I put on a batch of beans recently on a stormy night (sounds scary, right?). I made a triple batch so that I could freeze the extra portions. Having them on hand is a huge time saver and it doesn’t take any more time to cook two cups as it does to cook one.
You can always use white beans in a jar or even canned beans, if you’re just getting started with whole foods and are working your way up to making them yourself. If you’re interested in learning how, here’s an easy video on how to make them at home for pennies in comparison to the precooked ones.
The first time I served this salad it was on a bed of thinly sliced zucchini (I used a carrot peeler, but for more than 1 person a mandoline would be faster) drizzled in olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and fresh ground pepper. Today I enjoyed it on a bed of freshly picked spinach from the garden toasted in a Tuscan Herbed Olive Oil and Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic (thanks Tina for the lovely present). Or try it on sliced tomatoes or with steamed green beans even. And if you’re into bread, it would make an exceptional topping of toasted sourdough as an appetizer…
White bean and olive salad with fresh herbs
Serves 2-3 (depending on size of appetite) Double as required.
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, navy or cannellini beans
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Salt and pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Mix to combine. Season with any additional salt and pepper to taste.
1 tablespoon lemon juice, tomatoes, red peppers, zucchini, spinach or arugula.
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Watch out, world. I got a Vitamix for my birthday.
Yancey coordinated with all our family members to go in on it. Thank you, tribe! I keep joking that someday I won't ask for kitchen appliances for my birthday, but that day hasn't come yet.
I will avoid devolving into an infomercial here, but it's true what they say about Vitamixes. They're amazing, and we're about to embark on the Summer of Pureeing. I love how no special prep is involved--nectarines with peel, whole oranges, half apples, a bit of juice concentrate from the freezer, a big handful of kale. I had briefly entertained asking for a juicer instead, but I'm glad I didn't. All that fiber, gone to waste!
RECOMMENDED: 12 recipes to beat the heat wave
Of course I am doing the green smoothies (the kids love to gross out) and oodles of fruit. But I made this one for breakfast, and it satisfied that "I just did a good job by having some protein for breakfast" thing.
Almond cocoa smoothie
3/4 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
Dash of cinnamon
Get our your blender and throw in all the ingredients. Blend until smooth.
RECOMMENDED: 12 recipes to beat the heat wave
Related post on In Praise of Leftovers: Banana Lemon Scones
Panzanella a genius example of creative leftover usage. It’s a classic Tuscan salad of stale bread and over-ripe tomatoes, tossed with basil and moistened with olive oil and vinegar. But the beautiful colors and bright fresh flavors make it elegantly simple, the kind of food you imagine yourself throwing together if you lived in a stone house in the Italian hills.
This is my riff on a panzanella, perfect for a quick summer supper. It was born of leftovers too. Bits of the delicious bread bought at the farmer's market that I didn’t eat immediately, those last few baby tomatoes, a handful of basil from my patch. The creamy mozzarella takes it close to a classic caprese salad, and adds that nice gooey richness that makes it a meal.
It takes minutes to prepare but makes a delicious, elegant dish. A nice drizzle of quality olive oil is the perfect finishing touch – you could even drizzle a little extra balsamic on if you fancy. I think the simple version highlights the bursting tomatoes and fresh herbs, but feel free to add some garlic or diced onion.
8 ounces soft Italian bread
6 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes
1 8-ounce ball mozzarella cheese
7–8 large basil leaves
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and 8 by 8-inch square baking dish. Cut or tear the bread into bite size chunks and scatter in the baking dish. Nestle the tomatoes between the cubes, spreading them out as much as possible. Cut the mozzarella into pieces, roughly the size of the tomatoes, and nestle them around the dish too. Tear the basil into pieces, or nicely cut it into ribbons and tuck them around the whole affair as well.
2. Measure the milk in a 2 cup jug, then add the eggs. Beat well, add the balsamic vinegar, salt, and generous grinds of black pepper. Beat until it is all thoroughly combined. Pour the milk mixture over the bread, doing your best to distribute it evenly. Press down on the bread cubes with a knife or a spatula just to get them moist.
3. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake 15 minutes more, until the top is golden brown, the cheese is melted and the tomatoes are beginning to burst.
4. Serve hot, drizzled with olive oil.
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Our poor dog. Already, the firecrackers have begun shouting out the approach of our nation’s birthday later this week. Our little shitzu poodle mix, Nigel, has been quivering and running for cover with mounting anxiety. The rest of us are excitedly anticipating our day of backyard fun. Early weather reports predict sunny skies and a high of 82 degrees in Chicago.
Independence Day has taken a new meaning for our family. Last year, after my husband lost his job, we started this patriotic t-shirt company called US of Awesome. When I used to work in the chocolate business, Valentine’s Day was drowned out by mounds of chocolate orders and intense pressure to make sure everyone else’s celebration was just right. Now, our bustling has shifted to the summer months while we work to help Americans show their pride.
I made this fruit tart a few weeks ago while scheming up fun Fourth of July dessert ideas. You can find Fourth of July food and Fourth of July entertaining ideas on our US of Awesome Pinterest page. While gathering up the scraps of tart dough, I had the idea to cut out little starts to dot the top. I love how it turned out! I’m not sure I will ever make a pie or tart again without turning the dough scraps into little dough toppers.
When I make tarts, I always use Pierre Hermes sweet tart dough. The recipe creates three crusts and they freeze well so you can keep a few on hand. Once, I found an old tart disc in the freezer that had been hiding in the corner for over a year. Since I couldn’t stand to waste it, I made a fresh fruit creation and it was delicious. I don’t advocate freezing them that long but if it happens by accident – don’t throw it out!
One of the things I like about tarts is how forgiving they are. Unlike cakes, you can add a little of this or a little of that to the filling and things usually turn out just fine. In this case, I tossed some fresh strawberries in with my cherry filling. They added texture and a welcome bright flavor to the cherry filling.
Fourth of July Cherry & Strawberry Tart
Filling recipe from Food Network
Makes one 10-inch tart
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen tart cherries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 tablespoon almond extract (optional)
1 cup chopped, fresh strawberries
1 tart crust (see recipe below)
For the filling:
1. Place cherries in medium saucepan and place over heat. Cover. After the cherries lose considerable juice, which may take a few minutes, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Pour this mixture into the hot cherries and mix well. Add the almond extract, if desired, and mix. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool. Stir in the strawberries.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Use your favorite tart dough recipe or the one below. Prepare your crust. Roll it out large enough to fit into your tart pan. Use scraps to make stars if you wish. Pour cooled cherry mixture into the crust. Dot the top with crust stars.
4. Bake for about about 40 minutes or until the crust is golden and the center is bubbling. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.
Make this at least 1 day in advance because you need to chill and rest the dough for a minimum 4 hours or up to 2 days, before rolling and baking
2-1/2 sticks (10 ounces; 285 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups (150 grams) icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup (lightly packed) (3-1/4 ounces; 100 grams) finely ground almond powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean pulp or pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
3-1/2 cups (490 grams) all-purpose flour
To make the dough in a mixer:
1. Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar, almond powder, salt, vanilla and eggs and, still working on low speed, beat to blend the ingredients, scraping down the paddle and the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough may look curdled – that’s alright. With the machine on low, add the flour in three or four additions and mix only until the mixture comes together to form a soft, moist dough – a matter of seconds. Don’t overdo it.
2. Gather the dough into a ball and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces: 3 pieces for 10-inch (26cm) tarts, 4 for 9-inch (24cm) tarts. Gently press each piece into a disk and wrap each disk in plastic. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or for up to 2 days, before rolling and baking. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to a month.)
To roll and bake:
1. For each tart, place a buttered tart ring on a parchment-lined baking sheet and keep close at hand. Work with one piece of dough at a time; keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator.
2. Working on a lightly floured surface (marble is ideal), roll the dough to a thickness of between 1/16 and 1/8 inch (2 and 4 mm), lifting the dough often and making certain that the work surface and dough are amply floured at all times.
Roll the dough up around your rolling pin and unroll it onto the tart ring. Fit the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the ring, then run your rolling pin across the top of the ring to cut off the excess. If the dough cracks or splits as you work, don’t worry – patch the cracks with scraps (moisten the edges with water to “glue” them in place) and just make certain not to stretch the dough that’s in the pan.
(If you plan to use the crusts baked and filled with fresh fruit or cream, continue with the next steps)
Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork and chill it for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
3. When you are ready to bake the crust(s), preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Fit a circle of parchment or foil into the crust and fill with dried beans or rice.
4. Bake the crust for 18 to 20 minutes, just until it is very lightly colored. If the crust needs to be fully baked, remove the parchment and beans and bake the crust for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool.
Keeping: The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for a month. Frozen disks of dough take about 45 minutes to an hour at average room temperature to reach a good rolling-out consistency. Baked crusts can be kept uncovered at room temperature for about 8 hours.
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These flag brownies will make a great addition to a Fourth of July party.
I don't pay much attention to M&Ms since I don't really eat them unless they're in a cookie. But I've been marginally aware that there seems to be an explosion of them on the shelves in all sorts of flavors: dark chocolate, white chocolate, mint, peanut butter, almond, coconut, pretzel, and who knows what else besides the ubiquitous plain and peanut.
I'm also aware that they put out specially colored ones around certain holidays: pastels for Easter, black and orange for Halloween, red and green for Christmas, browns and oranges for the "autumn mix." So I thought for sure I'd find red, white, and blue ones. Wrong.
So I improvised. I already knew I wanted to make these red velvet brownies again because they're delicious. And, fortunately, the white chocolate frosting provides a nice background color for the flag background. In a regular bag of plain M&Ms, the red was already the right color. The blue was not since it leans more toward teal than the dark blue of the American flag, but they will have to suffice. Mini M&Ms are best for small brownie flags.
I advise designing with your M&Ms on a piece of parchment first before you start dropping them onto the frosted brownie, just to make sure you know how you want your flag to look. The fun part of this exercise for me was that it forced me to really look at the flag and know which color stripe was on top, which is just below the blue portion, and which was on the bottom. My first attempt was a little sketchy so I had to try a second one for a slight improvement. For the rest of the pan, I used red, white, and blue sprinkles and was able to cut them smaller since it didn't matter how many sprinkles are on each one. You get the idea.
If you make them ahead of time, cover the brownies tightly with plastic wrap to keep the cut edges from drying out.
Red velvet flag brownies
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 8- x 8-inch pan with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl, mix cocoa powder, food coloring and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla to form a paste. Set aside.
3. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then add second teaspoon of vanilla. With mixer on medium, beat in cocoa paste. Add flour and salt, and mix just until combined.
4. Spread in pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool before frosting.
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 tablespoon milk
1. Cream butter with mixer till fluffy. Add vanilla.
2. Slowly mix in powdered sugar, then white chocolate. Add enough milk to reach desired consistency. Ice cooled brownies or pipe a star of icing on individual brownies
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When most people hear the words “New England dinner” their first thoughts usually run toward a lobster dinner, a clambake, or an oyster shuck. But there is another kind of seafood that has a long association with the Fourth of July, and that is poached salmon with egg sauce.
The legend has it that Abigail Adams served Atlantic salmon, fresh garden peas, and new potatoes to John Adams on the first Fourth of July in 1776. And while many New Englanders admit to eating salmon on the Fourth of July, finding strong ties to Abigail Adams remains, well, fishy.
The first clue that this may be more of a treasured tradition promoted by a well-intentioned chef rather than fact: Mr. & Mrs. Adams were actually in separate cities on the first Fourth of July. Another clue suggests that John Adams thought July 2 should be celebrated as Independence Day. A third clue comes in the modern form of marketing, the kind of confidence that has declared that we have a National Chocolate Cake Day, and that April is Grilled Cheese Month. Also, doughnuts are free on the second Friday in June.
These declarations about food are eagerly adopted because it gives us an excuse to indulge in the foods we already like.
It seems the New York World’s Fair in 1964 had something to do with connecting poached salmon and egg sauce to the famous founding couple. An enterprising restaurant specializing in American cookery published the menu in question, sourcing it to the American Heritage Cookbook. You can read more about it from this culinary history blogger.
However, I happen to own a copy of the American Heritage Cookbook published in 1964 and I don’t see a reference to Abigail Adams at all. In my edition it simply says:
“From the earliest days it has been a tradition all through New England to serve Poached Salmon with Egg Sauce, along with the first new potatoes and early peas, on the Fourth of July. The eastern salmon began to ‘run’ about this time, and the new vegetables were just coming in.”
Atlantic salmon used to run in the rivers from Canada all the way down to the Long Island sound. Today, as a consequence of industrial and agricultural development, Atlantic salmon is now mostly found in Maine. Sometimes I can find wild Atlantic salmon in the market, but unfortunately I had to resort to farmed salmon when testing this recipe.
So, did the Adams family eat salmon on Independence Day? Maybe it doesn’t really matter. The point is, in New England, poached salmon with egg sauce has been a continuing tradition. At least this is what I’m told. Having lived in New England most of my life, I can truthfully say I’ve never had poached salmon on the Fourth of July. Hamburgers off the smoky backyard grill, yes. And gigantic bratwurst, “brats,” served by the local firemen wearing red suspenders when we lived in Wisconsin. But that’s a Midwestern story.
Americans have always been quick to establish traditions, toss them out, and make new ones. We’re good like that. And if saying Abigail Adams served poached salmon on July 4 sold a few more plates in 1964 and makes us feel more patriotic when we eat it, where’s the harm (outside of being historically inaccurate)? After all, do we really know if George Washington actually cut down that cherry tree?
Tall tales are as American as apple pie. The point is, Abigail Adams was a woman of vision. And George Washington was a man of valor. Those facts are indisputable. We need our founding stories as we lift up our chins and spirits in wonder to give meaning to the fireworks bursting overhead.
Go ahead, serve up this New England legend on the Fourth. It’s tasty. Somewhere, the wild salmon are running from sea to shining sea.
Poached Salmon Steaks
6 salmon steaks, 1 inch thick
3 slices lemon
1 bay leaf
3 or 4 peppercorns
Parsley sprigs and fresh dill for garnish
Heat 2 quarts water to boiling, reduce heat, and add salt, lemon slices, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Add fish and simmer, allowing 10 minutes per measured inch of thickness, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, cool, then carefully remove bone and skin, keeping steaks intact. Serve in platter and cover with egg sauce. (For added flavor, mix some of the fish stock with the milk for the egg sauce.) Garnish with parsley and fresh dill.
Egg Sauce for Salmon
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup heated milk (or 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup fish stock)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 hard-boiled eggs (hard boil eggs: Cover eggs with water 1-inch submerged in sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit 17 minutes. Drain and cool eggs under running water)
Fresh parsley and mint
Melt butter over low heat in heavy saucepan. Mix flour into the butter and cook slowly, stirring constantly for 2 to 3 minutes until well blended. Gradually stir in hot milk. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring, until smooth and thick. Simmer 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add 2 coarsely chopped hard-boiled eggs. Serve with poached salmon.
Serve salmon and egg sauce with peas and new potatoes cooked in boiling water in their skins. Cover with butter, salt and pepper, and chopped parsley. Fresh mint adds a nice flavor to the peas, too.
Finish off the meal with red, white, and blue shortcakes.
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Three-ingredient savory pancakes! Actually, it’s better than that: Three-ingredient healthy pancakes.
How awesome is that?
Other than their shape, they have very little in common with the North American breakfast staple. In fact, they are almost the opposite. With a base of broccoli and eggs, these pancakes are healthy, veggie packed, protein rich, loaded with omega 3s, and totally satisfying. I even threw in a little turmeric for the benefits of curcumin. They also happen to be gluten free, grain free, and they definitely don’t need syrup.
The recipe below has more than three ingredients, but the base for them is simply shredded broccoli, eggs, and ground flax. That’s it. The rest just provide flavoring. You can follow the ones I’ve used or simply make them your own. Change the seasonings and do something new with them every time. I made some suggestions in the kitchen notes after the recipe.
Three Ingredient Savory Broccoli Pancakes
4 packed cups broccoli florets (2 cups shredded, lightly packed)
2 tablespoons ground flax
1/2 teaspoon each: turmeric, garam masala, and dried red chili flakes
2 small pinches of salt
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro (optional)
1. Using a food processor, shred the broccoli until very fine, about the size of rice. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the flax and spices. Add the shredded broccoli and whisk to combine.
2. In a large frying pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil. Pour batter into frying pan, to make a 3 or 4 inch pancake. Spread the batter out slightly, if need be, with the back of a spoon. A large frying pan will easily make three pancakes at a time. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes, flip and cook until cooked through and set. Repeat. Batter stays good for days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Serve with cucumber cumin yogurt sauce (recipe below) or roasted red pepper jam.
Other seasoning suggestions:
Substitute the turmeric, garam masala and chilis with:
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil and serve with bruschetta topping
1 teaspoon ground cumin and serve with your favorite salsa and chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon each: oregano and basil and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Serve with marinara sauce.
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill. Serve with sour cream.
Cucumber Cumin Yogurt Sauce
1 x 3 inch segment of cucumber, seeded
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 green onion
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon each: salt and pepper
Finely chop the seeded cucumber and green onion. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
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Red, white, and blue shortcakes are a standard Fourth of July treat in our family. Just a simple, warm shortcake topped with red strawberries or raspberries and blueberries with whipped cream. They come together easily, especially the years we celebrate on the Cape shuffling between the lake, riding bikes to watch the Chatham parade, and getting ready for fireworks.
This year I got to dreaming a bit. What if I kicked up the flavors a notch? And that is how candied ginger shortcakes with strawberry rhubarb sauce came to be.
Someone asked me the other day: What is the difference between a biscuit and scone? The answer: not much. Scones are sweeter with added sugar or dried nuts. And they are also used differently. Biscuits sop up gravy or sit alongside a steamy bowl of soup. Scones can serve as a quick breakfast meal, or a tea time treat loaded with jam and freshly whipped cream.
Shortcakes are really just big scones. But some people really like big scones anyway, so I say a shortcake is one you pair with fresh berries, like these candied ginger shortcakes with strawberry rhubarb sauce and blueberries.
I used my standard scone recipe for the base, and cut up small pieces of candied ginger. That part was easy. But I had to root around a bit to come up with strawberry rhubarb sauce. In the end, I took the best of what I found and combined it this way: I cooked down the rhubarb with orange juice and agave syrup. Agave is used as a plant-based sugar substitute for honey, dissolves easily in cold drinks, and is a popular ingredient in vegan recipes. I happened to have some on hand. It’s sweeter than sugar so you don’t need as much, instead of 3/4 cup of sugar, I used half a cup of agave. The syrup brought a nice consistency to the sauce, even though some research indicates that agave has more fructose than high fructose corn syrup. It’s really your choice for what kind of sweetener to use. Rhubarb sauce breaks down into mostly mush, so stirring in the strawberries (not crushed) after the rhubarb has cooked adds good texture and is visually pleasing.
So there you have it – a modern American dessert: A classic English scone base with a little bit of heat (fireworks!), covered with in-season, local fruit and berries with a hint of exotic flavoring. A perfect melting pot of red, white, and blue.
Candied ginger shortcakes
Makes 6 3-inch shortcakes
The key to making perfect scones and shortcakes is to use self-rising flour. Sifting the flour will add air and ensure that the scones are light. Work quickly and lightly and handle the dough as little as possible.
2 cups self-rising flour, sifted*
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup candied ginger, diced
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup milk, approximately
*If you don’t have self-rising flour, use 1 teaspoon baking powder for every cup of flour.
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. and grease a baking sheet.
2. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Add sugar, salt, and candied ginger. Cut the butter into the bowl with a knife or pastry cutter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Make a well in the center of the mixture and drop in the egg. Adding a portion of the milk at a time, stir the egg and milk into the dough using a rounded-edge knife. How much milk you use depends on the size of the egg. The dough should incorporate all the flour, but it shouldn’t be wet and sticky.
3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Using your fingertips, gently smooth out any cracks in the dough. Lightly press out the dough or roll lightly with a rolling pin until about 3/4 inch thick. Cut with a 3-inch round cutter dipped in flour. Place rounds on the greased baking sheet and brush the remaining milk on top with a pastry brush. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
4. After removing the shortcakes from the oven, put them onto a cooling rack covered with a tea towel. Place another tea towel on top of the scones to trap the steam and to keep the scones from drying out as they cool.
Strawberry rhubarb sauce
2 stalks rhubarb trimmed and chopped into 1/2 pieces (2 cups or 1 lb.)
4-5 cardamom pods husked and ground (1/2 teaspoon ground)
Juice + zest of 1 orange (I like Valencia oranges)
1/2 cup agave syrup (or 3/4 cup white sugar + 1/2 cup water)
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered (2 cups)
1. Combine the chopped rhubarb, cardamon, orange juice, and agave into a large sauce pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 10 minutes until rhubarb softens into a sauce, about 10 minutes.
2. In a separate bowl, add the quartered strawberries and pour in cooked rhubarb sauce. Stir to combine. Cool and then chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover sauce can be used atop of vanilla ice cream for dessert, or with Greek yogurt for breakfast.
To assemble the red, white, & blue shortcakes
Split the shortcakes in half. Spoon over strawberry rhubarb sauce over each half. Add a dollop of whipped cream and then garnish with blueberries.
Happy Fourth of July!
Remember Pop Rocks and how fun it was to have a little explosion taking over your tongue?
Molecule-R, which makes molecular gastronomy kits for the “amateur chef” to make edible and unusal delights in your own humble kitchen, has packaged popping sugar in 2.8-ounce canisters. I thought popping sugar would be a great treat for the Fourth of July – fireworks in your mouth!
The popping sugar, which is really just carbonated sugar, has limited uses, however. If the sugar is mixed with aqueous liquid, it melts and loses its popping characteristic. So you can’t bake it into brownies (my first choice). In fact, I mostly found recipes for adding the carbonated sugar to chocolate candy. Popping sugar “does not melt when in contact with fat or oils so it can be mixed with ingredients such as chocolate, foie gras, ice cream or icing,” says Molecule-R. Which means frosted brownies could work!
But since strawberries are in-season in July, and beautifully display the vibrant red of the holiday colors, chocolate covered strawberries sprinkled with popping sugar make a perfect treat for the Fourth of July. Only don’t tell your friends about the sugar! Let them be surprised and watch their eyes grow round with childlike wonder (panic?) when they take a bite. Heh, heh, heh….
Chocolate covered strawberries with popping sugar
3 to 4 ounces of dark chocolate
1 pint of strawberries, washed and dried with stems on
1 2.8-ounce can of popping sugar
1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in small bowl, stirring occasionally. If using a double boiler, transfer the melted chocolate to a smaller bowl for dipping the strawberries.
2. Cover a cookie sheet in wax paper.
3. Grabbing a strawberry by the stem, dip it into the chocolate.
4. For best results, I found that holding the dipped strawberry over a plate and then using your fingertips to sprinkle the popping sugar works best. If you roll the strawberry in the sugar, the sugar tends to sink into the chocolate and loses its textured look. And eventually the moisture from the chocolate will cause the sugar to clump in the bowl. So use your fingers and sprinkle.
5. Set the dipped and covered strawberry on the wax-paper lined cookie sheet until the chocolate has set. If you are in a rush, and you'll be serving them soon, place the covered strawberries the freezer for about 10 minutes, or until the chocolate has set. But don't over do it because the strawberries will sweat when they warm up. Humidity causes the sugar to soften and the popping effect will diminish.
Sure enough, it's absolutely pouring rain on the kids' first day of summer, and I'm going a little nuts. Loretta and the dog are following me around the house like shadows, there have been a few sibling tiffs, the house is already a disaster (more time at home equals more mess), and the sunny glow of yesterday's "School's Out!" celebration is fading a bit.
Our plans of strawberry picking disappeared with the rain. I'm disappointed and found I was looking forward to the kitchen tasks – washing, stemming, freezing, jam-making. So I found something else to relieve my get-in-the-kichen itch. If I examine my fridge for more than one second, there's always something that can be done.
In this case, Yancey bought a giant bag of washed cilantro for my taco birthday party. It was taking up valuable real estate and I'd be hard-pressed to use it up before it turns. Except if I get my food processor out and transform it into pesto. Now it's all packed in one jam jar and ready to use.
And so many uses! Dalloped on nachos or burritos or spread on a sandwich or omelet. Or mixed it with a little sour cream or yogurt for dip, adding a bit of lime and more salt. Or toss it with hot pasta, a little bit of cream, put the pasta in a baking dish, top with sharp cheddar and tortilla chips, and broil it. Yum.
And whatever you do, don't go buy pine nuts. I haven't purchased them in years since the price went up so much. Walnuts are my favorite for pesto, but I really liked the mild nuttiness of sunflower seeds. Despite the rain today, I really do feel the bounty coming on. Stay tuned for more 'fridge cleaning.
Cilantro sunflower seed pesto
Pesto means "to pound, to crush." It doesn't mean basil sauce! Summertime is perfect for making pesto out of spinach, parsley (and, of course, basil). Any semi-hard cheese and most nuts work beautifully.
6-8 cups washed and dried cilantro with stems
1 large garlic clove
Coarse salt to taste (I use quite a bit since undersalted pesto is always disappointing)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or sharp white cheddar or a mixture (as I used)
1/4 cup olive oil
1. Combine all ingredients except for olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Add olive oil through the feeding tube in a stream until ingredients have emulsified.
2. Add more of anything to taste. Will keep in the fridge for quite a while.
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