Summer Summer Summer Time
Thank goodness we can all put that dreary, freezing, wet, slushing, messy, cold, cold, cold winter behind us. I know it’s not officially here yet, but with the scorching 90+ degree days that Mother Nature has bestowed upon us, I feel like she’s been priming us for another hot (and really humid) summer. Along with the seasonal change comes the fresh produce at the farmers’ market. Lots of vibrant colors, flavors, and textures all in the various forms of fruits and vegetables enable us to shake up our eating habits- hopefully for the better. Last year Ben and I perfected this beautiful panzanella salad that makes you feel like you’re tasting the vegetable rainbow (Skittles reference), so you can guarantee that we’ll be taking full advantage of our local farmers’ bounty with their goods to make this goody.
You Say Tomato, I Say Tomatillo
Forever now, anytime that I ever cooked anything that was of Mexican or Tex-Mex nature, I would jazz it up with a homemade pico de gallo that I learned at a restaurant (which will remain nameless) that I waited tables at years and years ago. I clearly remember that first time tossing fresh tomato, onion, lime, cilantro and jalepanos with naked hands. The memory of it still burns a little. You may be wondering why- that’s how they did it in the kitchen…while wearing latex gloves. Anyway, lesson learned, and it became my stand by- fresh, citrusy with just a hint of heat. Recently Ben and I have developed a new love for tomatillos and the wonderful verde sauce that I have been making. It all started with a trip to the grocery store shopping for the week’s menu, and there they were on sale 1 pound for a mere $1. Tomato. Tomatillo. I thought that I’d give it a whirl, and I’m so glad that I did.
Cooking is a simple yet complex process. The final dish is so much more then the sum of its ingredient. The use of the correct seasoning or the appropriate herbs can make a dish taste complete. Cooking throughout the country has opened my eyes to the beautiful subtleties each place carries. Baking a cake or soufflé in Denver is slightly different than in Portland, or in the midwest where I reside now. Moisture and humidity are factors that one naturally adapts to. Ovens and cookware are not created equally. This can change a recipe as well. One should view a recipe as a guideline or a set of parameters that can be followed, but can always be adapted to fit one’s taste or convenience of their pantry. This is when you begin to “make a dish your own” and when the fun really begins. For this dish we are cooking potato gnocchi. This is a classic dish that can be made relatively quickly, and will bring a real wow factor to a dinner party or a Tuesday night. It is a small list of simple ingredients that everyone has fof hand. Combined with patience and a little technique it is a wonderful thing.
We love the versatility of carrots. They’re great in soups, stews, stir-fry, cakes, and salads. For our Thanksgiving dinner we gave them a holiday touch to accentuate its natural sweetness that would fit in nicely to your upcoming holiday dinner. This simple cooking process will add depth and body to a often overlooked vegetable. You know how carrots go with peas, so we decided to pair them with some lovely pearl onions, an homage to my late Grandma Ida Mae who loved pearl onions, and created a keeper that we think you’ll enjoy.
It’s getting to be that time of year- the season of sides. Yes, the holidays generally bring on the turkey birds and the honey hams, but those show pieces are nothing without the sides. Ben and I are pretty much in agreement that we generally get more excited about the sides during holiday dinners and get togethers, so we’re going to try to help revamp, introduce, or maybe just reintroduce some ideas that would be great additions to your holiday spread.
So, today I Googled “Most Disliked Vegetable,” and the worldwide web revealed a resounding dislike for brussel sprouts. As a child, my only recollection of brussel sprouts was lived through Kevin Arnold from The Wonder Years growing up in the turbulent social times of the 60’s sitting at the kitchen table proclaiming his disgust for the mini cabbages. I was never forced to eat brussel sprouts (actually I was never forced to eat anything- I just had a robust appetite for whatever was put in front of me). Actually, Ben introduced me to brussel sprouts just a few years ago. I have to say that I do enjoy them and feel so strongly about this easy recipe that we will change your opinion of the brussel sprout so much so that you may move this vegetable up to your top 10 vegetable list. It’s quick & easy, and it’ll look great dished next to the cranberries on your holiday plate.
It’s been two years since our last visit out to California to visit my sister Kari & her husband Matt- two years too long. We have somewhat of a tradition- they find us at baggage claim at LAX; we squeal with delight and hug; get in the car; find a suitable driving jam; and then we head to Duke’s in Malibu right on the water and just off the Pacific Coast Highway for a toast to togetherness and a bite to eat. I’d always stuck to the Crispy Coconut Shrimp. I know not super adventurous, but that’s the only place where I’d ever ordered it. Ben on the other hand, would indulge in the grilled Baja Fish Tacos served with flour tortillas, tomatillo white sauce, guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo- he loved it. For whatever reason, I could never wrap my mind around the whole fish taco concept. Yes, I love fish. Yes, I love tacos. I guess in my mind the whole idea of it was kind of like- “I love ice cream sandwiches and steak….so why not?”
I guess that it was about a year ago when I had that strange craving for something that I’d never tried before- just like the Shepherd’s Pie- I wanted fish tacos. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we’d skipped our regular trip to California, and I wanted that feeling of sitting on the deck with the sounds and smell of the ocean while sipping on a festive libation with my husband and the Couple Monster. Whatever it was, I had to have them, and being landlocked in the Midwest, I wasn’t about to go find a restaurant that served them- for all I know I would’ve walked into a place serving Van De Kamp’s fish sticks wrapped in a hard shell with wilting shredded lettuce and a packet of Taco Bell sauce. I had to make them the way that I thought they should taste, even though I didn’t know what that taste was.
How did I do? Pretty good, considering they tasted exactly like what I thought they should- light, clean, flavorful and fresh. Since that first attempt, I’ve have managed to give a few friends their first fish taco experience in the comforts of our own home. No Pacific Ocean crashing in the background or seagulls nose diving for their own meal, but it did the trick and took care of the craving.
One of the most basic, yet essential tools in the kitchen is the cutting board. If you are only going to own one cutting board, it should be a hard durable plastic. This will protect your knives, and any scratches can be cleaned and disinfected to keep bacteria out from raw meats that may come in contact. For a small investment you can have a tool that will provide safety and functionality. If your cutting board doesn’t have an anti-skid surface, use a damp towel or rubber mat to place under the board to prevent movement.
We had the opportunity to host dinner last week for a couple of fellow bloggers. I have to admit, I felt a little like a Trekkie at a Star Trek convention, it was as cool as I imagine the real deal would be just with a little bit more of an artistic spin, but Meg from mimiandmeg.blogspot.com and heather from twineandtwig.blogspot.com stopped by to enjoy some wine and a little meal that Kim and I prepared. We did have to go boldly where no Foodie has gone before cooking a meal with no greens or raw onion, but we were successful as the clean plates spoke for themselves. So, we’ve been trying to keep our past few recipes simple and delicious, and this side dish fit the simplistic and dietary parameters of our guests, and we can guarantee that these veggies won’t be the last thing left on your plate.