Roasted Asparagus with Tomato-Almond Pesto Trapanese

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Roasted Asparagus with Tomato-Almond Pesto Trapanese

The Italian city of Trapani, on Sicily’s westernmost tip, has an identity all of its own. That’s because geographically speaking it’s closer both in distance and topography to Tunis than Naples. In fact, it’s closer to several African ports than it is to any part of mainland Italy. It owes much of its heritage to the sea and its importance to the ancient trade routes. Trapani flourished as the center of Phoenician trading because it was a navigationally necessary port during the middle ages. These facts helped Sicily’s foods to develop separately and distinctly from the rest of Italy. It’s hot, dry, predominately flat landscape seems more reminiscent of North Africa than most parts of Italy and is another determinate factor in its culinary past.

Almonds are a rather frequent visitor to the cooking of Trapani (and Sicily in general). They grow all over the place. It’s not unusual to see almond trees growing in the wild right alongside other trees, like date and citrus. All of which found their way to Sicily on ancient trading ships and have established themselves quite nicely.

My favorite of the almond-centric recipes is the Trapanese version of pesto. I am sure the Genovese might argue with the term pesto, as this sauce is not green at all. It’s a rustic mix of chopped almonds and fresh, cherry tomatoes. There is often a bit of heat to the recipe in the form of red-pepper. Like the more traditional green pesto sauce, this version is either painstakingly pounded together in a mortar and pestle, or hastily whirled in a food processor before being tossed with good local pasta.

Trenette is the typical pasta for Pesto Trapanese. It’s a fat hand-rolled, square spaghetti. It’s almost impossible to find outside of Sicily so I typically choose bucatini when I’m in the mood for Pesto Trapanese.

Roasted Asparagus with Tomato-Almond Pesto Trapanese and Fresh Cherry Tomatoes

Notice I said typically. Recently I got to thinking about this Pesto Trapanese as a sauce that could move beyond pasta. After all, green pesto sauces show up all the time without a noodle near.  This time, I’m serving my Pesto Trapanese tossed with roasted asparagus. GREG

Roasted Asparagus with Tomato-Almond Pesto Trapanese

Roasted Asparagus with Tomato-Almond Pesto and Fresh Cherry Tomatoes

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Published
Roasted Asparagus with Tomato-Almond Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2½ ounce lightly toasted almonds
  • 1 pint halved cherry and/or grape tomatoes (about 25 to 30 dependeing on size)
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 anchovy fillets (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • ¼ cup (plus 1 tablespoons) olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper (as needed for seasonong)
  • 2 pound medium asparagus
  • shaved Parmesan cheese (as needed for garnish, optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Make the tomato-almond pesto: Put the almonds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse 15 or 20 times until roughly chopped. Add half of the halved tomatoes, grated Parmesan cheese, chopped anchovies, and red pepper flakes. Pulse the machine 8 or 10 more times. Then, with the machine running, use the feed tube to slowly add up to ¼ cup olive oil in a slow steady stream. The resulting pesto should be grainy but not too chunky, and wet enough to easily fall off of a spoon. You may not need all the oil. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Scrape the tomato-almond pesto into a large bowl; set aside.

Trim the ends off the asparagus then cut each spear into thirds or quarters. Place the cut asparagus onto a large rimmed, parchment-lined baking sheet in as close to a single layer as possible; toss with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Roast in the heated oven about 6 minutes. Remove from oven and toss the asparagus spears to ensure even cooking. Return to oven and roast an additional 5 to 7 minutes until tender and just beginning to brown.

While still warm, move the roasted asparagus and any accumulated liquid to the large bowl with the tomato-almond pesto. Toss to combine. You might need to add a teaspoon of water to get the mixture moving and the asparagus well-coated. Let the mixture cool somewhat, then toss in the remaining tomato halves. Pile the asparagus and tomatoes onto a serving platter. Pass the shaved Parmesan cheese at the table as an optional garnish.

 

 

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Summer Bourbon is that an Oxymoron?

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Summer Bourbon Cocktail

Every summer about this time I start to feel just a little bit of melancholy. A little bit of the summertime blues. Don’t get me wrong. I love summer, but as I lounge by the pool sipping something light and fruity I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something. Some important part of my life that’s either been misplaced or somehow forgotten. But what could that something be I wonder as I lazily swirl the pisco in my punch or rumble the rocks in my rum-filled tumbler. That’s when it finally hits me. I miss bourbon! Summer bourbon cocktails – is that an oxymoron?

Well I intend to find out.

Bourbon is not the first spirit I reach for when I’m craving a lazy poolside cocktail. For some reason, I associate dark spirits like bourbon with cooler weather. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, the Mint Julep is an icy bit of bourbon perfection served in a silver chalice. In many parts of the South, it’s a summertime cocktail dream come true. So I think I’ll update my own wish list to include a summer bourbon cocktail of my own design. I’ll toss in some mint as a nod to the season, but I’ll save the silver chalice for those infamous Derby Days.

Summer Bourbon Cocktail

So where do I start? How about sangria? The sweet-tart combination of sangria’s berries and citrus is something we all associate with summer. That, however, is where the association ends. Wine is nice, but I want a summer bourbon cocktail – and bourbon loves berries. So I’ll pull out my muddle and add a little honey syrup to the mint and berries. I’ll build the summer bourbon cocktail I’m craving.

Now all my summer bourbon cocktail needs is a name. Hey… how about Summer Bourbon Cocktail? GREG

Summer Bourbon Cocktail Summer Bourbon Cocktail

Summer Bourbon Cocktail with Raspberries

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1Published

Honey syrup can be made by mixing equal parts honey and hot water in a jar. Shake to combine.

Summer Bourbon Cocktail with Raspberries

Ingredients

  • 8 fresh mint leaves
  • 4 fresh raspberries
  • ¼ fresh lime (cut into 2 wedges)
  • ½ ounce honey syrup (see note)
  • 3 ounce bourbon
  • 1 ounce red berry juice (such as raspberry, cranberry, or pomegranate)
  • 1 sprig fresh mint (as garnish)

Directions

Place one extra large ice cube or three medium ice cubes into a double old-fashioned glass; set aside.

Place mint leaves, raspberries, limes wedges, and honey syrup into a cocktail shaker. Use a cocktail muddler or the wrong end of a wooden spoon to break up the ingredients. Muddle until pulpy.

Add enough medium ice cubes to nearly fill the shaker; pour in bourbon and berry juice. Cover, shake and strain through a fine mesh sieve into the prepared glass. Garnish with mint sprig.

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Summer Salads: Fennel, Avocado, Orange with Chorizo

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Fennel, Avocado and Orange with Chorizo Dressing

I mentioned in my last post that this is the summer of salad at my house but I didn’t really say why. Perhaps you thought there was no need to explain. After all, summer salads aren’t unique to my house. I bet you eat a lot of summer salads too. That’s because summer salads have a lot going for them. They can be as colorful and as playful as the season – making them a lot of fun to eat. Besides, summer salads are the best way I know to enjoy the bounty of the season with just a little effort.

These are all good reasons for any or all of us to make this the summer of salad too. However, the main reason I’ve been turning to summer salads so reliably this year is because most of them can be made ahead of time and easily brought to the table at dinner time. Even if the cook has flown the coop.

I’m the cook in my house and I’ve been flying the coop several times a week this summer.

You see, my partner’s mother moved in with us this year. This is our first summer as a newly arranged family and I want her to eat well and of course enjoy what she eats. Which means I chose to make healthfully delicious meals I know she would enjoy. However, if you’ve ever been a caregiver to an elderly family member struggling with dementia then you know, as much as you love this person you simply have to get away and spend some time alone. Ken and I sneak away one afternoon and two evenings a week to simply be together “just the two of us”. After all, we’ve spent 26 years as “just the two of us” and it’s a hard habit to break. These are the days I make summer salads.

I’ll admit that sometimes the “sneaking away” makes me feel guilty. But don’t get me wrong, we have a perfectly qualified, perfectly wonderful woman who comes in to lend a hand while we’re out. Still, all these summer salads you’ve been seeing are actually my guilty penance.

Fennel, Avocado, and Orange Salad with Chorizo Dressing

Today’s absolution is a summer salad of Fennel, Avocado, Orange, and Chorizo. It’s a juicy combination of fresh Spanish flavors tossed with watercress and dressed up with bright, fresh orange segments. It’s topped with an unusual dressing made with diced and fried Spanish chorizo. I figure with a salad like this on the table my MIL won’t even notice we’re gone! GREG

Quick kitchen tip:  This recipe calls for “supreming” or “segmenting” the orange. For a lot of years, I resisted learning the proper technique for pithless citrus segments. I figured hand peeling and separating each segment worked just fine. I was wrong. “supreming” or “segmenting” citrus is actually very simple: Using a very sharp knife, cut off the top and the bottom of the fruit, so it will sit flat on your cutting board. Starting where you see the fruit separate from the white pith, cut away one section of peel and pith, beginning at the top and following the curve down. This will expose the underlying fruit. Continue cutting away sections of the peel and pith until only the “meat” of the fruit remains. Then, carefully cut out each section of the fruit by using the knife to slice between the flesh and the membrane on both sides. The wedges should come out easily, leaving only the membrane intact.

Fennel, Avocado and Orange with Chorizo Dressing

Fennel, Avocado, and Orange Salad with Chorizo Dressing

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Adapted from Jane BaxterPublished
Fennel, Avocado, and Orange Salad with Chorizo Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 3 oranges
  • 1 bunch fresh watercress (trimmed)
  • 2 ripe avocados (peeled, pitted and diced, then tossed with a little lemon juice)
  • 8 ounce cured Spanish chorizo (skinned and cut into small dice)
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup small diced, piquillo peppers (from a jar)
  • kosher salt and black pepper (as seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoon toasted and chopped pistachios

Directions

Quarter, core and thinly slice the fennel bulb into slivers. Place the slivers into a bowl of ice water to crisp. Set aside.

Meanwhile, working over a bowl to catch the juice, peel and cut the oranges into pithless segments. Place the segments into the large bowl with the watercress and avocados; set aside.

Place the diced chorizo into a large, cold cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet. Set the skillet over medium heat and cook the chorizo, stirring often, until the fat is rendered and the chorizo is well-browned and crisp; about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes then add about 4 tablespoons of the retained orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, oil, and peppers to make the dressing. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Drain and dry the fennel and combine it with the watercress, avocado, and orange segments; toss to combine. Turn the salad out onto a serving plate, pile the fried chorizo on top of the salad, making sure to include plenty of the liquid to dress the salad. Garnish with pistachios and serve.

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Cabbage-Apricot Great Salad with Lemongrass-Lime Dressing

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cabbage and apricot salad with lemongrass-lime dressing is my definition of a great salad

This is the summer of salad at my house. Though I’ll admit a salad can be hard to define. A great salad even harder. A pile of lettuce doused in a sickly-sweet, Garfield-colored dressing is certainly a salad of sorts, but it’s not what I’m talking about. What then defines a salad? It can be a main course, a side dish, a first course, or a fresh way to end a meal. Which confuses the subject. So I simplify the definition and say salads are creative compositions of fresh seasonal ingredients. I like a salad to have bright colors, plenty of crunch and if it’s to be the main course, I think a salad should have some sort of unexpected star ingredient.

But you knew that.

Another amazing thing about the modern salad is how popular it’s become. Remember when no one actually wanted to eat a salad? A salad was either parental punishment or self-flagellation. Either an enticement or a punishment for all the other stuff you really want to eat.

That’s changed. The trend can be traced back to our overflowing produce aisles and to the boom in farmers markets. You can no longer simply throw a few wilted lettuce leaves and fistful of bacon bits into a bowl and expect your salad to meet today’s standards. If your salad making skills haven’t quite kept pace with the times, you’ve got up your game.

How to Make a Great Salad

Start with a star ingredient. Let the season dictate what that ingredient should be. Don’t go to the market looking for great asparagus in November. You might find asparagus but it won’t be good enough to make a great salad. Instead, choose what’s seasonal. At the height of summer, it might be sweet corn, tomatoes, or stone fruit.

Don’t be limited by what you’ve seen in salads before. I like to include herbs. Whole mint, parsley or basil leaves is a good place to start. Pickled things add pizzazz. Fruit is great but try to think beyond the berry. If it’s ripe and ready, why not? Equally tasty: dried fruit, like raisins, cranberries, or apple. Use your imagination.

A great salad should include a variety of textures. Crisp greens tossed with creamy cheese, ripe avocado or luscious stone fruit is a great place to start. Don’t forget to layer in crunchy things. Nuts, croutons or even granola are great additions. Having something to really sink your teeth into makes any salad feel more satisfying.

Homemade dressing. Please! Wishbone does not a great salad make.

Protein is optional. Chicken is fine, but there are lots of more interesting choices. Including some kinds of grain. Keep an open mind.

GREG

 cabbage and apricot salad with lemongrass-lime dressing is my definition of a great salad

Napa Cabbage and Apricots with Lemongrass-Lime Dressing

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Adapted from Gary UsherPublished
Napa Cabbage and Apricots with Lemongrass-Lime Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 6 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 3 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 6 ripe apricots (pitted and cut into eighths)
  • 4 cup loosely packed shreded Napa cabbage
  • 2 pinch kosher salt
  • 2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 2 cup lossely packed mint leaves
  • 5 ounce lightly toasted cashews (as garnish)

Directions

Make the dressing: Peel off and discard the tough outer layers of the lemongrass. Mince about 2 tablespoons of the remaining tender parts.

Place the minced lemongrass in a jar with a lid. Add the lime juice, agave syrup, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Shake well to combine. Set aside at least 1 hour and up to 3 days. Shake well before using.

Place the cabbage in a large bowl and add a few pinches of sea salt. Toss and set aside five minutes to soften. Then add the apricots, cilantro, mint, and enough of the prepared dressing to lightly coat; toss to combine.

Transfer the salad to a large serving platter and garnish with cashews. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

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Peach “Oil and Vinegar Cake”

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Peach Oil and Vinegar Cake

When it comes to blogging there are two things that interest me most: unexpected flavor combinations and wordplay. I’m constantly looking for blog inspiration from these two muses. My favorite blog posts are born when both these lovely ladies show their faces at the same time. So when I saw an olive oil cake on Food52 that included an unlikely splash of golden balsamic vinegar in the ingredient list I took notice. It didn’t take long for the phrase “oil and vinegar cake” to pop into my head. Once it did I knew a blog post was in the making.

Oil and Vinegar Cake?

Oil and vinegar is a classic flavor combination. It’s typically drizzled onto leafy greens – but oil and vinegar cake – that’s new territory! It’s not, however, unprecedented.

Sure vinegar seems like an odd ingredient for dessert. Puckery flavors tend to be appetite stimulators. This cake may contain vinegar, but it is not puckery. In fact, it’s quite rich and moist. That’s because it’s an olive oil and vinegar cake. Though I’d be willing to bet you could hardly guess that vinegar was the secret ingredient in this cake.

So why add it all?

Well, I’m no chemist but I do know that cakes (etc) with strongly acidic ingredients such as applesauce, buttermilk, honey, brown sugar, molasses, cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar can sometimes fail to rise properly when baking powder alone is used as leavening. I’m sure you’ve made cakes in the past that inexplicably dipped in the center– we all have. It could be that the pan was overfilled. Cakes that rise too far and too fast above the rim often cave in on themselves before they’ve finished baking. However, the more likely culprit is improper leavening. Too much leavening and your cake dips in the center. Too little and the cake domes dramatically. I realize that’s counterintuitive, but I promise I wrote that correctly (like I said, cakes that rise too fast often cave in on themselves).

Butter and eggs can be beaten full of air to act as natural (non-chemical) leaveners, which add an assist to the baking powder. Or you can use baking soda. If you’ve ever built a grade school volcano I’m sure you understand the exchange between the vinegar and baking soda. It’s a baking technique used by Depression-era cooks when ingredients like butter were hard to come by.

So there you have it. Oil and Vinegar Cake. It’s certainly a fun play on words. But I have to ask, is it such an unexpected combination after all? GREG

Peach Olive Oil CakePeach Olive Oil Cake

Peach and Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Golden Balsamic Vinegar

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8-10Source Adapted from IndieculinaryPublished

Ingredients

  • cooking spray (as needed)
  • 3 ripe but firm peaches (peeled, pitted and cut into ½-inch dice)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup golden balsamic vinegar (divided)
  • 2/3 cup (plus 1 tablespoon) extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
  • whipped cream (for serving)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 9×4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom parchment paper; spray the paper too.

Prepare the peach topping: Spread the diced peaches evenly across the bottom of the prepared loaf pan. Press them gently to compact, however, don’t smash the peaches. Set aside.

Combine the brown sugar, ¼ cup golden balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and honey in a stainless steel saucepan. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, about 10 minutes, until reduced to a syrup. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then pour carefully over the peaches. Don’t overfill with syrup. Stop when the syrup is almost level with the top of the peaches.

Make the cake batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, buttermilk, remaining ¼ cup vinegar, and eggs.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and rosemary.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in three additions; mixing well between each addition. Similarly, add the remaining 2/3 cup olive oil in three additions until well combined.

Carefully pour the batter over the peaches. Pour slowly enough so as not to disturb the peaches in syrup.

Bake the cake: Move the pan to the heated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn oven temperature down to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean but moist. Rotate the pan halfway through baking.

Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife between the cake and the pan to make sure it is completely loosened, then let cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool turn the cake out onto a serving plate and peel off the parchment if necessary. If some of the peaches become dislodged gently replace them on top.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream on each serving.

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Peach Guacamole: Avocado, Peach, Bacon. Hold the Snark.

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Peach Guacamole

My previous post Peach is the New Tomato caught the attention of more people than usual. Well, I mean I got several private emails on the subject. That doesn’t usually happen. The last time folks reached out to me personally and privately was when my MIL moved in with us. I’m not the only person in blog-land whose had to deal with the peculiarities of sharing their life and home with an elderly parent. I very much appreciate the support and can understand why people reached out privately. This time, it’s harder to pinpoint what clicked. However, the thing all of these emails had in common was they asked for my recipe for Peach Guacamole.

Yikes. I don’t have a recipe for Peach Guacamole. What I said is that I sometimes replace the tomato in guacamole with peach. That’s the recipe.

I was perfectly prepared to turn the page with that simple but snarky explanation. Then I thought, wait this is an opportunity for creativity. I started this blog so that I could have opportunities for creativity. I decided to set the snark aside and develop a recipe for Peach Guacamole.

AvocadoPeeled Peaches

Peach Guacamole

My first instinct is to keep it very simple: 2 avocados, 1 peach, and a pinch of salt. I know this combination is delicious because I’ve made it just that way before. However, shouldn’t I attempt a recipe with more nuance?

The answer is yes. I should create a Peach Guacamole recipe with more nuance. Starting with balance. Peaches bring more sugar and less acidity to guacamole than tomatoes. It’s easy to reach across the taste spectrum and balance the sweet peach with zesty lime juice. 1 tablespoon is exactly right.

Once I had the flavors balanced I knew I needed to add depth. Creamy and smoky is a deeply nuanced combination that works for me – so I added chopped bacon. Not too much bacon. Bacon can easily dominate. The heat I like in guacamole comes from just enough jalapeño, and in my world, there’s some cilantro. However, these are optional. I considered minced red onion, but in the end decided that was simply a bridge too far.

Now, the next time someone asks me for my Peach Guacamole recipe, I can set the snark aside and send them this link. GREG

Peach Guacamole

Peach Guacamole with Bacon

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published

Most people know pico de gallo as a fresh tomato-onion salsa, but it’s also the name of a Mexican chili powder used to season fruits and vegetables.

Peach Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 2 large ripe but firm avocados (peeled pitted and cut into 1-inch dice)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large peach (peeled, pitted and cut into ½-inch dice)
  • 2 slice crisp-cooked bacon (chopped)
  • 2 teaspoon minced jalapeño (optional)
  • 2 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro (optional)
  • pico de gallo spice blend (see note)
  • tortilla chips (for serving)

Directions

In a large bowl place the diced avocado, lime juice, and salt; toss to coat. Using a fork mash the avocado into a chunky paste, the gently fold in peaches, bacon, jalapeño (if using), and cilantro (if using). Spoon the guacamole into a serving bowl and sprinkle lightly with pico de gallo spice blend. Serve with chips.

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Peach is the New Tomato: Peach Fattoush

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Peach Fattoush

Peach Fattoush. That’s weird, huh? That’s because people are funny about food. Which in itself is funny. People need food to survive, yet I’d argue humans are hard-wired to have an innate fear of food. At least unfamiliar food. My (uneducated wholly untested) theory is that ancient humans adapted fear as a protective device. Our ancestors who were afraid of heights didn’t fall off cliffs, those who feared wild animals didn’t get eaten, and the folks who stayed away from unfamiliar food weren’t accidentally poisoned. In other words, the daring diners died – and the picky eaters survived. Darwin, natural selection, blah, blah, blah. Before you know it a child named Greg was passed a bowl of peach salsa and he thought… that’s weird.

Until he tried it.

Now, not only am I completely familiar with peach salsa, but sometimes I replace the tomatoes in guacamole with peaches too. Talk about a peach fiesta!

But wait there’s more: I love a good BLP (bacon lettuce peach sandwich) and I say bring it on to peach Caprese. I would even make a delicious argument for peach ketchup and I bet I could convince you to withhold the tomatoes and make a peachy gazpacho. So why not a peach salad? Peach Fattoush Salad.

Peach Fattoush

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern salad typically consisting of tomatoes, cucumber, and other crunchy vegetables tossed together with toasted pita. The best fattoush is sprinkled with sumac, mint, and parsley. It’s a great summer salad, so improvise and throw in any other super-fresh summer herbs and vegetables you like. I chose purslane. The citrusy bite of purslane is terrific with the zesty zing of sumac. Same goes for peaches. Summer Peach Fattoush Salad.

After a few of these tomato-to-peach substitutes, I’m prepared to make a bold statement. Forget orange – peach is the new black. Of course, we all know by now that tomatoes are actually a fruit, so this substitution makes sense. In texture, sweet-to-tart ratio, juiciness, and color, peaches make excellent stand-ins for fresh tomatoes, especially in sandwiches and salads. Meaning peach fattoush is not so weird that either you or you ancestors need be afraid. GREG

Peach Fattoush

Summer Peach Fattoush

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published
Peach Fattoush

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoon ground sumac (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt (as needed for seasoning)
  • 2 (8-inch) pita breads (halved crosswise split then open like a book)
  • 2-3 peaches (peeled, pitted and cut into bite-sized chunks)
  • 2 Little Gem or baby romaine lettuces (torn into bite-sized chunks) or equivilent amount of other crunchy lettuce
  • 2 Persian or mini cucumbers (cut crosswise into ½ discs)
  • 2 cup (loosely packed) purslane tender tips and leaves only
  • 2 cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) mint leaves

Directions

Make the dressing: In a bowl combine sumac, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, garlic, vinegar, and dried mint. Gradually add oil, whisking constantly, until well-blended. Season to taste with salt. Set aside.

Prepare the pita: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the pita on a large baking sheet, brush generously with prepared dressing; season with salt. Bake for 10 minutes, until crisp and golden all over, then remove and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, break the pita into rough, bite-sized pieces.

Assemble the salad: Mix peaches, lettuce, cucumbers, purslane, parsley and mint in a large bowl. Add most of the remaining dressing; tossing to coat, adding more dressing if needed. Season with salt. Add pita and toss once more. Spread the salad out into a large serving platter. Sprinkle with more sumac if desired. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

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Modern Potluck: Pork-Stuffed Collards

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Modern Potluck: Pork-Stuffed Collards

Summer is here and the invitations are arriving. I’m talking about the casual potluck parties we all get invited to. The whole idea behind these parties is to keep things simple and let everyone pitch in. Done right, the only thing the host needs to provide is the venue. Through the years, and many potluck parties, I’ve developed several staples in my modern potluck repertoire. I’m sure you have too. However, once you’ve heard some variation of the phrase – “honey, we’re having a potluck, I suppose you’ll be bringing your famous… (fill in the blank)” – it’s time to shake things up.

Sure, it’s nice to be known for some sort of culinary specialty (I guess…) but I’d rather turn a few heads in the buffet line with something unexpected. Because after a while, your famous “fill in the blank casserole” starts to look a lot like one of Hillary’s pantsuits. Functional but hardly fabulous.

When that happens it’s time for the potluck to get a modern makeover. Which is exactly what Kristin Donnelly a former editor at Food & Wine, had in mind when she wrote the new cookbook, Modern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share.

Modern Potluck: Pork-Stuffed Collards

Potlucks are designed to be simple, but there are important factors to consider when planning a potluck party. Modern Potluck is filled with “Cook’s Notes” and “Rules of the Potluck” that cover the basics that all hosts (and guests) should know. From the pros and cons of labeling the dishes to the all-important suggestions regarding food safety. These considerations may not be as sexy as color or flavor, but they’re vital to the success of your potluck presentation.

Perhaps most helpful are the sections that define a great potluck dish. Sturdy salads and portable casseroles are obvious choices (and this book has chapters devoted to both). But it’s the recipes designed to please a crowd yet still have “a hint of edge to them” that will get scooped up first. These are the recipes with global influences such as the Pork and Kimchi Soup or Indian-Spiced Spinach-Yogurt Dip not found on the average buffet table. However, for me, it’s Donnelly’s modern takes on classic dishes that makes this Modern Potluck cookbook, well, so modern. This is where I find real inspiration for the modern potluck parties in my future.

Take stuffed cabbage. I swear every culture has a comforting version of this dish: Polish, Turkish, even a few Jewish-American Grandmas. These versions are all deceptively simple to prepare and always admired. The Modern Potluck version takes its cue from a Ukranian restaurant in New York City. It’s made with pork and given a modern palette with a touch of allspice and orange zest. Which sounds delicious enough, but the author takes it one step further by wrapping this flavorful combination in collard greens. Which is potluck genius. We all know collard greens are sturdy enough to stand up to the tug-of-war that’s bound to ensue once the stragglers in the buffet line realize there’s but one tasty bundle left in the dish.  GREG

Pork-Stuffed CollardsModern Potluck Cookbook Modern Potluck: Pork-Stuffed Collards

I received a review copy of Modern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share. All opinions are my own.

Pork-Stuffed Collards with Tomato Sauce

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 12-16Source Modern Potluck by Kristin DonnellyPublished

I used extra-large collard leaves and filled them with ½ cup of the pork mixture to make eight pork-stuffed collards.

Pork-Stuffed Collards with Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • 1 cup uncooked red or brown short-grain rice
  • 1 ½ pound collard greens
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • zest of 1 small orange
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cup simple tomato sauce (see recpe: http://www.sippitysup.com/recipe/simple-tomato-sauce/)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook until very soft, about 8 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. add 1 ½ to 2 cups water (check the package directions of the rice for the best guide) and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the rice is tender. Let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of generously salted water to a boil. Add the collard greens and cook, in batches if necessary, until bright green, about 3 minutes. Transfer them to a cutting board and let cool. Trim off any tough stems and thick ribs, and pick out the 12 largest leaves or a 16 medium to small leaves to use for stuffing. Finely chop the remaining leaves.

In a large bowl, combine the cooled rice with the pork, the chopped collards, the allspice, orange zest, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and a few grinds of pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees to 375 degrees F.

Working with one collard leaf at a time, arrange about ⅓ cup filling in the center of the larger leaves or ¼ cup filling for the smaller leaves. Fold the stem end over the filling, and then tuck in the sides. Roll the collard over to form a bundle, overlapping the ends to seal. Transfer, seam side down, to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Pour the tomato sauce over the stuffed leaves and then cover the dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the leaves are tender. Serve at or warm.

Potluck prep: The assembled pork-stuffed collards can be refrigerated overnight, then reheated gently in a 300 degree F. oven.

Simple Tomato Sauce

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2 cupsSource Modern Potluck by Kristin DonnellyPublished

If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree the tomatoes in a food processor.

Tomato Sauce via Shutterstock

Ingredients

  • 1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt (to taste)

Directions

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and serve.

 

 

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An Illegal Yellow Plum “Flat Tart” with Almond Meringue

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Yellow Plum Flat Tart

This tart is a flat tart. It requires no tart pan and no blind baking. You don’t fold the edges as in a galette. There’s no lattice-work or fluted rims as in a pie. In fact, this flat tart has no rim at all. The pastry simply lays flat on a baking sheet. It’s as stress-free as baking gets and it’s a pretty tart too. The discs of fruit are laid out in concentric circles. Some people call this arrangement a pinwheel tart. I’ve made similar versions with apples and berries. Sometimes I’ve called these tarts “fruit pizza”. But the term “pizza” confuses the SEO gods, so I prefer “flat tart”. Yellow Plum Flat Tart with Almond Meringue.

I intended this flat tart to be a pluot flat tart. I intended to make and eat this flat tart on a Sunday afternoon. If I bake I usually bake on a Sunday.

But I did not make this Yellow Plum Tart with Almond Meringue on a Sunday. I made it on a Saturday, and I posted it on a Sunday. But, (and this is the important part) I shopped for it on a Friday. The reason that’s relevant is because had I shopped for it on a Sunday I would have gone to the Hollywood Farmers’ Market and bought pluots instead of yellow plums for sure. I’ve had my eye on an Amelia Saltsman Pluot Pinwheel Tart recipe from Bon Appétit for some time now (7 years!). However, had I stuck with my Sunday shopping routine I’d never have learned the tale of the illegal yellow plum.

Yellow Plums

Illegal Yellow Plums

That’s right. Plums can be illegal. Well, yellow plums. In fact, yellow plums are banned in all 50 states in America. Making yellow plums more tightly regulated than raw milk or marijuana!

If yellow plums are illegal how the heck did I find them at a large-scale chain grocery store in full view of law enforcement officers? Does this Yellow Plum Flat Tart make me some sort of fugitive? Should we scream “lock her up” when we see the produce manager who sold me the supposedly illicit plums? More importantly, why are yellow plums illegal? Is there some kind of recall? Are they hallucinogenic, or worse carcinogenic?

Nope, the answer lies somewhere in the legalese of lawyerly gobbledygook. Yellow plums are a protected-origin fruit. Specifically, yellow plums that bear the name “Mirabelle de Lorraine”. These tiny, delicious plums are only grown in Lorraine, France, and, thanks to import laws, they can only be grown in Lorraine, France. I guess U.S. legislators aren’t willing to stipulate the designation, so that means even the import of yellow “Mirabelle de Lorraine” plums is illegal.

For me, it all started at Ralph’s grocery store on Ventura Blvd in Studio City, California. Nowhere near Lorraine, France. I went in because I recalled seeing beautiful yellow stone fruit there. To my way of thinking if you find it in a grocery store and it isn’t a plum, or a peach, or a nectarine then it’s most probably a pluot. After all, apriums are just too weird for Ralph’s grocery store. Whole Foods, maybe, Ralph’s no.

So I went to the checkout and proudly handed over my bright yellow fruit to the cashier. He looked at them and asked, “what are these?”

I love it when clerks ask me to tell them how to do their job. So I smugly answered, “pluots”.

“Pluots?” he said as he pulled out his little reference guide (flip, flip, flip). He could not find pluots listed anywhere. He charged me for apricots and obviously couldn’t be bothered to make the distinction. There was line forming and I can get shy around strangers so I let it go at “apricots”.

But I didn’t let it go for long. When I got home I googled pluot and soon discovered my golden fruit was certainly not a pluot. Pluots are speckled and have gradations of red and purple. Next, I googled Aprium. Nope.

That’s when I punched in the words “yellow stone fruit” and learned the tale of the illegal yellow plum.

So how did illegal yellow plums end up at a grocery store without proper identification? Well, my guess is if they’re grown in California, and if they refuse to call them “Mirabelle de Lorraine”, they can sell all the yellow plums they like. All I can say is they make a heck of a sweet flat tart. GREG

Yellow Plum TartYellow Plum Flat Tart Yellow Plum Flat Tart

Yellow Plum Flat Tart with Almond Meringue

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Adapted from Amelia SaltsmanPublished

This recipe can be used with other types of stone fruit.

Yellow Plum Flat Tart with Almond Meringue

Ingredients

  • raw pastry dough (enough for a single crust pie)
  • flour (as needed for rolling)
  • 1 large egg white (at room temperature)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup ground almond meal (also called almond flour, or simply ground almonds)
  • 4-5 yellow plums (see note)
  • 2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 2 tablespoon turbiado sugar

Directions

Prepare the pastry round: Place sheet of parchment on parchment-lined, rimless baking sheet; sprinkle with flour. Roll out crust on the sheet to about a 13-inch round. Using pot lid or a dinner plate as a guide, trim dough to about an 11 or 12-inch round. Discard trimmings. Chill the dough on the baking sheet while you make the meringue.

Make the meringue: Using an electric mixer, beat egg white in medium bowl until foamy. With machine running, gradually add granulated sugar, beating until firm peaks form (it might take a while). Turn off the machine and fold in the almond meal by hand.

Make the tart: Set 1 plum, stem side up, on work surface. Working parallel to the pit, cut 1/8-inch-thick rounds off both sides. Repeat with remaining plums.

Spread meringue over crust leaving a 3/4-inch border all around. Arrange plum slices, slightly overlapping, in spiral pattern atop meringue, beginning at outer edge and working toward the center, turning any end pieces cut side up. Choose your pieces wisely, and lay them out attractively. Finish with 1 perfect plum slice in center. Chill the assembled tart for twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425°F.

When ready to bake: Remove the tart from the refrigerator and brush melted butter over the pluots and exposed pastry; sprinkle tart with turbinado sugar. Bake tart 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 400°F and bake tart until edges of the fruit begin to brown, about 15 more minutes. Cool tart slightly on pan. Loosen with a spatula and slide onto a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

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Pasta Salad Should Not Be (Too) Boring

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Creamy Chicken Pasta Salad

Ah, it’s summer barbecue season. Ribs, corn on the cob, watermelon, baked beans, deviled eggs and homemade ice cream! Did I forget to mention pasta salad? Pasta salad always makes an appearance at summer barbecues. But, like some nerdy kid no one quite remembers inviting, pasta salad always gets pushed to the back – overlooked and forgotten. That’s because there are two schools of thought when it comes to pasta salad: the bland (featuring mayonnaise, celery and a mid-century fear of flavor) or the bold (1980’s multi-hued fusilli drowning in sweet vinaigrette). It’s this fundamental lack of charisma and/or class that has given pasta salad an inferiority complex.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Pasta salad deserves a place on the summer potluck table. But it takes more than a bottle of Wishbone Italian dressing – a good pasta salad is not simply pasta served cold. In fact, cold noodles don’t play a prominent role in Italian cooking. Though I know many Italians would happily scarf down cold, leftover pasta straight from the refrigerator. However, pasta salad is also not salad. So don’t follow the same rules or dress them as you would fresh vegetables. Acid can play an important role in balancing a good pasta salad, but vinaigrette is generally too strong to toss with pasta.

 Rules for Perfect Pasta Salad

  1. Forget al dente. It works for hot pasta, but al dente pasta tastes like stale bread when served cold.
  2. Rinse the cooked pasta. I would never recommend rinsing noodles for hot pasta dishes, the starch helps makes the sauce cling. But starch can make pasta salad gloppy.
  3. Once rinsed toss the pasta with a little oil. Olive oil, walnut or something milder, it depends on the flavors in the pasta salad itself, but a little oil will keep cold noodles from sticking together.
  4. Choose a pasta that is similar in size to most of the ingredients so that you get a balance in every bite.
  5. Add some crunch. Even creamy pasta salad benefits with some chomp. Texture keeps a pasta salad interesting.
  6. Add a splash of color. Red onion, corn kernels, or cherry tomatoes have just the right charisma.
  7. Serve the pasta salad chilled but not cold. Pasta salad that’s still shivering from the fridge lacks both flavor and texture.

GREG

Creamy Chicken Pasta Salad

Creamy Chicken Pasta Salad

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8-10Source Adapted from Sunset magazinePublished

Ingredients can be prepped and pasta cooked a day ahead of time and chilled (add 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil to the cooked pasta). Toss everything together just before serving.

Creamy Chicken Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried ditali pasta (or other small pasta shape)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (drained)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or substitute sour cream)
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste, plus more for pasta water)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 or 3 ears of corn)
  • 1 cup small diced red onion
  • 2 cup shredded, cooked chicken meat
  • 2 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • ½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • chili powder (as garnish, optional)
  • 8-10 whole lettuce leaves (optional)

Directions

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender to the bite, 9 to 12 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water until completely cool. Toss with oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss together pasta, corn, red onion, chicken, tomatoes, and basil. Add ricotta-yogurt dressing to pasta mixture and stir to evenly coat pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chili powder (if using). Serve on lettuce leaves (if using).

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