Category Archives: Appetizers

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.

 

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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

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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.

 

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Bread and Butter Pickles, the easy way

Got an update for you: It’s blueberry season. So why are you looking at pickles? Let me ‘splain. To be sure, every day that passes without me getting out to the amazingly awesome Super Acres to pick blueberries, reminds me summer is ticking by too fast. But, sadly, that ticking isn’t enough to get me out there…yet. Those of you who are more industrious can get busy with your blueberries by making Blueberry Dutch Bunnyovernight blueberry muffins or blueberry mint lemonade .

For the rest of you, here is a tasty consolation prize. I’m about to hit you with three straight posts on condiments. Sure, summer is all about grilling, and picnics, but both beg for condiments. Great condiments can elevate anything on a bun or a bed of greens. This summer (while not at the blueberry patch), I’ve been making three excellent condiments that now have permanent residence in my fridge.

First off, bread and butter pickles, for a lot of good reasons:

  1. They’re just so darned unsophisticatedly delicious.
  2. They add that little streak of brilliance to egg salad, tuna salad, sandwiches, burgers, the end of your fork, etc.
  3. For guilty pleasures, they are pretty low-consequence. Yes they’ve got sugar, but unless you are drinking the brine it can’t be THAT much, right?
  4. Pickles, even when not made by the super responsible canning process, keep fresh in the fridge for a long while.
  5. And finally, pickles because in fact you CAN have too many cucumbers.

I discovered this after a chance evening encounter with a neighbor who kindly gave me an armful of cukes. I’m always grateful for fresh produce, but cucumbers straight up can be a tough sell in my house. They are not easily disguised, either by grating into a burger or a stir fry, and they don’t freeze well, unless your end game is to weaponize them.

If you end up with a stash of cucumbers, or if you are a pickle lover with no patience for the canning process, these babies are for you. Just a few ingredients and zero talent required. All you need is a little time for them to hang out in the fridge. Basically you can go from evening neighbor garden encounter to proud pickle producer by the time you settle in to Netflix, or bed, or whatever makes you happy.

Just add…anything really. Get your pic-nic on!

Bread and Butter Pickles, the Easy Way

From Brown Eyed Baker

Prep 15 minutes; Cook 5 minutes
Resting 2 hours 40 minutes; Total 3 hours

Makes 4 cups of pickles

Ingredients

  • 5½ cups about 1½ pounds thinly sliced (about ¼-inch) pickling cucumbers
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

Directions

  1. Combine cucumbers and salt in a large, shallow bowl; cover and chill 1½ hours. Move cucumbers into a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Drain well, and return cucumbers to bowl. Add onion to the bowl and toss with the cucumbers.
  2. Combine the granulated sugar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and ground turmeric in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over cucumber mixture; let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 month.

Recipe Notes

As made here these are not shelf stable. Store them in the fridge. If you’re looking for proper canning instruction, get back on your google and good luck—I’ll be cheering you on!

 

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Summer Strawberry Chopped Salad

Welcome to the steamy hot heart of summer! I was feeling like a slacker for being a solid month late in posting this strawberry salad. As with all the rhubarb recipes I meant to post, I thought I’d missed my window. BUT it seems fate and Mother Nature have conspired to make the timing downright perfect. Strawberry season is three weeks late here, thanks to all that June rain (that I missed in CA…#notsorry).

This recipe comes from the fabulous Bevin Wallace’s Real Life Delicious blog and is based on a salad at Vail’s Chophouse. If you can get away with a DIY version of anything in Vail you’re usually $100 ahead of a game, even when it comes to salad. Considering the other revelation that this year is serving up a bumper crop of strawberries, I’d highly encourage you to try this salad. The dressing alone is worth having on hand, and the whole shebang is a great addition to any gathering.

The only slightly labor intensive thing here are the candied pecans. You could of course use some fancy packaged pecans, or simply sub toasted pecans but, c’mon, live a little. It’s salad and it’s summer and as the strawberries will tell you, it’s been a gloomy spring. Time to celebrate!

Nothing says summahhhh like fresh strawberries

Summer Strawberry Chopped Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb. pecan pieces (you won’t need a half pound of pecans for the salad, but nobody every complained about having too many candied pecans on hand)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 4 oz. crumbled goat cheese

For the dressing

  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tbs. dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 tbs. fresh lemon juice (juice of 1/2 lemon)
  • 2 tbs. honey
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method:

Make the candied pecans: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Mix sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Whisk egg white and 1 tbs. water together in a separate bowl until frothy. Toss pecans into the egg white mixture. Mix sugar mixture into pecan mixture until pecans are evenly coated. Spread coated pecans onto a baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until pecans are evenly browned, about 25 mins. Allow to cool. In the meantime…

Make the dressing: Whisk together the garlic, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt & pepper in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified.

Make the salad: Tear the lettuce and place in a large (larger than you think you need) bowl. Add the strawberries, avocado, goat cheese, and about 4 oz. of the pecans. Drizzle on the dressing and toss gently.

Want more reason to get fresh berries? Check out these strawberry all stars.

 

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Tomato Overload

Guess what didn’t take Labor Day off? The tomatoes in your garden. It’s hard to keep up with the crop, though I’m trying my darndest, and probably headed for whatever toxic event occurs from too many tomatoes. I swear those suckers ripen by the hour. It’s all good though, except that there’s this one doctor out there on the interwebs who gets really bad on tomatoes. I just have to ignore his advice for the next couple of weeks. Same with the corn haters. Now is NOT the time.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, let’s just revisit some of our all-time tomato season favorites. Purists of course will go no further than the white bread and mayo tomato sandwich. Solid. But it uses exactly one tomato. Not helpful. When you’re looking for mass consumption of the bounty, I suggest a batch or two of sweet and spicy tomato jam. For the easiest dinner on the planet, totally appropriate for hands off entertaining, go for Best of Summer Simmer Chicken. If your job is to bring a side, embrace the heat with Summer Perfection Watermelon Tomato Feta Salad, or just go straight for Most Popular with THE Panzanella.

If those don’t use up your tomato backlog, here is an easy way to give your tomatoes (and the taste of summer) a little more staying power.

If nothing else you should go to Smitten Kitchen just to look at the picture of the pre-roasting tomato rainbow. Impressive. Mine do not look like that. BUT I assure you they taste darned good, and they are perfect to throw on a pizza, spoon on bruschetta, toss into a salad, smoosh on bread, mix in pasta, etc. You get the picture.

Slow roasted tomatoes, just hanging with the fresh crowd.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

From Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
  • Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • Olive oil
  • Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise, or Roma tomato lengthwise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle herbs on, if you are using them, and salt and pepper, though go easily on these because the finished product will be so flavorful you’ll need very little to help it along.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about 3 hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes. When they are done, you can remove the cloves of garlic and save them for another use. They’re a delish side bennie.

Use the tomatoes right away or let them cool, cover them with some extra olive oil and keep them in the fridge for the best summer condiment, ever.

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Bring It Summer All Stars

Summer is here my friends. Just in time, the good people of the webhosting universe have fixed my site so subscribers will actually get posts. What a great idea? Thank you Bring It loyals for your patience. And now, on to the weekend!

Before you head out for the Memorial Day shop with the rest of humanity, I picked out some all star classics that will help you slay this weekend. With a little prep you can head into summer looking like the master entertainer you are at heart.

First and foremost…

Bring on The Slaw:
If you have never made Hero Slaw, just trust me on this. It will make you famous. Go ahead and claim it as your own if it helps. Prep it, bag it, put it in the fridge and you can take on any invite that comes your way. Or just enjoy it yourself for a few days. If nothing else, make up the dressing to have on hand and turn kale into something the family might actually eat.

Have Some Balls:
Buffalo chicken meatballs are back on my regular rotation (thank you Neely for reminding me!) until I master the perfect veggie balls. Stay tuned for that. Until then, make up a lot of these (ahead if needed) and know they will disappear fast.

Brush up on Your Bruschetta Fixin’s:
You will never be sorry to have a Funitella bruschetta stashed in the fridge. With the miracle that is petite diced canned tomatoes it take all of about 5 minutes. If you want to get more ideas, take a gander at bruschetta deconstructed, and the consider toppings like pickled fig, creamy cheese and crunchy nut crostini, strawberries and goat cheese, and Sicilian caponata.

Get Your Guac On:
You’ve got to have it, and it hardly requires a recipe. BUT if you want to go the extra distance this crazy one with apples and tequila is my new fave. Mango jicama guacamole is another solid contender. Both add crunch and assert that this is not your first guac fiesta.

Think (of drinking) Ahead:
You know you’re a pro when…You’ve got your Frosé and Sandy’s daquiris in the freezer, and fixins for some fancy lemonades. You bridge into genius status when you also have watermelon juice at the ready to whip up watermelonade, spicy watermelon margaritas and watermelon sangria.

Watermelon Sangria. Summer in a glass.

Watermelon Up:
While we’re on the topic of watermelon, cut up some watermelon and prep it for watermelon poke bowls and you are set for fresh weekend lunches for Vegans and non Vegans alike. If you double up on the feta you get for Funitella Bruschetta, and make summer perfection watermelon feta salad, I promise you won’t be sorry.

Sweet Endings:
Oh where do we begin on these? Well, summery Lemon Beach Pie, a whole mess of Rubble or Loosey Brucey Rhubarb crisp are a good place to start. As Bruce would say, nobody ever complained about to many good recipe ideas.

New recipes next time, but of now let’s go with what we know and get this summer party started.

Must…eat…more…pie. Sweet, salty, sweet, salty, and oh yeah—creamy, crunchy, cool and tart.

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Holiday Favorites: Stay Sane, Go Nuts, Be Happy!

Fluff up your marmots and break out all things sparkly, the holidays are here. This is the season for many things: fake fur, sequins, fizzy drinks, warm everything. This is not the season for experimentation. We’re keeping our heads above water here, which means sticking with what we know. tried and true meals that make us happy, and treats to give that make others happy.

Maple oat breakfast bread

With that in mind, in my own kitchen I’m revisiting whole lot of Bring It tried and trues. That means soups like Thai Coconut Corn Soup, or Sugar and Spice Squash Soup. And yep, that means a crock pot full of Chicken Taco Chili that feeds a crowd with about 6 minutes of prep. All of the above, of course, beg for People’s Choice Cornbread or No Knead Challah or a honkin’ slice of Maple Oat Breakfast Bread to dunk in there. That is, UNLESS dirt bread is your thing…you know who you are, you little hemp seed eating chia pets. I’m with you there.

You might be needing some holiday entertaining staples like pomegranate everything (along with a genius pomegranate wrangling technique). What’s winter without fondue, and the easiest in the world Guinness Fondue at that? And what’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” without snacks? I highly recommend a batch of Nootch Popcorn or a bowl of Hail Mary Coconut.

As far as gifting and hostess offerings, you will never go wrong with crackle and its intriguing, slightly sophisticated dark cousin, pretzel and beer Crackle 2.0. And cookies? Yeah we’ve got those, basics like my faves—champion chip cookies—as well as totally slacker kiss my crust cookies, made from refrigerated pie crust and whatever chocolates you have around. If you need to scare up a snowstorm, or a reason to start a sweet family tradition make up a snow ghost pie.

Snow Ghost pie ad

And lest this be a pure re-hash of deliciousness we have an actual new recipe. I realize this blog has a somewhat extensive nut treatment, including honey thyme walnuts, spicy rosemary maple walnuts and an entire holiday nut anthology. But it turns out you really do need one more way to make roasted almonds. These are very similar to ginger glazed almonds (see anthology above), but without the ginger and with a coating of sesame seeds. You can choose a mix of sweeteners for your preferred flavor dimension (honey and sesame were pretty much born for each other), but for the best texture and glaze use at least some brown sugar.  

We’re talking nuts here, not rocket science, so be bold and mess around with flavorings, spices, herbs, types of nuts etc. Above all, enjoy the madness of the season and, like James says, remember “Shower the people you love with love.”

Sesame Almonds

Makes 3 1/2 cups almonds

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar (or sub out up to 2 tablespoons with honey or maple syrup)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or your healthy oil of choice)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 pound raw almonds (a scant 3 ½ cups)
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) white sesame seeds

Method:

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet and 2 wire cooling racks with parchment paper and set aside.

Pour the almonds into a mixing bowl. (If you keep your nuts in the freezer, warm them up in the oven for a few minutes first). In the microwave or on the stovetop stir together the brown sugar/honey/syrup, oil, salt, paprika, and vinegar over low heat. Pour mixture over the almonds and toss until the almonds are thoroughly coated. Transfer the almonds to the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer.

Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until the almonds are brown and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes total. They should be a rich brown color and just start to smell toasted as you open the oven door.

Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the hot almonds and stir to evenly distribute the seeds. This is where I go a little overboard, and try to get as many sesame seeds as possible to coat the almonds. Divide the nuts between the 2 prepared cooling racks and use a spatula to spread the nuts out so they do not touch. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Break apart any nut clusters that are stuck together if needed.

Bringing It:

Pour these babies into a treat bag, jar, tin or a cardboard takeout container lined with festive tissue paper, and store them in the fridge until you are ready to give them or devour them.

 

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Bringing It With Heart: Peacemaking Pepitas

Bringing on the love, and healthy debate.

You can’t please all the people all the time. This is true when it comes to food, and especially when it comes to what people consider “healthy” food. For various reasons, I’ve been flirting lately with both Vegan and Whole 30 ways of eating.

For those of you oblivious to food trends, Vegans avoid all food that comes from something with a face—meat, fish and all dairy, including eggs. The most vigilant Vegans also avoid honey, to protest the enslavement of bees. Whole 30 basically lines up with the Paleos, who embrace “high quality” protein, and especially animal protein. They make the sign of the cross to all grains, beans, processed foods and soy, which means tofu, tempeh, seitan and the like. Paleos blame life’s ills on inflammation, which come from the body trying to deal with sugar, a whole lot of which comes from grains. Vegans embrace grains and beans because without all that Verboten animal protein they get darned hungry.

Vegans are among the most creative eaters, making cheese from nuts, milk from hemp and mayo from chickpeas. The paleos get crafty points too, making pancakes without flour, oatmeal without oats and pizza crust from cauliflower. Martha points for all! Vegans get smug when the topics of obesity and high cholesterol come up; Paleos get smug when the Vegans look wan and tired; and the topic of bacon will polarize a mixed crowd faster than you can say Trump. All of this explains the popularity of the Mediterranean diet, which cuts right down the middle. Mediterranean eaters sit back and watch the show, enjoying a little bit of everything. They snack on olives, guiltlessly savor their dark chocolate and red wine and think, “Ah, yes. Life is moderately good!”

We had a recent health scare in our house, which prompted a close look at nutrition. People showed up bearing delicious, heart-healthy meals, as well as plenty of dark chocolate. It reminded me of how much I love our community and inspired me to tweak Bring It towards the healthier end of the spectrum. Like many of our friends, we lead pretty healthy lives, but there’s always room for improvement.

As discussed above, “healthy” means different things to different people; but, we’ve all got to try to get along in this world, especially at the table, and especially while we striving towards our own healthy, realistic, sustainable way of eating. Most of us just want good, healthy food that won’t break the bank, or take all day and an advance culinary degree to prepare. Fortunately, there are a few things on which all zealots agree, and I like to picture them as overlapping areas of a Venn diagram. The overlapping area of foods to avoid or seriously limit includes sugar, processed foods and, sadly, cheese. The overlapping area of acceptable foods includes greens, colorful veggies and roots, nuts, avocados, fruit (more or less) and coconut in its many forms. So we’ve got a starting point for common ground.

Of course, there will be many things that are beyond the universal overlap of all “healthy” diets. There are also times when you just have to go off the reservation. I’ll point you to those recipes with gusto, even if I’m not making them myself for a while. Case in point are these bronzies that a friend brought over recently. They totally raise the dessert bar, and WILL make you MVG (Most Valuable Guest).

For today, we’re keeping it simple and healthy: Pepitas roasted with sweet/salty coconut aminos. Coconut aminos are soy- and wheat-free, and while they are still a form of sodium, it’s less than straight up salt (a Tablespoon of coconut aminos has 300 mg sodium, the same as in 1/8 tsp salt). Even better, the Paleos turn a blind eye to the main ingredient, coconut sap, which sure sounds like a form of sugar to me. Shhhh! Let’s just enjoy this.

These pepitas are great sprinkled on salad, soup (like this one!) or roasted vegetables or as a snack any time of day.

Peacemaking Pepitas

Tweak the amounts up and down, but for best results don’t crowd your baking sheet. 1½ cups of nuts at a time per sheet is about the max.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw pepitas
  • 1 Tbsp coconut aminos (or more if you’re feeling it)
  • ½ -1 tsp chili powder (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pour pepitas on the parchment lined sheet, drizzle with aminos and stir them around to coat. Sprinkle with chili powder if using.

Bake for 10 minutes. Stir and check them for doneness. Return to over for 5 more minutes.

Let cool on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container (they get soggy otherwise).

Bringing it:

Warp ’em up! These make an excellent hostess gift or contribution to any feast.

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Drunken Fig Jam: Where fresh figs go to party

Fig Jamming New England style, with cheddar of course

How did I make it through life this far without ever canning? Why did I start now? Two fine questions. My two fine answers are fresh figs and fresh corn. They’re only around for a bit and they are so darned good.

Let’s start with figs. This recipe come from Treas, out in Cali, head chef at Granite Chief Command Central. Her recipe, which she shared with me after two years of my passive yet unremitting coersion, says that fig season is only in August. This handy guide to all things fig, gives us a larger window. According to google, there is a short season in early summer and then a longer season in late summer/fall. Either way, fresh figs are not around forever, and once you buy them you’ve got to use them fast. We should have a few more weeks at least, and cognac is always in season, so we’re good there. 

A little heads up to you non-canners out there. You need a big pot, you need to know that when you fill it too full with water and then put your jars in, your stove may have a hazardous overflow situation. You can only use canning lids once, which is why that whole mysterious section of parts in the grocery store exists. I guess that’s about it. I was going to get into racks for the bottom of your pot, but this recipe doesn’t call for one, so let’s run with the “ignorance is bliss” theory.

Another small cautionary note: When you are heading out to book group for three hours it’s best to turn the burner under your boiling fig jam OFF.  Next up? Corn relish to give Stonewall Kitchen a run for their money…and a new stockpot.

Fancying up a fall salad

Drunken Fig Jam

Recipe and action shots from Treas Manning
Makes 6 1/2 pint jars

Ingredients

• 2 lemons
• 4 pounds ripe fresh figs (preferably black), stemmed,
cut into 1/2-inch pieces (use food scale for accuracy)
• 4 cups sugar
• 3/4 cup brandy or Cognac
• 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Method:

Using a vegetable peeler, slice peel from lemons (try to avoid as much as the white part as possible) in long strips. Cut peel into matchstick-size strips. Combine lemon peel, figs, sugar, brandy, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in heavy large deep saucepan; let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Bring fig mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil until jam thickens (30 to 35 minutes), and is reduced to 6 cups, stirring frequently and occasionally use a hand blender to puree the mixture. It’s fine if there are small bits of lemon peel and fig, but I do like the bits to be minimal. Remove from heat.

Ladle mixture into 6 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

Notes: At high altitude over 5500 feet, process the jars for 15 minutes.

Drunken Fig Jam is yummy:

  • on a toasted baguette with a slice of melted Irish Cheddar, and a walnut on top.
  • on crusty bread with fresh burratta or mozzarella
  • on a grilled bone in pork chop, or on slices of pork tenderloin
  • on whole wheat toast topped with a strip of bacon for breakfast.
  • with cheese, sliced pears and walnuts on a groovy pizza

Bringing It and Giving It:

Makes a darned nice Christmas gift, especially canned in a Ball and Mason squatty wide mouth jar

 

 

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