Seasonal Feasting

June 30, 2011 § 2 Comments

Apologies, it’s been a little quiet over here!  We moved last weekend so that’s left me without my own kitchen for the next few days.  I am completely reveling in the fact that I get to enjoy someone else’s cooking.  And that cooking happens to be pretty wonderful (thank you Susan!).

So with no need to cook, but lots of time to plan things to cook, I’ve been focused on putting together my summer list. Many people have a summer list that involves going places and doing things outdoors.  And while I do plan on soaking up as much sun as possible, what I’m most excited about is the feasting and cooking.  This summer I’m really drawn to seasonal cocktails, homemade icy desserts, light dinners, and grilling anything but meat (think bread, stone fruits, pizza). Here’s what’s I’ve got lined up so far…

Homemade Ricotta What could be more fabulous than making cheese at home?  Given how simple the recipe is, this one is an absolute must.  I envision taking grilled slices of baguette, giving them a generous spread of ricotta, and topping it off with a slice of peach and sliver of prosciutto.

Fried Shrimp Cobb Salad I had a ridiculous Rock Shrimp Cobb salad at Columbia Firehouse last week that I am still thinking about.  Since then I’ve been transfixed on how I can recreate it at home.  The recipe I’ve linked to comes pretty close.  I can’t wait to make this one for a dinner party.

Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles  Ever since I made these, I’ve been dying to try another version of at home ice pops.  Given my love for Greek yogurt, I wanted a recipe that incorporated that ingredient.  I can’t wait to try blueberry and raspberry versions.

Lemonade: If there ever were beverage to make from scratch, it’s lemonade.  There’s so many ways to toy with the flavors, I plan on using everything from fresh ginger to basil in my at home versions (recipe to come on this one).

Grilled Pizza:  I grilled pizza for the first time last year, and oh my god was it good.  The cooking process can get a little precarious so it’s crucial to keep things simple.  I plan on follow Deb’s tips for grilling my pies (not to mention making pizza in general).

Ice Cream Pie: I’m really just using the warm temps as an excuse to make this one, I could go for it any time of year.  I can barely stand to look at the photos without rushing to the store to gather all the ingredients and make the pie immediately.

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Grilled Corn with Chili Lime Butter

June 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

There’s something about a rooftop barbecue that gets me way more excited than anything held in a backyard.  Last weekend we grilled out on a friend’s rooftop and it made for the perfect evening.  The weather  was surprisingly not too hot (given DC’s current temps), and the joint cooking effort made for a very relaxing meal.  We grilled salmon. We grilled garlic bread and topped it with a Greek style tomato salad. We had corn bread. We had beer. And then we had grilled corn, slathered in chile lime butter.  It was sinfully good.  Truth be told, I could have just eaten the corn (ok and perhaps the grilled garlic bread), and I would have been happy.

We have another barbecue this weekend. It’s serving as my main motivation to pack and move as much as possible today, in order to squeeze in some time with friends and good food tomorrow.  I won’t have time to prepare anything ahead of time, but granted we have enough time to swing by the store to grab the handful of ingredients needed for this side dish- we could easily prep the corn on site.

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Grilled Corn with Chili Lime Butter

Serves 5

5 ears fresh corn

4 T salted butter, softened

juice of 1/3 of one lime

1/2 tsp chili powder

5 dashes tobasco sauce

Mix together all ingredients except the corn and set aside.  Soak the corn thoroughly before throwing on the grill (this keeps it from burning and helps steam the kernels).  Prep your grill for whatever meat you are cooking.  Place the corn around the perimeter or off to the side, so it’s not on the hottest portion of the grill. Keep it on the grill for 10-12 minutes, rotating once.  Let cool slightly before serving.

A Salad and Salsa for Peach Season

June 22, 2011 § 7 Comments

I was telling a friend about the peach salad I was going to make for our Sunday brunch this past weekend, and after I’d run through the description, he replied “Oh! It’s like you’re making a big peach salsa.”  That wasn’t exactly the response I had hoped for.  I was not making a salsa, I was making a classy salad!  But then when I was actually making the salad, it dawned on me that if you gave the ingredients a finer dice, and added more acid and spice, you could have a really good salsa.  A salsa that makes you like peaches in your salsa.  Salad to salsa.  It was a moment where I felt like I was watching one of those cooking shows where they show you how to morph three meals into six, or something to that effect.

So first let me tell you about this salad. It’s zingy and sweet, and not overbearing in the slightest- the perfect compliment to buttery brunch foods.  It’s meant to be thrown together the morning of (or right before the meal) and refrigerated briefly. You don’t want the tomatoes sitting in there too long or they’ll lose their flavor.  Just before serving you should definitely taste for seasoning, as it will likely need more salt and a bit more lime juice.  Were I to make it again, I’d definitely add an avocado or two.  That would be divine.

I will confess I didn’t actually make a salsa with the ingredients.  But I’ve provided instructions below for how I plan on making the transformation with the next batch of peaches I pick up.

Peach and Tomato Salad slightly adapted from Mark Bittman

Serves 6

5 ripened medium tomatoes, chopped into large chunks

5 ripened peaches, chopped into large chunks

1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

olive oil

juice of one lime

s+p

Toss together the tomatoes, peaches, onion, and cilantro.  Juice half the lime over the bowl.  Go once around the bowl with the olive oil (meaning, let out enough oil to go in a slow circle).  Add a big pinch of salt and several grinds fresh black pepper.  Toss well, and refrigerate for just a half hour or so. Toss again before serving, season with additional salt and lime.

To make the salsa:  Finely dice two tomatoes, and two peaches.  Add in 3 T minced red onion and 3 T chopped cilantro.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the juice of one lime, 1/4 tsp grated garlic, 1/2 tsp cumin, big pinch of salt, and 5 shakes of Tobasco.  Pour dressing over salsa ingredients, and mix well.  Let chill in fridge for at least one hour before serving.  If you like a smoother salsa, you could throw all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times.

Nostalgia

June 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

In just five days, we move out of our apartment.  I went back and reviewed my posts, but I don’t think I’ve actually told you all that we are moving to New York. Yes,  New York!  Oh how I have waited for this day.  Though we won’t officially start our lease until the end of the summer, all plans are in place and it’s just a matter of time now before I’ll be that much closer to my family, and a whole host of wonderful friends.

Even though I’m beyond excited, I find myself feeling very nostalgic about our current home.  I  have never felt so sad to leave an apartment!  And that’s saying something considering I’ve moved every year for the past 4 years.  I wish we could just pack up the place with the rest of our stuff and call it a day.  Yes I love the kitchen and the amenities, but  it’s the things like our Saturday morning breakfast routine, the light in our bedroom, or the slight noise of the key in the door when Brandon gets home from work  that I’ll miss the most.  Of course we’ll develop new habits in our new space, but for now it’s hard to leave these ones behind.

It’s no secret I’m a planner.  Every other move I’ve made, I’ve begun packing weeks in advance.  By this point I would have been mostly packed.  But this time around I plan on reveling in this space up until the last moment.  So despite the fact that we’ve only packed maybe five boxes, I don’t feel stressed.  I just feel like squeezing as many more meals and moments and whatnot out of our last few days here.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

June 19, 2011 § 3 Comments

In celebration of Father’s Day (and as one last meal hosting hurrah in our apartment), we had Brandon’s family for brunch today.  As part of the meal, I made the Contessa’s blueberry coffee cake.  My grandmother was a lover of coffee cake, and I’m quite sure I inherited that trait directly from her. On the days my commute does involve a stop at Starbucks, it takes every bit of what little self restraint I have to not succumb to their blueberry or cinnamon coffee cake.

Brunch, though, offers the perfect excuse to make and eat coffee cake.  And this coffee cake is wonderful. No short cuts here, this is the buttery crumb heaven coffee cake was meant to be.  My only regret is that I didn’t put more blueberries in it. I’ve altered the recipe below to include an additional half cup.  Peaches would also work well.  And they are in season now, so all the more reason to try this cake.  Or in my case, undertake round two!  I served the cake along side this fool proof spinach quiche and a tomato/peach salad, which I’ll tell you all about later this week.  I’m a big believer in serving three dishes when it comes to brunch- something sweet, something savory, and an innovative salad to help balance the richness of the meal.   After today’s success, this trio has become my go to combination.

If I could “rate” the way we ate over the weekend, I’d say it was pretty top notch.  From a casual outdoor dinner with friends involving pizza, beer, and salted caramel gelato, to a roof top BBQ, this brunch was a great end to back to back days of great meals.  It was good prep for the week, as we will be in “clean out the pantry” cooking mode.

Hope everyone’s weekend (and Father’s day) was just as delicious!

Blueberry Coffee Cake adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt mixed with 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (I’d add in 1/2 cup more

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.  Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers, crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes (mine took 45 min), until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve at room temp.

Twist on an Oldie

June 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

The first recipe I ever blogged about was a caprese-esque pasta dish.   A childhood comfort food growing up, this pasta dish is now what I turn to when I’m craving simplicity (both in my life and my kitchen).  I’m constantly tweaking it, making slight changes here and there depending on my mood.

Continuing on the healthy front, I opted for whole wheat pasta in Sunday night’s version.  Truth be told, I’m not a lover of whole wheat pasta.  I’d often rather go without pasta that utilize whole wheat noodles.  But laden with poor eating guilt, I succumbed to them in the store.  If I am going whole wheat, I find shorter noodles to be much more approachable.  And of all the short pastas, I have a thing for fusili.  In a dish like this, fusili is the perfect size to allow one to capture a bit of every ingredient in each bite- and that’s exactly how you want to consume this meal.

I’m partial to this new version because it can be served room temp or cold, which makes it excellent for leftovers or transporting to summer get cook outs.

Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Pasta

Serves 4

1 lb whole wheat fusili

1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced

2 T minced garlic

2 cups packed basil, chopped

12 small balls or 1 large ball

olive oil

s+p to taste

Set a large pot of water to boil.  Once boiling, drop your pasta and cook until just al dente (7-8 minutes).  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a small baking dish toss together chopped tomatoes with olive, salt, and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes.  Remove the tomatoes from the oven, toss in garlic, and roast for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and place in a large bowl.  Stir in a bit of olive oil so the noodles don’t stick.  While pasta cools, chop basil and cut mozzarella into small cubes.  Toss in tomatoes, then basil, and lastly the mozzarella.  Add a liberal amount of salt and pepper to season.  Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Back to Reality Breakfast

June 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

While we ate delicious meals during our vacation, my diet definitely suffered- especially breakfast.  In the past week my morning meals have consisted of eggs benedict, massive breakfast burritos, and even an Egg McMuffin (the lowest of the low).

In an effort to get things back on track this week I made “overnight oats” for the first time.  Overnight oats is a version of oatmeal which is not cooked but rather served cold.  The oats cook, so to speak, by soaking in a mixture of yogurt and milk over night.  Once most of the liquid is absorbed, the mixture thickens into a creamy consistency.  Topped with fruit and a mild sweetener, it delivers far more nutrition that anything I ate in the past week.  I topped mine with strawberries, asI’m set on consuming as many as possible while they’re in season.  However, if you are  banana and peanut butter lover, that combo would serve as an excellent topping as well.

Overnight Oats adapted from Peanut Butter Runner

Makes 1 serving

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup greek yogurt

1/3 cup milk

1 T ground flax seeds

1/4 tsp cinnamon

honey and strawberries for topping

Stir together all ingredients together except for the honey and berries.  Let sit in the fridge overnight (or at least 3 hours).  Before adding toppings, you may want to add a bit more milk as the mixture will be very thick.

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