Tag Archives: summer

Fine art fruit.

Standard
Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

The first cookbook I ever bought with my own money is titled The Fine Art of Garnishing. It came packaged with 5 small tools which enabled me to turn a radish into a rose, an apple into a bird, and, most importantly, carve a watermelon. For one summer cookout after another, I carved watermelons to serve fruit salad. Family photos reveal watermelons carefully crafted to resemble whales, Viking sailing ships, and baskets.

the fine art of garnishingWe’d scoop out the watermelons using a melon baller, and toss the fruit with cantaloupe, honeydew, peaches and berries. While I still love a good fruit salad, there are meals when I want my watermelon dressed a little more elegantly. The savory flavors of bright vinegar, bitter greens and sharp cheese balance delightfully with sugary fruits. They are the perfect companion to anything smoky and charred from the grill.

I suppose, if you’re going to use such sophisticated ingredients, you should probably present them more formally. May I suggest a watermelon?

Watermelon Gorgonzola Salad

Serves 6

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups watermelon cut in 1” cubes
  • 2 cups baby arugula, loosely packed
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup Cava Rosé, or other light, red wine vinegar*
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2/3 cups olive oil – the good stuff!
  • 1 cup chilled, crumbled gorgonzola cheese

*Cava Rosé is a wonderful summer introduction from our friends at Sapore. I paired it with Koroneiko, a light, grassy, Greek olive oil.

Directions:

  • Toss together watermelon and arugula in a large bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together shallot, vinegar and honey.
  • Whisk olive oil into vinegar mixture to form a thick, creamy emulsion.
  • Stir cheese crumbles into vinaigrette and taste with a cube of watermelon.
  • Season dressing to taste with additional salt, pepper, vinegar or oil and lightly dress watermelon and arugula.
  • If making this ahead, keep the watermelon separate. It will release water which will dilute your dressing and wilt the arugula.
Advertisements

Meat on a stick.

Standard
Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

When I was a kid, fondue was a special family night. Mom would plug in the electric pot full of vegetable oil on the dining room table, as we grabbed for whichever long, two-tined fork was tipped in our favorite color. We cooked cubes of top sirloin in the hot fat, then dipped them into the homemade Béarnaise and burgundy sauces that Mom set out in small bowls.

I know fondue pots are a lost fashion of the 1970’s, but I have so many fond memories; like the time my godmother, Aunt Ali, served cheese fondue, and I spent the rest of the night throwing up. (Totally not her fault. It was an 8 year-old’s stomach bug. And the fondue was delicious!)

Whether at the end of a fork , skewered with wood  for a party or metal for the grill, meat on a stick is one of those foods – like anything smothered in cheese or made with bacon – that leaves us clamoring for more. These kebabs, spicy with Tunisian Harissa – a paste of sun dried chills, sweet with brown sugar, rich with tomato paste and earthy with fresh thyme, are exotic but easy. Oh, and if your fork handles have colored tips, I’ll take the blue.

Top Sirloin Cherry Tomato Harissa Kebabs

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbs Harissa
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup Pomegranate Vinegar* or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 quart cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large green peppers cut in 2” pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds top sirloin steak cut in 2” cubes (about 2 steaks)

*Pomegranate vinegar is back at Sapore (and it’s delicious!).

 

Directions:

IMG_2249-1

Photography by Sam Armocido

  • Make marinade: Whisk together Harissa, brown sugar, tomato paste, red wine, Pomegranate Vinegar, cinnamon, thyme and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Mix together tomatoes, peppers and steak and toss to coat with marinade. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
  • If using wooden skewers, soak them for an hour before grilling.
  • Load skewers with beef, tomatoes, and peppers.
  • Prepare a hot grill and cook over direct heat for 2-3 minutes per side, about 8-10 minutes total for medium rare.
  • While grilling, place remaining marinade, and any extra tomatoes, in a small saucepan and cook at a high simmer until thickened.
  • Brush cooked kebabs with sauce and serve.

Have I mentioned my book?

Standard
Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

My husband Jason and I received I a picinic “basket” as a wedding gift from our friend, Jess. The vintage suitcase arrived, filled with beautiful, reclaimed flatware and serving ware, linens and wine glasses. Like Jess, it is fabulous-casual. You know, like those friends who roll out of bed, pull on whatever clothes lay about their feet, and end up looking like the cover of Vogue?

Now I needed a dish as fabulous as the picnic case. Something that we could serve with a bottle of sparkling rosé, sipped by ladies in gloves and men wearing hats and suspenders.

Et voilà, I succeeded! This herb-poached chicken is perfectly moist. The dry wine, peppercorns and bay ground a beautiful sauce. It’s made slightly sweet by the chicken, tarragon and butter. Cook it ahead and serve it cold with cucumbers dressed in Merlot vinegar, French potato salad and slices of sweet, clean, white peaches and nectarines.

Now I just need a hat.

*I was recently advised that I needed to get comfortable with shameless self-promotion in order to sell my upcoming book, Simple Summer: A Recipe for Cooking and Entertaining with Ease. Here’s one of the recipes. I hope you enjoy it. How was that for shameless?

Herb poached chicken

Serves 6

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 chicken breast halves
  • 3 sprigs tarragon
  • 3-4 sprigs parsley
  • 4-5 chives
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbs Champagne Mimosa* or other white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs cold butter, cut in pieces

*Sightly sweet and beautiful balanced, the mild acidity of Sapore’s Champagne Mimosa vinegar brightens this dish and many summer salads without overpowering the fresh ingredients.

Serve light-tasting French potato salad with this white wine, herb-poached chicken.

Serve light-tasting French potato salad with this white wine, herb-poached chicken.

Directions:

  • Warm oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onion and sauté until softened and translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Reduce heat if needed, to cook onions without browning.
  • Add garlic and cook two minutes, until fragrant.
  • Place chicken breasts in pan in a single layer. Tuck herbs between chicken.
  • Mix together wine and stock, and pour into pan.
  • Cover pan and bring to a simmer. Cook chicken for 10-15 minutes until done, 165 degrees. Be careful not to let poaching liquid boil.
  • Remove chicken to a platter and tent with foil.
  • Add peppercorns, bay leaves and vinegar to pan and simmer until reduced by half. Strain sauce, discard solids and return liquid to pan.
  • Add any juices that have collected under the chicken and cook until reduced to 1 cup.
  • Remove sauce from heat and whisk in butter to thicken.
  • Serve warm or chill and serve cold. Either way, don’t forget the sauce.

Too darn hot.

Standard
Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

For Natalie

When it gets really hot and humid, I get nostalgic, or delirious, about my childhood summers. Without AC, on New England’s hottest summer days we’d jump in a lake or sit in front of a fan (speaking like Darth Vader, of course). Dinner was served cold, following a swim, and dessert was ice cold out of the freezer, usually juice frozen in a popsicle mold.

Summer meals were fresh from the garden. We would wake up in the morning to a list of chores, which included a pic list to of ripe vegetables to harvest. My Mom would send us out with a woven basket…

You just rolled your eyes so far back in your head you can see yesterday.

This really was my childhood. We really did pick green beans, tomatoes and peppers in the morning. We swam in Pelham or Puffer’s ponds. And no, mom would not get us those sugary frozen tubes of bright blue, red and orange ice, no matter how hard we begged. But she made a mean cucumber salad, and I lived for fried rounds of breaded, egg-dipped squash cut from large zucchinis.

I admit, I had it pretty darn good, but I’m still excited to go home to air conditioning tonight.

Cucumber Zucchini Salad

Serves 6

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced.
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Dressing:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup Merlot* or another red wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Arbrosana* or another good quality Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 tbs chopped dill and parsley

*Sapore’s cool choices for this hot weather salad. Merlot is a beautifully balanced red wine vinegar, not the typical prickly acid-bomb from the grocery store. Arbrosana is bold and green. Buy ’em online.

Directions:

  • Mix together cucumbers, zucchini and red onion in a large bowl.
  • Make dressing: mash garlic and a pinch of coarse salt into a paste.
  • Whisk together garlic paste with Merlot Vinegar and mustard.
  • Whisk oil into dressing in a thin stream to form a creamy emulsion.
  • Whisk yogurt into dressing. Fold in herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Dress vegetables starting with about 2/3 of the dressing and adding more as needed. Season to taste.
  • If not serving immediately, season to taste before serving.

Mom was very, very right.

Standard
Zucchini Pappardelle Pasta

Photography by Sam Armocido

When Mom said we were having a vegetable for dinner – say zucchini or green beans – it was, typically, just that. They were steamed, seasoned with salt and pepper, and possibly tossed with fresh herbs, usually parsley or basil from the garden. If Mom felt the rest of the meal was sufficiently healthy, she would add a small pat of butter. This, it turns out, is a fabulous way to serve almost any vegetable.

We should have been less surprised then, I suppose, by the overwhelming success of a recent attempt at zucchini pasta. I think it was the “pasta” that misled us. I mean, I have trouble thinking that sautéed strips of squash are in any way going to deliver the deep satisfaction of semolina spaghetti. I was wrong. (And, because I would never hear the end of it from my husband, let’s keep that little admission just between us.)

The long strips we quickly shaved with a vegetable peeler resembled wide pappardelle noodles. Cooked over low heat to keep the flavor light, we tossed in garlic and a splash of lemon juice, fresh basil and a grating of Parmesan cheese. We then made another batch, arguing that we should probably try adding fresh tomato.

Our third panful confirmed it was actually fine without the tomato, and the fourth we needed for a photograph. We are currently planning future batches to serve under chicken piccata and shrimp scampi.

You know, just to be on the safe side, I going to retract any admission that I was wrong. Let’s simply say my Mom was very, very right.

Zucchini Pappardelle Pasta

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!*
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 tbs chopped basil
  • 1-2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

*We use Sapore’s Frantoio, a light, buttery Italian oil. (Which you can order online.)

Directions:

  • Warm 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat in a 12” skillet. Add zucchini and sauté, turning often with tongs, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook until zucchini is softened, about 3 minutes longer.
  • In skillet, toss in parsley, basil, lemon juice and remaining 1 tbs olive oil.
  • Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Golumbki.

Standard
Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Growing up, golumbki (pronounced ga-WUMP-ki) frequently graced our dinner table. Beef and rice, wrapped in cabbage leaves and baked in tomato sauce, would arrive to the table alongside bottles of ketchup and cider vinegar. Babci (my Polish grandmother) or Cioci Mary (her sister) would send them home in a casserole dish, or Mom would wrap and bake them in our kitchen. In case of emergency, there was always a foil pan tucked away somewhere in the basement freezer.

While this may seem the obvious origin for combining earthy chard, spicy chorizo and herbed rice, it’s not.

The recipe began with a bag of young Rainbow Chard leaves from Gardener’s Gourmet. The grounded, green flavor begged for fat and spice, bestowed by Mexican Chorizo sausage, smokey with pimentón, from the meat case at Canales. Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian for Everyone pointed to pairing cilantro with chard, which reminded me of arroz verde – rice infused with a paste of fresh herbs. The resulting pairing, splashed with Sapore’s Cava Rosé vinegar, was delicious. A kitchen victory!

Maybe I’ll try it with ketchup.

Chorizo and Chard with Green Rice

Serves 6-8

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 Mexican Chorizo sausages
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 pound young chard
  • 1 tsp Sherry or Cava Rosé* vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

*A new arrival at Sapore Oil and Vinegar.

Directions:

  • Warm oil in a large skillet. Remove sausage from casings and add to pan.
  • Cook, crumbling sausage until browned. Remove sausage from pan with a slotted spoon.
  • Add onion to pan and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes.
  • Add chard to pan and cook until wilted.
  • Return sausage to pan, with vinegar and cilantro. Mix.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional vinegar.

Green Rice

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup mixed herbs like cilantro, parsley and chives
  • 2 tbs dry sherry
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup rice

Directions:

  • Place garlic, herbs and sherry in a blender or food processor with 1/4 cup water. Purée.
  • Warm olive oil in a 2 quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add rice and cook 3-5 minutes until golden brown on edges.
  • Add garlic-herb past and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until herbs mellow and liquid is absorbed.
  • Add 2 cups water to pan. Cover and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to low and cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Fluff with a fork and serve topped with Chorizo and chard.

Red, White and Waldorf.

Standard
Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

“You’ve got to serve something red, white and blue,” says Valerie, a U.S.Department of State employee by day, farmer on nights and weekends (God, I love DC!). We were discussing the catering menu I was planning in celebration of a friend’s recent citizenship.

“What’s blue besides blueberries,” I thought. “Besides, they’re not locally in season yet.”

So, I settled for red and white, 2/3 of the way there. My homage to the salad Oscar Tschirky created for the Waldorf Hotel would have to make up the balance. Sweet strawberries replaced apple, while crisp fennel stood in for celery. Toasted pepitas lent warmth in place of walnuts and a sweet, light vinaigrette displaced heavier mayonnaise as the dressing.

Add a handful of the June’s first tart-sweet blueberries, and you may just have this season’s superlative summer salad.

Strawberry And Shaved Fennel Salad

Serves 6

Washed StrawberriesFor dressing:

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup White Balsamic or Tropical Spice* vinegar
  • 2/3 cup grape seed, vegetable or Avocado* oil

For salad:

  • 1/2 cup pepitas*
  • 2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
  • 2 fennel bulbs thinly sliced
  • 1 tbs fennel fronts, finely chopped
  • 2 mint leaves, finely chopped

*We’ve been shopping at Sapore again! A mild tasting oil is important here. Olive oils will overpower the other flavors. Pepitas are raw pumpkin seeds. Smooth and green, you will find them with other packaged nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Substitute toasted sunflower seeds if you can’t find them.

Directions:

  • Combine shallot, sugar, mustard and salt in a bowl with vinegar. Whisk together.
  • Toast pepitas in a small skillet over medium heat, tossing often to prevent burning. Once you hear them start to pop, toast for a minute longer until at least 1/3 of the seeds are browned on 1 side.
  • Combine strawberries, fennel, fennel fronds and mint in a separate bowl. Toss together.
  • Whisk oil into dressing to form a creamy emulsion.
  • Season dressing to taste and toss with salad.
  • Top with toasted pepitas.
  • Can be served alone or over greens like baby spinach or butter lettuce.