Stone Fruit Salad

I’ve been keeping a mental list of the millions of things I love about summer. Besides the weather, happy people everywhere, and endless activities, one thing I have been appreciating lately is the changing availability of fruits and vegetables. After a long winter of squash and potatoes, a new fruit or vegetable comes into season each week during the summer! One week we have asparagus, the next I’m buying cherries by the bushel. It’s pretty neat and the limitless variety keeps me both inspired and eager to eat.

Stone Fruit Salad

So here we are in stone fruit season with yet another salad. I mean, who cooks in the summer? Mostly I crave big bowls of lettuce simply dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, but every once in a while, I’ll get fancy and make my salad something special.

Stone Fruit Salad (5)

Now, I don’t usually eat salads with balsamic vinegar. Maybe it was over done in the early aughts, but I just do not care much for it. With stone fruits, however, this yogurt balsamic works perfectly over their acidic sweetness. Top it with sweet corn and jicama, and you have the perfect mid-summer salad.

Stone Fruit Salad (1)

 

Stone Fruit Salad with Sweet Corn, Jicama, and Yogurt-Balsamic

*Vary the amounts of each based on your preference. The dressing recipe yields a big batch; store leftover in the fridge if needed.

arugula
nectarine, sliced thinly

peach, sliced thinly
plum, sliced thinly
cherries, halved
jicama, peeled and julienned
sweet corn, shucked

1/2 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup
juice of half a lemon
1 garlic clove, smashed in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the sweet corn using your favorite method. I just boil the cobs for about 5 minutes. Let them cool, then cut the corn off the cob. Layer the vegetables and fruit in a salad bowl or on a plate.

For the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a large mason jar or bowl. Shake/whisk to combine. Pour over the salad and eat!

 

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Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

A couple years ago, I read this recipe for roasted strawberries and thought, “why would one want to alter a perfect summer strawberry?” Then I bought two pounds of strawberries at Costco – admittedly not perfect summer strawberries – and decided to try it. WOW. wow. The beauty of roasting strawberries is that it coaxes this deep, rich flavor out of even mediocre strawberries. I’m still not sure I would roast those little bright red beauties from the farmer’s market – those just taste too good on their own – but for every other strawberry in the world, this will now be my go-to preparation.

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

This was also my first stab at a frozen dessert, and I must say… again… wow. The key here is to consistently churn and stir the yogurt as it’s freezing. If you have an ice cream maker, that works as well, but you can still get pretty nice results by just pulling the bowl out of the freezer every 30 minutes to an hour to stir the mixture around. The more frequently you pull it out and stir it, the creamier the result. As an experiment, I just let a bowl of yogurt freeze without any stirring. I ended up with a bowl of ice, essentially.

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (2)

I don’t really like big frozen strawberry chunks in my ice cream or frozen yogurt, so I just used the balsamic strawberry sauce that results from the roasting to flavor the yogurt and then poured the fruit over the top for serving. Much better than giant frozen chunks of strawberries mixed in. You might also notice some raspberries in these pictures. I had a few of those and therefore tossed them in as well.

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt (7)

Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

1 pound fresh strawberries, leaves removed, halved
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
pinch or two of salt

1 quart full-fat plain yogurt
4 tablespoons maple syrup

finely shredded mint, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 350. On a deep baking tray, scattered the strawberries and cover with a bit of salt and the vinegar. Toss around to coat all the berries, then spread the berries into a single layer in the dish. Bake for 35-40 minutes. When done roasting, pour the strawberries and all the juices into a bowl and set aside.

In a metal bowl, combine the yogurt, maple syrup, and 1/2 cup of the liquid that results from roasting the strawberries. Have a taste here… the yogurt should taste just slightly too sweet. When it freezes, that sweetness will dull a bit and be perfect. Put the bowl in the freezer. Every 30 minutes to one hour, pull the bowl out and stir the mixture, being sure to scrape down the sides and incorporate any icy parts. Continue to do this until it reaches the consistency you like, between 4 and 6 hours.

When ready to serve, scoop the frozen yogurt into a bowl, top with roasted strawberries and a bit more sauce, and garish with fresh mint.

Kale, Tomato, and Cheese Curd Salad

[Please excuse the poorly-lit iPhone photos.]

I stopped by the farmer’s market this weekend to pick up some peppers for our Sunday afternoon of pickling and canning. In the process, I came across these cute little cherry tomatoes. And kale. And in my search for some type of cheese to throw into this evolving salad, I bought some cheese curds.

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It may seem like a strange combo, but it was really tasty. Be careful when adding the salt because cheese curds are pretty salty already. Eric and I ate this, walked around the neighborhood a bit, then came back and canned 13 jars worth of pickles and pickled peppers. If they turn out like I think they will, I’ll share the recipe on here.

Eric also got his first lesson in mandolin technique when slicing the cucumbers. About two minutes after I showed him how to use it and warned him to be very careful not to chop his finger off – you guessed it – he sliced the top of his finger off. The cukes were fine, though, and so was he. As for me, my eyes burned putting my contacts in this morning from the pepper oils that are still on my fingers, but I think it will be worth it.

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Kale, Tomato, and Cheese Curd Salad

1 bunch Lacinato kale, finely shredded
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 cup squeaky cheese curds, chopped into small chunks
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh cayenne pepper or other spicy pepper, minced
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste

In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, kale, and cheese curds. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, pepper, and lemon. Dress the salad to your liking and season to taste with salt.

Green Bean + Garlic Scape Salad

I’ve been using my mortar and pestle almost daily lately. I’ve been making loads of tasty salad dressings with it and last night I made fresh basil pesto. What I love most about using the m&p is the way the garlic forms this liquid-y, flavorful paste when you smash it with a little salt. I’ve been getting this mild variety of garlic from the farmer’s market that works perfect in its raw form in a salad dressing.

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We went backpacking in the Cucamonga Wilderness outside of LA a couple weeks ago, which was pretty fun. It was my first time backpacking and it was pretty brilliant. Now that we have some gear, Eric and I will be doing more camping trips since they’re pretty inexpensive and fun.

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We have a little weekend trip to Portland coming up, also, which will include copious amounts of micro-brewed beer and tasty PNW food. I feel like I should be an advertisement for Southwest since that is who we have been and will be flying for all these trips. This view from my seat was too good, so I turned on my phone below 10,000 feet to take this picture while we were landing. Gasp!

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Green Bean Salad 1

Green Bean + Garlic Scape Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

1 pound fresh green beans
garlic scapes, optional
1/2 medium-sized red onion
1/4 cup slivered almonds

1 small clove raw garlic
2 cloves roasted garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Start by bringing a pot of water – large enough to fit all the beans and garlic scapes in – to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath while the water is warming up. When the water starts to boil, add the green beans and garlic scapes and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the water and immediately put in the ice bath. Strain and set aside.

Slice the onion into thin slivers. Quick-pickling them by soaking in vinegar or lime juice while you’re preparing the recipe is great. I forgot to do this here, but feel free. Otherwise, set aside. Toast the almonds for a few minutes in a dry pan.

For the dressing, smash the raw garlic in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt until it forms a paste. Add the roasted garlic. I like to pan-roast my garlic these days – just throw a couple cloves in a dry pan and move them around until the skins start to darken. Should take 5-8 minutes. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan and then add those and the black peppercorns to the mortar and pestle. Crush the whole mixture together and add a splash of olive oil. Remove the mixture into a jar and add the lemon and olive oil. Shake to combine.

To serve, combine the beans and garlic scapes, onion, and almonds with the salad dressing.

Kale and Black Lentil Salad

I’m back in the US of A and enjoying every moment of it! I’ve been getting in lots of cuddle time with my kitties and Eric in between all the activities – Lollapalooza, pickling and canning (!), farmer’s markets, and workouts. Eric got my bike tuned up over the summer so we’ve been biking everywhere! Biking = freedom, and it’s been awesome.

I’m working on sorting the 2000+ photos and videos that I took over the past month. We spent two weeks in Ethiopia, one week in Uganda, and then one week on the Kenyan coast. Every part of the trip was different and incredible. What a blissful month.

Kale and Black Lentil Salad 1

One thing I love about being home, though, is the ability to cook the way I like to cook. In the past week I’ve been to the farmer’s market twice and am so in love with the variety of veg we get here in the summer. I bought about 10lbs of heirloom tomatoes that I plan on making bloody mary’s with, and I pickled loads of different varieties of chiles today. The kale in this salad also comes from the market, and while I do enjoy the kale you find all over Kenya – sukuma wiki – I still prefer dino kale in my salads.

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Kale and Black Lentil Salad with Black Pepper + Avocado Dressing

The ripeness of the avocado for the dressing is important – if it’s not soft enough, it won’t mash nicely. You could alternatively use a food processor, but it’s much simpler to just make it in a mason jar. I like it still kind of chunky.

I actually bought the black lentils at a health food store in Nairobi. If you can’t find them, you can substitute with other sturdy lentils.

1 bunch dino kale
1/2 cup dried black lentils, rinsed and cooked 
1 cup cooked chickpeas
3 carrots, shredded on a grater
1 big heirloom tomato, diced

2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt or flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried coriander seeds
1/2 very ripe avocado, finely diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil

Remove kale from the stems and cut it into fine ribbons. Combine in a large bowl with the lentils, chickpeas, carrots, and tomato.

In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic with salt to make a paste. Add the black peppercorns and coriander seeds and process until the seeds are crushed and everything is combined. Scoop the paste into a jar and add the avocado and liquid ingredients. Use a fork to mash up the avocado in the jar. Put the lid on the jar and shake vigorously.

Toss salad with dressing and add salt to taste.

 

Ceviche

I’ve mentioned before that I ate boatloads of ceviche in Central America this past summer. I made a ceviche recipe by Rick Bayless once before, and while you generally cannot go wrong with a Rick Bayless recipe, I actually prefer the more simplistic version I ate all summer. In most places, it is served with crackers – either saltines or a Ritz-style kind, but I generally prefer it with tortilla chips.

Central American-Style Ceviche

1 pound any type of white fish – I used tilapia
1 heirloom tomato, diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 jalapeno, de-seeded and finely minced
1/2 onion, finely diced
juice of 5-6 limes, possibly more
salt & pepper

Cut the fish into ~1-inch cubes submerge in lime juice in a stainless steel or glass bowl. If you don’t get enough juice from 5-6 limes, be sure to add more – every single piece of fish needs to be covered. Let sit for 2-4 hours. It’s done when you see the fish turn opaque. If you leave it much longer than 4 hours, though, the fish can become too tart.

Drain the juice thoroughly and mix in the other ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mexican Micheladas

This drink has been our obsession all summer. Eric and I started drinking Micheladas at Big Star, a taco joint just down the street from us. At Big Star, a Michelada is made by squeezing lime and pouring hot sauce into the bottom of a salted-rim glass, then topping it with Tecate beer.


Michelada con Sol on the beach on Isla Holbox

When we went to Mexico this summer, we averaged two Micheladas a day, but in the Yucatan, they were different than what we were used to from Big Star. Different – and better. These Micheladas contained all sorts of goodies under that beer – Maggi juice, which tastes an awful lot like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime, and hot sauce. When ordering, you specify the type of beer you want – we found most light beers to be pretty comparable – and they serve the beer alongside the glass so you can pour it in yourself.


Eric enjoying his Michelada

Let’s talk about the Maggi juice for a minute because this is important. Every single bar we went to used Maggi juice. There was no substitute. When I’d ask what Maggi juice was, I’d always get this same answer – “It’s just Maggi juice”. I found my bottle at a Mexican grocer. The viscosity is slightly thicker than soy sauce, but I’m sure soy sauce would add the appropriate flavor.


Sunset, swing, and micheladas

We found we liked them a bit heavy on the Maggi and hot sauce side. The one pictured above was heavier on the lime. There didn’t seem to be any exact proportions, but when we got home, we experimented with how we like them. Here’s how you do it:

Mexican Michelada

Nice, chunky sea salt
Maggi juice or soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce
1 lime
Mexican beer like Tecate, Modelo, Sol, Pacifico, etc

Rub lime juice around the rim of your glass and them dip the rim into a plate of salt.

Add ice to the glass and pour in 1 teaspoon of Maggi juice, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons of hot sauce, and the juice of half a lime.

Top it with beer.

Mix and enjoy.

Heirloom Pico de Gallo + Mexico Pictures

Being in Central America all summer was pretty cool, I must admit, but I did miss a few things about Chicago. Namely, farmer’s markets. I never found quite the variety of vegetables in Central America that I find in Chicago – seems counter intuitive, since the fertile, sunny lands of that region seem ripe for producing some excellent veg. However, with the shear population of yuppies in the US, not to mention a perhaps new-found appreciation for farm-fresh products, the US boasts some pretty amazing produce. So when I was eating sad, mealy, flavorless little tomatoes in Panama, I could only think about the luscious heirlooms showing up at farmer’s markets at home.

The first Saturday I was home I went to the Green City Market in Chicago and bought about two pounds of heirloom tomatoes. My god.  Where did this flavor come from? I made this variation of pico de gallo featuring a variety of heirloom tomatoes, an onion, a jalapeno, and garlic – all fresh from the farmer’s market. And really, I think that’s the trick – the fact that everything came from the market is perhaps why it tasted so good. Also, though, I think there is something to be said for fresh farmer’s market garlic. I mean – wow! Wow! Have you ever had this stuff? It’s so juicy and pungent. I bought three types – I can’t remember the varietal names – but I labeled them mild, medium, and strong. I used the mild garlic for this pico de gallo, as I used it raw. It really added this silky, complex dimension that, in my opinion, really boosted this salsa to a whole new level.

Also, before my solo adventure through Central America, Eric and I spent a week and a half in Cozumel and the Yucatan in Mexico. Two very cool friends of ours were married on a beach in Cozumel, so we took the time to travel a bit after the festivities. To be honest, Mexico, or the Yucatan more specifically, has never been high on my travel priority list. I’ve always thought it was where Americans went who didn’t know how to travel anywhere else. Americans who were afraid of new cultures and languages (wait, they speak Spanish in Mexico?). You know the type. And while there were certainly plenty of those people – I mean, Playa del Carmen is practically Florida – we also discovered that Mexico is really, really awesome! I always say – it’s probably touristy for a reason – and that description is so fitting of the Yucatan. People have been coming to this part of the world for so long because it is downright beautiful. Take a look:


El otro lado – the other side – the East side of Isla Cozumel
Have you ever seen more inviting water? Whiter sand? A cuter butt?


Eric makes the snorkel in the Dos Ojos Cenote (aka sinkhole, or cave)


Fish feast in Tulum – ceviche, pescado a la plancha, y mas


Sunset on Isla Holbox


Streets of Isla Holbox – no paved roads, no cars, only golf carts!


A little video of snorkeling with whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico


Eric practices his moves in the “stadium” at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza


Church on the main square in Vallodolid


This is what Eric says is possibly one of the best meals of his life. Tortas and burritos in Valladolid.

And finally… a recipe!

Heirloom Pico de Gallo

Like I mentioned above, the fresh garlic made this dish a real winner.

2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves mild, fresh garlic, diced
1-2 jalapenos, diced
salt

Combine all ingredients and add salt to taste. Wait about 15 minutes before digging in to allow the garlic flavors to permeate the dish. Serve with chips. 

Figs with Blue Cheese and Proscuitto

Sorry about the timing on this. I wasn’t really sure if I should post this tonight – after all, fig season is long gone – but I found dried figs at the store last night and it reminded me that I forgot to share one of the prettiest, easiest things I’ve ever made. This dish was inspired by an appetizer we ordered at Cafe Spiaggia – the restaurant whose more sophisticated sibling is a famous favorite of the Obama’s. It was a wonderful, simple dish composed of fresh figs, proscuitto, and shaved parmesano. When I found figs in my market not long after, I instantly snatched them up. The mild taste of fresh figs is really beautiful and they pair perfectly with the salty of the proscuitto and tangy of the blue cheese.

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So anyway, bookmark this recipe and wait until next year. It’s worth it.

Figs with Blue Cheese and Proscuitto

inspired by a dish at Cafe Spiaggia

I’m finding it very difficult to list measurements for this recipe, so I’ll just list the ingredients and you can estimate the amounts on your own.

Fresh Mission figs
Good quality blue cheese (I happened to have Maytag, but others will work well also)
Thin cut slices of proscuitto
Extra virgin olive oil
Agave nectar or honey
Salt and pepper

To assemble, cut the blue cheese into small chunks and the proscuitto into strips about an inch wide. Cut the figs into quarters, then wrap each segment with proscuitto, enclosing the blue cheese. The proscuitto will stick together pretty well on its own, so wrap it tightly to hold in the cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and just a drop of agave nectar. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

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Food Party & Red Snapper Ceviche

It’s been a while since my friend Evan moved to Chicago – going on five months now – but believe it or not, he only recently bought a couch. In Evan’s mind, there is  no better way to celebrate buying a couch than to have a food-centric housewarming party (ok, so I may have had something to do with the party idea, but if you know Evan, you know the food-centric theme was all him).

Anyway, every invitee brought a recipe they had never, ever made before. Something they have never attempted. Something they never even thought about making. This set us up for potential disaster, to be sure, but surprisingly we all got out unharmed (unless you count being full past the point of comprehension). The food, in fact, was fabulous. I made a red snapper ceviche from Rick Bayless’s One Plate at a Time, which I’ll share below, but first is a little photo essay from the night.

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Cheese to kick start the evening

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Evan’s on-fire, very strong rye drink

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Evan rinsing brown basmati rice

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Danielle mincing garlic with this nifty garlic grinder

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Danielle wrapping egg rolls

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Evan not deveining the shrimp

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Lots of butter in this recipe

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Heaven

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More butter

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Shrimp in curry spices

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Dessert… cherries jubilee

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Barely fit this in my belly

Red Snapper Ceviche

from Rick Bayless’s One Plate at a Time

~1 pound red snapper, or fillets from 1 large meaty white fish
1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice, or enough to completely cover all the fish
1 small white onion, chopped
2 large jalapeños, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup pitted green manzanillo olives
2 large  ripe tomatos, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 small jícama, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
juice of 1 orange

In a large stainless steel or glass bowl (plastic or other metals will react with the acid and add a yucky flavor to your fish), combine the fish, lime juice, and onion.  The fish should float freely in the juice; if not, add a little more.  Cover and refrigerate until the fish is cooked – I left mine in for 4 hours, but wish I had taken it out after 2-3 as I found it to be a bit too acidic. Strain out the lime juice and set the fish aside.

Combine the green chiles, olives, tomato, jícama, cilantro, and olive oil. Stir in the fish, with salt and orange juice.  Refrigerate until ready to serve — preferably no longer than an hour or two. Serve with tortilla chips

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