cayenne for heat, or maple syrup for sweetness.
  4. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator up to 1 week. You can also freeze it up to 1 month and thaw before use (do not heat) although best when fresh.
  5. Perfect for use on just about anything — think roasted sweet potatoes, burrito bowls, salads, and more!

Going for the gold!

Way Bettah Broccoli Salad

Bring It is back! No need to drag you all through a long preamble, but the short story is this: For the first time since New Year’s mama’s got a kitchen again… just in time for eating in place! OK, it’s alllllmost a full kitchen, but it involves running water, a fridge and a dishwasher, so we’re good to go.

I’m going to be serving up recipes with an eye towards feeding all those bonus people —less than 10 but more than two—who may be back in your house. If you don’t have a full house, you may be cooking for someone who doesn’t feel safe getting out to the grocery store or to pick up takeout from the local restaurants. Whatever your jam, chances are it involves more cooking and more time at home.

This is a funky time for sure, and because you may not know what’s available in the grocery store even if you can get there, we’re doubling down on our Bring It ingredients credo, which is: “Love the one you’re with.” As in, modify and substitute as needed, with conviction. Also, because you may find your self needing to provide actual breakfast vs leftovers or cereal, I highly suggest revisiting these overnight sensation muffins and popovers. Minimal evening effort + pantry staples = happy morning tribe.

So, on to today’s recipe that I’ve made countless times since discovering it. It came from my quest for a healthier version of that guiltiest of picnic pleasures—the sweet and creamy bacon broccoli salad. This transcends age, gender and most dietary restrictions. It is a hit with pretty much everyone who eats vegetables. As with most salads, it’s all about the dressing, which features tahini and maple syrup. So, it’s not low fat or low sugar, but you can dial the sweetness (and the amount of dressing you use of course) up or down…or live a little and enjoy it as written.

This is how I make it, but feel free to riff on the options. There’s no wrong answer here. You’re eating raw broccoli fergawdsakes, protecting yourself from the inside out. Go you!

I hope you all stay healthy and happy and are eating well in place.

Way Bettah Broccoli Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 2 medium heads (3/4–1 lb) broccoli
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds (or toasted sunflower seeds)
  • 1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1–2 shallots, thinly-sliced (or red onion in a pinch)
  • 1–2 tsp white sesame seeds (not a dealbreaker. This slacker has never used them)
  • optional: 1/4 cup feta or ricotta salata cheese (same as above)

For the dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp tahini
  • 3–4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic, finely-minced
  • kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Method

Uh…WASH YOUR HANDS (as if we’d forget, but still)

Make the dressing:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, 3 Tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, and honey until combined. Add up to another tablespoon of oil to thin as desired. Stir in the garlic, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  2. Or, if saving for later, transfer to an air-tight jar. May be made in advance and kept refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Assemble the salad:

  1. Chop the broccoli into small bite-sized florets. Pro tip: See here how to butcher your broccoli. Basically, hold it by the stem and shave the broccoli tips with a sharp knife, like you’re giving it an all over hair cut. Save the stems for broccoli stem pesto, or soup or whatever moves you.
  2. Toss together the broccoli, shallots, and raisins or cranberries with the dressing. Refrigerate for about an hour. Just before serving, add the almonds, sesame seeds, and feta, if using. Serve chilled.

 

New Year’s Resolution Vegetables with Pomegranate Cha-Cha

Hey! You there by the last swig of eggnog. This is your year. It’s your year to be the one who brings vegetables to the party with your head held high, and your hand held up for a high five. This recipe is your first mission. 

It comes to us from Here and Now’s resident chef Kathy Gunst.  I first made it for this past Thanksgiving. Since then, it’s made a lot of appearances, thanks in large part to the pomegranate de-seeding savvy that can be yours in one quick video tutorial.

As Kathy notes this is a mix and match dish. There is no magic formula, so clean out the veggie drawer, grab the rogue pomegranate that is still hanging in the fruit bowl looking for a purpose, and prepare to impress. The main things to remember here are:

  • Roast vs steam the vegetables. As in, give them their space, and…
  • Group them by type so you can remove veggies that roast quicker and let the others get their due.

Other than that, this recipe is pretty loose, though I’d say Brussels sprouts, some kind of winter squash and red onion are kind of key. This recipe makes tons of dressing, so go ahead and overdo the vegetables if that’s your thing, or just be psyched to have extra pomegranate vinaigrette in your arsenal.

And as if this healthy, beautiful, tasty dish needed another bonus, the veggies can be roasted earlier in the day and the vinaigrette can be made a day ahead of time. Assemble it all just before serving, hot or at room temperature.

Roasted Vegetables with Pomegranate Cha-Cha

Ingredients

  • 8 new potatoes, scrubbed and left whole (if large, cut in half or into quarters)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed, and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 1 small Acorn or Carousel winter squash, peeled, cut in half, deribbed, deseeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and outer leaves removed, left whole
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, cut into 3/4-inch wide strips
  • 1 whole garlic, 1/4-inch sliced off top and left whole
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 1 sweet white Vidalia onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 cup baby turnips, ends trimmed and left whole (if turnips are bigger than a golf ball, cut in half or into quarters)
  • 8 ounces carrots — about 8 small carrots or 3 to 4 larger ones — peeled, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch long pieces
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

The Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds and 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice (from 2 fresh pomegranates, or use 1 cups preseeded pomegranate seeds plus 1/3 cup bottled pomegranate juice)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic or white or red wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Prepare all the vegetables as described above. Place the vegetables a row at a time (keeping all the carrots together, all the onions together in row, etc.) on a large sheet pan or two pans or a shallow roasting pan. You don’t want to use a pan with high sides or it will steam the vegetables rather than let them roast and turn golden brown. Drizzle the olive oil on top and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and drizzle vinegar on Brussels sprouts. Flip vegetables over and then return the pan(s) to oven for 20 minutes. Check to see if vegetables are done by piercing with a small sharp knife. Remove any vegetables that are tender and continue cooking the others until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes. The vegetables can be roasted a day ahead of time; cover and refrigerate.
  4. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl or Mason jar, mix half the pomegranate seeds and juice (if using), salt, pepper, oil and vinegar. Taste for seasoning. The dressing can be made a day or two ahead of time.
  5. If you made the vegetables a day ahead of time, remove from the refrigerator. After you remove the turkey from the oven, place the vegetables in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until warmed through.
  6. Arrange the vegetables on a serving platter and drizzle with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette and the remaining 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds. Serve remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Holiday Do’s and Dont’s

It’s go time…the last week of shopping and baking and pretending to work before we get completely sucked in to the holiday vortex. In reality, we’re already there, which makes this week of quasi denial even tougher. But you’re here, you’re reading, and you’re definitely thinking of what to make for the neighbors, the party hosts, the UPS guy and your family…in that order.

So, no new recipes this time (because, who really needs another cookie recipe right now?), but I listed a few faves at the end. Others are embedded in these tips and cautions. Good luck my friends, and when you feel like you’re about to snap, just smile and wave.

DO make a whopping batch of Champion Chip Cookies so you’re ready to make someone’s day. DON’T think you’re so smart that you can make them by heart and end up using double the flour.

DO, figure out a few things you enjoy making (crackle, crackers, spiced nuts) and make a whole lot of them. DON’T go long on an untested recipe and end up with a whole lot of mediocre or inedible treats.

DO watch this clinic on deseeding a pomegranate. It will open your world to mass pomegranate consumption. DON’T position your 2 cups of pomegranate arils precariously in the fridge in a poorly sealed container.

Per above, DO keep a lot of seltzer on hand for stains. DO wear the same color you are drinking. DON’T forget the power of aprons.

If you’ve got people with special diets coming, DO make Knock Out Vegan Pumpkin Pie. DON’T go rogue and substitute the pecan coconut crust with a gluten free pretzel crust. Gah!

DO make Guinness Fondue for a cozy evening gathering. Don’t try to pass off this puree of roasted rutabagas and potatoes spiked with nutritional yeast as “fondue”, even in air quotes. That said, DO make up a batch of the above “faux fondue” (air quotes be damned), or of Sugar and Spice Squash Soup, and offer it as a healthy option alongside the real stuff, but DON’T oversell it. Just have it available and you may be surprised how many people appreciate (and dare I say like) it.

Do plan ahead, read through your recipes and check all your ingredients before you dive in. DON’T, realize too late you are missing a key ingredient, or make your treat arsenal when you are hungry. It is astounding how adversely this affects your yield.

DO have a refreshing or comforting drink and get into the spirit by turning on fun music or entertaining podcasts. DON’T Listen to Impeachment hearings. It will not make you jolly.

DO read this cocktail shaking guide, and consider a monster cocktail shaker as a hostess gift. DON’T shake fizzy drinks in a cocktail shaker. Just don’t.

DO divvy it up, vs taking it all on yourself. DON’T be a holiday martyr. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

DO get into the spirit by dressing up in something super fancy or super cheesy. DON’T let your fraternity brother pick your outfit.

The downside of using a personal shopper.

Here are some of my favorite holiday gifting recipes. I promise–they taste best when made with love and a smile.

Healthy and Healthyish

Heart of Darkness Chocolate Cups
Reeses Redemption Cups
Endurance Crackers
Lifechanging crackers
Paleo Crackers
Gingerbread Granola
Seed Bark Granola
NUTS! Like rosemary maple walnuts, honey thyme walnuts, sesame almonds
Triple Crunch Sesame Peanut Snack Bars

Not so healthyish

Crackle
Crackle 2.0
Cheddar Crisps
Champion Chip Cookies
Morning Paper Oatmeal Cookies
Cholliesauce

 

 

California Dreamin’ Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad

Sister B served me this salad on my last trip to CA, and I loved everything about it. It’s beautiful, interesting in taste and texture, healthy, and—most of all—it looked totally, easily replicable. We grew up with a persimmon tree in our backyard, but they were the acorn-shaped ones that turn your mouth to cotton when they are even slightly firm, and only become edible when they are the texture of ectoplasm. Suffice to say, I was not a fan.

In the intervening years, “Fuyu” persimmons—smaller, squat looking numbers that are delicious when eaten in their firm state—became readily available.

When my sister dug up this recipe, she did it as if playing a casual game of Google darts because in California (where every ingredient in this salad is something you might encounter underfoot on a sidewalk), needing a recipe for this salad is like needing a recipe for avocado toast. In the Yankee wilds, however, it qualifies as a fancy feast.

I approached this salad in the casual way one approaches non-toxic events, assuming that whatever persimmon I tracked down in NH would be the edible kind. Surely that old variety, if it appeared at all, would be sold with something akin to a skull and crossbones sign.

WRONG! One bite of my first-acquired persimmon brought back so many memories, none of them good. And so I returned to our groovy Coop and found the precious little Fuyus, which should have been sold in a velvet case. While I was paying $8 for my two small persimmons the cashier chuckled, having grown up in N. Carolina’s persimmon belt, where $8 would have gotten me the persimmons and, say, dinner.

Anyway, I got the goods, and armed with the pomegranate liberating technique in Pomegranates Unplugged, I was good to go. You’re basically tossing arugula with a bright, simple dressing, then laying on the goods—thinly sliced persimmons, avocado slices and pomegranate seeds. I hope you can find your Fuyu persimmons and try this yourself. I’ll try my best to get you some more Thanksgiving inspiration before T-Day. In the meantime, enjoy the season!

Callifornia Dreamin’ Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad

From Crumb, a food blog

Feel free to riff on this, with your own favorite dressing, baby spinach and blood oranges or grapefruit if you can’t find persimmons. Love the one you’re with, baby.

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Salad

  • 8 cups baby arugula
  • 1 firm-ripe Fuyu persimmon, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 large avocado, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate aril
  • Handful of toasted pistachios or nuts of choice (optional)

Instructions

Prepare the Dressing:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegars and mustard until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble the Salad:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, toss arugula with dressing until well coated. Distribute between four individual salad bowls, or transfer to a single large salad bowl.
  2. Arrange persimmon and avocado slices on the arugula, then scatter with pomegranate and pistachios (if using). Serve immediately.

Bringing It:

In addition to being healthy, beautiful and delicious, this is very easy to bring to a group feast. Slice up the persimmons, prep your pomegranates and dressing and jar them each up separately. Bring the arugula and the whole avocado and assemble on site. Then take a victory lap in your fancy pants.

 

Trickless Treats: Quick and Clean Chocolate Mousse

Halloween used to be so easy. You scurried around all night, gorged on candy, felt not a twinge of guilt and moved on. Now, it’s more complicated. Candy is not so dandy the morning after. But still, we all want to walk on the wild side on Halloween. Enter healthy treats, for which we turn to our crafty Vegan friends.

Vegan cuisine is rife with creativity. That said, I have no patience for food creations that are called something they’re not. Cashews with nutritional yeast, while it can be tasty, is not queso.  And as my husband sternly pointed out, chickpeas mashed with tahini is NOT tuna salad (though I do love this one).

Along those lines, when it comes to healthy treats, don’t tell me that date paste rolled in peanuts is just like a Pay Day because it’s not. It’s just not. And tofu blended with chocolate chips taste just like, drumroll please…tofu blended with chocolate chips.

But then sometimes you find legit healthy alternatives for your treat fix. For Exhibit A I call up cocoa nutty balls; And Exhibit B: Heart of Darkness cups made here with pumpkin seed butter (because who doesn’t have some of that laying around) which gets extra Halloween points for ghoulish green insides.

This chocolate mousse/pudding is another win. It was borne of too many ripe avocados, an upcoming trip and that Yankee streak that hates to waste even one bit of a perfectly good fresh produce.

The sheer ease and speed of making it (hello food processor) would be enough to make this a win, but it’s also delish and not one bit bad for you. After all, healthy fats are a thing and maple syrup, in responsible amounts, is like mainlining nature.

If you do want to witness dates and peanuts trying their hardest to be a PayDay, check this out from Minimalist Baker:  

Go ahead—have a treat, or two, and feel damn good about it. Happy Halloween!

Quick and Clean Chocolate Mousse

Total Time: 5 minutes (you’ve got that don’t you?)

Makes 4 servings

From Chocolate Covered Katie

Ingredients

  • flesh of 2 ripe avocados (240g)
  • 1/4 cup regular cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup melted chocolate chips
  • 3-4 tbsp milk of choice
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Method

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Pour in four little bowls or one big one, and refrigerate it if you want it thicken up. Dress up if you must and feel 100 percent totally good about yourself.

 

Triple Apple Muffins

Welcome to apple season. Yes, we have been here for a while, but last week’s windstorm that brought down all those high, out-of-reach apples has brought urgency to the situation.  That, and the King Arthur Flour Mother Ship has deemed it Apple Week so , let’s join in.

I’m not a huge muffin person. I like muffins enough, but most muffins are a thinly disguised excuse to eat cake in the morning. Nothing against cake, but I don’t need more reasons to eat it for breakfast. These muffins, however, are pretty healthy on the muffin meter. First, they’re packing  apple overload–in grated, chopped, and sauce form. They’re made with whole wheat flour, olive oil for the fat and maple syrup for the sweetener. They’re also easy to make, though they  do require chopping and grating, plus a little more effort if you channel your inner Laura Ingalls and make your own applesauce (I had to do it. See windstorm, above).

This recipe is good to have in your arsenal for apple season, and as advertised, do indeed get better after hanging out for a bit,

Triple Apple Muffins
From Cookie and Kate

From thought to table in half an hour. Maple syrup and a triple dose of apple makes these healthy muffins a bite of New England.

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup grated apple
  • 1 cup apple diced into ¼” cubes
  • ⅓ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup maple syrup (or honey*)
  • 2 eggs, preferably at room temperature (or 6 tbsp aquafaba**)
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt (or non dairy yogurt of choice**)
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (also called raw sugar), for sprinkling on top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease or line all 12 cups on your muffin tin with butter or non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Blend well with a whisk. Add the grated apple (if it is dripping wet, gently squeeze it over the sink to release some extra moisture) and chopped apple. Stir to combine.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oil and maple syrup and beat together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well, then add the yogurt, applesauce and vanilla and mix well. (If the coconut oil solidifies in contact with cold ingredients, gently warm the mixture in the microwave in 30 second bursts.)
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a big spoon, just until combined (a few lumps are ok). The batter will be thick, but don’t worry! Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with turbinado sugar. Bake muffins for 13 to 16 minutes, or until the muffins are golden on top and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
  5. Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. If you have leftover muffins, store them, covered, at room temperature for up to 2 days, or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Freeze leftover muffins for up to 3 months.

Notes

*If you are baking with honey: Honey tends to brown quickly, so to avoid overdone muffins, bake muffins at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 23 to 25 minutes.

**Veganize these by using flax eggs or aquafaba, and non dairy yogurt

 

Just Peachy Caprese Salad

I figured it was over…summer, patio nights, ice cream stands—the whole thing. But when I walked in the store earlier this week I saw them—peaches. In fact, we officially have a few more days of summer. So, hold your apples and squash. We’ll get to those soon enough. For now, we have, well, not really recipes, but inspiration for how to fully exploit the last of the summer produce. I’m looking at you, peaches. And corn, you’re next.

Wayyy earlier this summer a very stylish friend introduced me to the most gorgeous take on a caprese salad, substituting ripe peaches, nectarines and plums for tomatoes. Brilliant! It was so good and so perfect (so long ago) I figured I’d missed the peach train. But she was wily that friend, and must have had some inside track on perfect pre season peaches. Flash forward to a few weeks later in California, when another friend brought massive, juicy white peaches to the party. Still later back in the northeast another friend gave me a bag of the most insanely sweet pluots. I vowed, a: to keep these friends close, and b: to buy peaches, plums and related stone fruits like it was my job until they were gone.

If they weren’t ripe I shoved them into a paper bag and waited until they were. If they were ripe they were lucky to get home before getting cut up immediately. I made peach salsa, a simple concoction of peaches and all the usual salsa suspects: jalapeno, lime, red onion, cilantro. That morphed easily into a peach bruschetta by spooning it atop toasts spread with mascarpone cheese. I even made a sugarless, no oil or fat added super virtuous peach tart which was delicious but was also the least photogenic thing on the planet. I urge you to try it, and focus on its inner beauty. Then, there was the brilliant blogger who suggested freezing leftover white wine (what’s that anyway?) and blending it up with fresh peaches for an instant Happy Hour Slurpee.

So there we have it—a few ways to enjoy your peaches and stone fruits, even though they are perfect as is. If you need an actual recipe, here is one from Real Life Delicious (which never disappoints). If you’re good with freelancing it, here is a loose guide for making Peach Caprese Salad. If you are so moved to add a sprinkling of fresh corn, you might start a trend.

Just Peachy Caprese Salad

Ingredients:

  • Greens of choice
  • Ripe peaches, nectarines, plums or pluots in any combo
  • Fresh Burrata or Mozzarella or a bit of both
  • Avocado (optional, but kind of not optional for Vegans)
  • Pesto or torn basil leaves
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic glaze or good balsamic vinegar (extra credit to mix the vinegar with some maple syrup if you don’t have the glaze)
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

Arrange greens in a layer on a platter.

Top with fruit slices.

Cover with slices or shreds of cheese, and/or slices of avocado.

Drizzle with pesto or scatter basil leaves on top.

Drizzle with just enough olive oil so all your ingredients feel a little love.

Drizzle (because you are so good at it now) with balsamic glaze, balsamic vinegar or balsamic/maple concoction.

Give the whole shebang a shake of salt and pepper.

Bringing it:

This is a total make on site thing. Bust out the fresh produce and get your friends to help, or let them drink their peach slurpees and watch you create the masterpiece. It’s all good.

 

Chile Crisp, Condiment of the Year

And now, in time for your Labor Day entertaining, I present the third of three condiments, and by far the best. I discovered this recipe way back in early summer, nestled in the margin of “The Simple Issue”  of Bon Appetit. Within a week the page was permanently folded back, stained and a little greasy, and since then my fridge has never NOT had a jar of chile crisp in residence.

The catch on this spicy, sassy, savory creation is that it takes some effort to make. You can cut yourself some slack by buying pre-peeled garlic cloves. Even with those, you’re still going to have to do a lot of thin slicing. Soooo, dig deep! It’s the last weekend of summer, people. Get yourself a sharp knife and a good playlist and get going. There’s still time to make yourself the MVP by bringing this to the party, or spicing up your own patio fare.

But first, a couple of things: I’ve now made this several times , and each time I’ve overdone it on the volume of shallots. Only once did they really crisp up—which was tremendous and worth cranking up the heat a bit and then babysitting the pot until they were evenly brown. That said, it was pretty tremendous all the other times too. Just make sure you brown the shallots and garlic without burning them. I now use a bigger pot than seems necessary, which allows the shallots to really relax in their hot oil bath.

It’s worth going to the original Bon Appetit recipe and reading the comments. I think “off the hook” is the best reader description. We’ve put it on burgers, quesadillas, sandwiches, pizza, baked sweet potatoes and eggs; into salads and on bruschetta and burratta and toast. It’s so going to get stirred into soups this fall. I may draw the line at using it as an ice cream topper, but…no promises.

Finally, there is apparently an excellent version of this at Trader Joe’s called chile onion crunch. Add that to the pain of not having a TJ’s near me. For now, I chop.

PS This one goes out to Sister B, who hates bread and butter pickles and cilantro (see quick, easy, cheap salsa), but hung in there for this. Three’s the charm, baby.

Chile Crisp

Ingredients

  • 4 small shallots, thinly sliced (I end up with 1 1/2 cups or so, which is probably wayyyy too much, but I’m greedy and my shallots are apparently jumbo)
  • 2 heads of garlic (HEADS, not cloves), separated into cloves, sliced. (Google says that’s about 24 cloves)
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 3″ cinnamon sticks
  • 6 star anise pods
  • 1 2″ piece ginger, peeled, very finely chopped
  • ¼ cup crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar

Method:

  • Bring shallots, garlic, oil, cinnamon, and star anise to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, reducing heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer and swirling pot occasionally, until garlic and shallots are browned and crisp, 20–25 minutes.

    Shallots prepping for the spa

    (Take your time—you want to drive all the moisture out before they brown.)

  • Mix ginger, red pepper, soy sauce, and sugar in a medium bowl. Strain shallot mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over ginger mixture. Let garlic and shallot cool in sieve (this will allow them to crisp further) before stirring back into chile oil. This is the time to take out the cinnamon and star anise too.
  • Do Ahead: Crisp can be made 1 month ahead. Cover and chill.

Bringing It:

Divide the goods into one big jar or smaller jars that you can fit a spoon into. Put the lids on tight and prepare to make a lot of friends. If you pour off a bunch of the oil you can then use it to make a sassy version of aquafaba mayo.

A shortcut worth every penny

Quick, Easy, Cheap Salsa

I know, it’s summer and we should be all about fresh tomatoes (and corn of course). That said, when it comes to salsa, you can really never have enough. So, when there is a quick, easy and cheap way to make a boatload of salsa yourself, bring on the can opener. (For further proof of canned tomato greatness, see Funitella Bruschetta.)

No need to belabor the intro here. I love a chunky fresh salsa with all kinds or weirdness in it: beans, corn, mango, etc. I also love a straight up tomato salsa with fresh jalapeno, lime and cilantro. This is that salsa, AKA Pioneer Woman’s Restaurant Salsa (she even gives you a video in case pushing buttons is a challenge). It makes a TON, so get a few jars ready, fire up your food processor and be ready for the weekend.

Coming up next: The third of three must-have condiments. Get a playlist and a sharp knife and prepare for some chopping. I promise it’s worth it!

Quick, Easy, Cheap Salsa

Ingredients

Two 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes and green chiles, such as Rotel
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice 
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves (or more to taste)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole jalapeno, quartered and sliced thin, with seeds and membrane (2 is perfectly reasonable)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 whole lime, juiced

Method

This is a very large batch. you’re totally safe with a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.

  • Combine the cilantro, onions, garlic and jalapeno in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times to get them in the same zone size wise, not too pulverized. (If you do this step you can be a little lazier with your chopping). Add the diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, cumin, salt, sugar and lime juice.
  • Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like. I do about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed. 
  • Refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour before serving.

Bringing it:

Divide the batch into as many jars as you like and you are ready to take your show on the road. This is NOT shelf stable, so keep it in the fridge.