The real beauty of cooking in the summer is that it is almost effortless. There are so many vegetables and fruits to be enjoyed at the peak of their vibrancy, that very little cooking, prepping, or fussiness is required. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a braised beef recipe or slow cooked Bolognese, but I revel in every minute of effortless masterpieces I can create while I can. Because it’s not me. It’s fresh food at it’s best, doing all the work! There’s no need for heavy sauces or complicated salad dressings to mask the taste of “less than fresh” vegetables.
Take this summer strawberry quinoa salad for example. With summer still clinging onto every cell, the peas, strawberries, and dill come from a local organic farm we recently stumbled across in our neck of the woods (the boreal to be exact). They had so many amazing fruits and vegetables for us to pick from, we literally couldn’t take a selection of everything home. So we picked and chose what we missed the most. Strawberries were just coming off their second field and the peas looks ready to eat on the spot. They are in essence the inspiration for this effortless salad.
The only work required was the slow relaxing process of shucking the peas, listening to them ping off the bottom of the bowl while the quinoa was cooking. With the sun on my face and a bag of peas on my lap, I made my way through a pound of freshly picked pods in a matter of a few minutes. In hindsight, I wish I had dragged the experience out longer. I can honestly say it was one of my favorite parts of the day.
To keep things effortless, we enjoyed this with a small charcuterie platter, but it would be equally delicious alongside grilled fish or chicken.
Strawberry quinoa salad with peas and dill
Salad for 2
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 cup fresh peas
1 cup strawberries cut into fork sized pieces
2 green onions, cut on the bias
1 cup parsley leaves, pulled off the stem
1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
1. Cook the quinoa according to the package directions or use this technique. During the last 3 minutes of the cooking time, add the peas to the pot. Place the quinoa and the peas in a large bowl and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Add the strawberries, green onion, parsley and dill. Toss with the vinaigrette below and season with salt and pepper.
2. Serve with a cheese plate/charcuterie platter or grilled fish or chicken.
For the dressing
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon agave (or honey)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whisk together all the ingredients until well combined. Toss with strawberry quinoa salad with peas and mint.
Related post on Beyond the Peel: Magically Versatile Any Time of Day Quinoa Salad
When my husband was deployed for one year last year, he was entitled to a two-week R&R (rest and relaxation) trip which meant the military would fly him anywhere in the world. Many choose to go home but we decided to entrust Isaac to the grandparents and rendezvous in Vietnam.
My trip from Seattle took about 17 hours. His, two days. But that’s beside the point.
Because this is meant to be a brief post – we are moving yet again, but at least it’s only across town this time! So I’ll get to the point. One of my favorite experiences on that trip was a cooking class at the Morning Glory Cooking School in the picturesque town of Hoi An along the central Vietnam coast. I wrote about it here.
And this gorgeous mango salad is testimony to it. Every time, I make it – and it’s quite often – I think of the blissful (and childless) two weeks my husband and I spent in Vietnam, lovers without a care in the world, taking comfort in each other, and in the moment that was now.
Hoi An mango salad
Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 appetizer servings
The key to this vibrant salad is selecting a mango in the right stage of under-ripeness – you want mango slices that are slightly tart and still have some crunch (I don’t like them too sour though). Don’t focus on color as it’s not the best indicator of ripeness. Squeeze the mango gently and it should give ever so slightly but not too much. If it’s too squishy, the mango will be too sweet and mushy, and is better eaten out of hand. The breed of mango doesn’t matter as much – Ataulfo, Tommy Atkins, Kent, any of these will do.
1 medium (about 13 ounces) underripe mango
1 teaspoon chili paste
1 small clove garlic
2 teaspoons sugar (palm or white are fine)
2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon lime juice (1 Key Lime)
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 small onion, sliced and soaked in water to remove its bite (about 1 cup)
1-1/2 cups Vietnamese mint (rau ram or laksa leaf) and mint leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons fried shallots
1. Peel the mango with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife. Hold the mango firmly down on the chopping board (or in one hand if you are comfortable) and use a paring knife to make vertical incisions down the mango from stem-end to tip, about half-an-inch apart. Do this on both sides of the seed.
2. With the vegetable peeler, “peel” strips of mango away from you.
3. In a mortar and pestle, grind the chili paste and garlic together. Place the chili-garlic paste in a large bowl and add the sugar, 1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds, vegetable oil, lime juice, and fish sauce. Mix well.
4. Add the shredded mango, onion, half the mint leaves and toss until the ingredients are well coated with dressing.
5. Turn onto a serving tray and garnish with remaining mint leaves, sesame seeds and fried shallots.
Related post on The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Sweet and Savory Stuffed Lychees
Anyone who works in a company of any size will tire at some point of hackneyed sports analogies when discussions around departmental or organizational performance occur. I certainly had more than my fill this past week during day-long 2014 strategic planning sessions, but perhaps surprisingly the most common sports cliche “practice makes perfect” didn’t come up.
This is a shame because of all the hot air made about around teamwork and communication, I would argue that trying to improve at your craft and learning from your mistakes is the most important element of success in any arena. I would include learning to be flexible in changing circumstances under that, too. So it is with blogging, where we can make no pretense either at mastery or of practicing very much. We have, though, been blogging a long while, more than 6 years, and have certainly learned plenty along the way from our mistakes.
We’ve seen these here interwebs change a good deal during that period. The food blogging space has gotten more crowded and if the overall quality of output (ourselves included) hasn’t risen during that period, then the quality of digital photography certainly has. We might try to console ourselves with the thought that kidneys are hard to beautify even in professional hands, but one need only glance at some of the horror shows we thought worthy of posting back in the early days to see how far we have come.
RECOMMENDED: 15 recipes for outdoor dining this summer
Food blogs are a visual medium. We may love excellent writing, and try our hardest to produce an approximation of that, but most visitors will search Google for the best looking dish, flock to that, and traffic numbers will rise or die based on looks alone. Acknowledging that is sometimes tough, but it’s all part of the process, and we freely admit to being by no means immune to the visual richness we now live among. So rich, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to believe that as recently as 2007, when we began this blog, there was still a relatively lively debate about the merits of digital photography versus the use of traditional film.
Our flip phones could just about take pictures at that time, but nobody in their right mind would have ever considered them good enough to use on a website to showcase food. Here we are six years later, populating an entire post exclusively with pictures taken on the iPhone. You should know that we sort of hate ourselves for doing this and can’t help despair at the thought that this is our shark-jumping moment and that henceforth everything we do will have been snapped on a phone, (although it is possible that we would post more often if that were the case). Nonetheless, it is reasonable, I think, to acknowledge that though SLR cameras remain matchless in picture quality and feature set, smartphones can still take some pretty attractive shots. We’ll just do you all a favor and avoid use of hashtags like #nofilter and #iphoneonly.
So it was that on a hot summer afternoon, as pork loin and peaches sizzled on our brand-new flat-top griddle, drink in hand and expansive of mood, rather than mess around with our SLR, a tripod and greasy fingers, we just pulled out our phones and tapped away on the screen. This was a great dish and perfect for any end of summer grilling you’ve got lined up. Cheers to you.
Adapted from Francis Mallmann’s outstandingly simple yet incredibly delicious book “Seven Fires”, he calls this recipe “Peached Pork.” I would certainly defer to him, but I think it would be best described as “buttered pork” since the lashings of dairy fat used in it are what, to me at least, makes it so special and enables the incredible caramelization of the pork.
2-lb. pork loin (not tenderloin), butterflied to 1/2-3/4 inch thick
2-4 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 tablespoons each, minced rosemary and sage
4-6 peaches, halved and stones removed (we used the Saturn or doughnut peaches, but regular work perfectly fine)
1-2 sticks (4-8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
Salt and black pepper
1. Using a pestle and mortar make a paste with salt, black pepper, minced garlic, rosemary, and sage, adding a small amount of oil or butter if you like to get it to stick together.
2. Season pork well with mixture and place in refrigerator for up to 6 hours.
3. Remove pork and allow to come to room temperature at least an hour ahead of cooking.
4. If you don’t have a flat-top griddle (aka chapa in Argentina or plancha in Spain), heat your largest saucepan to medium and place pork loin in middle, surround it tightly with the halved peaches and dot with knobs of butter. If it won’t all fit in one pan, use two and cut the pork into two portions, but bear in mind it may cook slightly faster in this case.
5. Cook pork for 4-5 minutes on one side, replenishing butter as you feel is necessary (both pork and peaches will absorb some and you don’t want the pan to dry out or for the butter to turn black). Turn pork and cook for another 4-5 minutes, or until still slightly yielding to the touch.
6. Remove pork and peaches and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. Good accompaniments include fried, boiled, or roasted potatoes, and green salads.
RECOMMENDED: 15 recipes for outdoor dining this summer
Related post on We Are Never Full: Braised Pork Chops with Lime and Olives
It's been the summer of muffins here at the Monitor! A few weeks ago we announced the winner of our muffin mix-off contest. A delicious apple cinnamon muffin took home first prize, but these strawberry sweetheart streusel muffins submitted by food blogger Sue Lau from Washington Township, Ohio, were such a close second, we thought we should share them.
Baked goods with strawberries can sometimes turn out too wet. But in these muffins the strawberries held up well and the muffins were moist, but not mushy in the least. The streusel-nut topping was a great addition, adding a nice crunch to every bite. Ms. Lau's recipe for strawberry butter puts these muffins in the "special weekend breakfast" category. But without the butter and baked the night before, these could easily work as an early morning, grab-and-go breakfast.
With summer winding down, strawberries will only be at markets for a few more weeks. So try these muffins out soon!
RECOMMENDED: Five breakfast meals to go
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh strawberries (or 1 cup blueberries, rinsed and drained)
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup quick oats
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Strawberry butter (optional)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of 18 cup muffin tin/s.
2. Mix together ingredients for streusel and set aside.
3. Mix together for the muffins the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Separately, mix together the milk, melted butter, beaten eggs and vanilla.
4. Gently mix the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Fold in lightly floured chopped strawberries. Pour mixture into prepared muffin tins and top with streusel mixture.
5. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool for 10 minutes before trying to remove them from the pan (or they will stick). Finish cooling muffins on a wire rack.
6. To make strawberry butter, mix together thoroughly the soft butter and powdered sugar. Fold in the strawberries and toasted pecans. Chill until needed and soften before serving on split muffins.
RECOMMENDED: Five breakfast meals to go
Related post from Sue Lau's blog, A Palatable Pastime: Strawberry Shortcake
Today was a day to mix comfort, warming foods with the fresh and bright flavors of summer. Sure I could have made pie.
Shoot. I should have made pie!
Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.
No matter, this is better than pie. Chocolate for lunch? Oh yeah baby!
Enter tostadas – which I love.
Essentially, tostadas are the perfect platform for just about any tasty topping. If you make your own tostadas, you can avoid the deep frying oil, too. Bonus. I bake tortillas in the oven for 10 minutes or so and they are perfectly crisp tostadas and there’s no nasty rancid vegetable oil to deal with.
These chocolate beans are warm, spicy, and almost creamy. There’s a kind of earthiness to them. Top the whole thing off with the bright, juicy flavors of peach and refreshing mint. I can guarantee you won’t be thinking about pie.
I often have a stash of frozen beans in baggies in the freezer for a quick grab and go. Next time you’re making beans from scratch, I recommend making extras and freezing them in 1-1/2 cup portions. This is way cheaper than buying canned beans and tastier too. However canned beans are always an option. Using cooked beans makes this lunch or dinner come together from start to finish in 15 minutes.
But really, let’s be honest. It’s about the chocolate and peaches. It’s not really about a meal in 15 minutes, it just happens to be the bonus.
Cocoa Spiced Bean Tostadas with Peach Salsa
4- x 6-inch corn tortillas
Cocoa Pinto Beans (recipe below)
Peach Mint Salsa (recipe below)
1 avocado, steamed chard, or 2 cups grated zucchini
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Place tortillas on a cookie sheet. Place a pie plate or flat object on top of the tortillas to keep them from curling up.
3. Bake for 10 minutes or until firm and crispy. Meanwhile make beans and salsa. Top each tostada with a scant 1/2 cup of bean mixture. Top with sliced avocado, steamed chard, or grated zucchini. Top with Peach Mint Salsa. Devour!
Cocoa Pinto Beans
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large tomato, diced
1-1/2 cups cooked pinto beans (or black beans)
4 teaspoon raw cacao (or unsweetened cocoa)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried red chilies
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice (juice 1 lime and use remaining for peach salsa)
1 teaspoon honey (Optional, depending on cacao used. It can be bitter at times, add if necessary)
Scant 1/2 tsp salt (or adjust to taste)
Fresh ground pepper
1. In a large frying pan, sautée onions and garlic with olive oil for 2 minutes or until onion begins to soften.
2. Add tomatoes, beans, cacao, cumin, and chilies. Cook until tomatoes soften and flavors blend. About 5 minutes.
3. Add cilantro stir to combine and taste. Add honey if necessary. Season with the salt and pepper to taste.
Peach Mint Salsa
2 peaches, pits removed and diced
1/4 cup chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (or green onion)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Related post on Beyond the Peel: How to make irresistible coconut oil chocolates
This salad is a new summer favorite. It's delicious and easy to make, especially if you've got some leftover grilled corn lying around. It also goes well with lots of things and tastes great the next day – my husband and I devoured the leftovers and I wish I'd made a bigger batch. I plan to make it again very soon!
The inspiration for this salad came from Bev, a dear family friend who was like my second mother when I was growing up. Her daughter, Dawn, was my companion until about 9th grade and the three of us spent many happy hours together, swimming at Big Deep, walking around town, and, of course, eating. Bev is a wonderful cook – I still sigh just thinking of her divine fried chicken and potato salad.
But back to this delightful salad! I recommend cooking the quinoa in vegetable broth to give it a little more flavor – it makes a big difference. And don't forget to rinse it first to get rid of the bitter saponins.
A word to the wise, leave yourself time to let the quinoa cool down after you make it. I was in a rush when I made this so I did not have time to let my quinoa cool down and the feta kind of melted into it as you can probably see in the photos. It's just as delicious that way but not quite as pretty as when the feta is in distinct pieces. And, while we're on the topic of appearances, I didn't have any red quinoa on hand when I made this, but if you do, I think that would give the salad a little more visual pop.
Chop the herbs and prepare the corn if you don't already have it on hand. I like to cook an ear or two more than I need in order to have some handy to throw into salads, salsas, corn bread, or fritters. As I've mentioned, I'm really enjoying my new corn stripper but a sharp knife will also work perfectly well.
Mix it all together with a little olive oil and lemon juice, then season with sea salt and black pepper to taste and stir in the chunks of feta cheese. That's it!
I hope you enjoy these last few weeks of golden summer.
Quinoa, corn & feta salad with fresh herbs
Serves 4 as a side
1-1/2 cups quinoa
2-1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
1/4 to 1/2 cup (the more the better, I think) coarsely chopped fresh herbs – you can use oregano, basil, cilantro, thyme, parsley, marjoram, mint, etc.,
Juice of half a lemon
1-2 cups cooked corn kernels (grilled is the tastiest)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese – I would choose a harder/drier variety over one of the softer ones
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Cook the quinoa: bring a medium-large pot of water to a boil; while it's heating up, rinse the quinoa in several changes of water and drain thoroughly. Once the water reaches a boil, add the quinoa, stir, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes on low heat or until you see the little curly white tail of the quinoa grains emerge. If there is too much liquid, leave the lid off for the last few minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in a few tablespoons of olive oil and set it aside to cool with the lid off.
2. If you don't have cooked corn kernels on hand, use the time that the quinoa is cooking to grill your corn – get the simple directions here – two ears should be plenty. Once it's cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cobs and set aside.
3. Wash, dry and chop the herbs. Combine the quinoa, corn, herbs, and lemon juice with a little more olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the crumbled feta cheese and toss to combine.
Related post on Garden of Eating: Southwestern Quinoa Salad
I was having a bake-fest one Saturday, partly because it was a rare day that I wasn't running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off (did you ever wonder exactly how headless chickens are able to run?) or having to meet people somewhere or having to be in two places at once.
Also, it was partly because I had an audio book I borrowed from the digital library, and I can't just sit still and listen to a book. Usually, I'm on the treadmill while I'm listening to an audio book, but I'd already worked out 6 days in a row so Saturday was my rest day. But I had to do something. Baking it was.
The great thing about this cake is that it was delicious. The not so great thing is it didn't come cleanly out of my Bundt pan, so it looked like something Frankenstein put together as a self-portrait. I patched it together as best as I could, covered it with leftover frosting from the White Texas Sheet Cake and sprinkled it with toasted coconut in the hopes that no one would notice Frankenstein isn't a very good artist.
All I can say is, it's the taste that matters the most - like when you're not supposed to comment on someone's appearance if it's not aesthetically pleasing, so you say "he (or she) has a great personality." Well, this is a delicious cake, let me tell you. Fluffy texture but not too light or too dense (aka perfect pound cake texture), good buttery vanilla flavor, and the sweetness of the frosting and the crunch from the toasted coconut were fantastic additions.
I misread the directions and thought you were supposed to grease and then sugar the pan. They really say to grease and flour the pan then sprinkle sugar in it. Oops, that was probably my problem with not getting the cake out intact. Live and learn, and make again properly.
Louisiana crunch cake
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Sift together cake flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Set aside.
3. In a large separate bowl, beat butter until very fluffy (about 5 minutes) then add 2 cups of sugar. Continue to beat until light and fluffy (about 2 more minutes).
4. Beat in eggs, one at a time, making sure that each egg is thoroughly blended before adding the next egg.
5. Mix sour cream and vanilla extract together.
6. Add flour mixture and sour cream mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat until batter is well blended and uniform but do not over-mix.
7. Grease and flour a bundt cake pan. Add in 1/4 cup of sugar to the bottom of pan and about 3 inches up the sides, tapping the pan to ensure even distribution. Leave excess sugar in pan. Sprinkle coconut flakes to the bottom of the pan. Scrape batter into the bundt pan and spread evenly.
8. Bake for about 50 minutes to an hour or until a wooden skewer or cake tester inserted comes out clean.
9. Let cake cool for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove from pan, making sure that the sugary coconut side is faced upward. Use a knife to scrape the sides if cake becomes stuck. (This step is very important otherwise your cake will continue to bake and will become very dry and completely stuck in the pan).
10. Drizzle glaze over the crunchy top portion of cake. Top with toasted coconut if desired.
Related post on The Pastry Chef's Baking: Root Beer Bundt Cake
When I think of really old Southern recipes, spoon bread always comes to mind. I really have no particular knowledge of its history, it's just that first time I ever had it was on a school trip to Colonial Williamsburg where it is served at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern by costumed and in-character servers. I assume everything else at Williamsburg is so accurate, that this must be a colonial recipe. I love Williamsburg, and no small part of that is the food, and I have enjoyed the spoon bread on many subsequent visits.
Working on the theory that bacon makes everything better, I added a little bit to my classic spoon bread recipe. The creamy, light cornbread-soufflé hybrid is perfect with the addition of a little crunch. But it occurred to me that spoon bread could be taken out of the realm of simple side with the addition of a little saucy extra. This bacon-onion-tomato mixture is one I have been whipping up with leftover bits and pieces for years, but finally decided was worthy of a recipe.
And no, I do not think this is too much bacon. It is actually very well balanced. But of course, these two dishes stand alone wonderfully well. The spoon bread works as a side with stick ribs, or grilled foods, or as part of a breakfast spread. And the jam, which makes more than you need for the spoon bread, is wonderful on burgers or a grilled cheese sandwich.
RECOMMENDED: Take our fruit and veggie quiz!
Bacon spoon bread
6 strips of bacon
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon baking powder
1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon grease.
2. Mix the cornmeal, sugar, and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Bring the water, butter, and 1 tablespoon bacon grease to a boil in a pan. Turn on the mixer and pour the boiling water into the cornmeal. Beat until thick and stiff. Let cool for about 10 minutes.
3. Measure the milk in a 4-cup jug, then crack in the eggs and beat well. Beat the milk and eggs into the cornmeal mush, then fold in the bacon pieces and beat until combined. Beat in the baking powder until well blended, then scrape the spoon bread into the baking dish. Bake for 30–40 minutes, until the center is set. Serve immediately with spoonfuls of tomato bacon jam.
Makes 1 pint
6 strips of bacon
2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a skillet until crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.
2. In a large, high-sided saucepan, bring the chopped tomatoes, onion, sugars, vinegar, salt, and pepper to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and breaking down. Use a spatula or the back of the spoon to crush the tomatoes, though I like to give the jam a little whirl with an immersion blender at this point to create a rough puree. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the bacon pieces and simmer until the jam is thick and spreadable, about an hour or more. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan. As the jam thickens, watch it more closely and stir often to prevent burning. The jam will be done when you pull a spatula through to expose the bottom of the pan and the two sides don’t run together.
3. Scoop the jam into jars or a bowl and leave to cool. The jam will keep covered in the fridge for more than a week.
RECOMMENDED: Take our fruit and veggie quiz!
Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Smoky Bacon and Onion Soup
Tabbouleh is the perfect summer farmers market dish – fresh herbs and vegetables tossed with fine grains for a fresh, cool salad. But has always been underwhelming to me. Too bland, too dry, I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to love it, but never had.
Until a conversation at a party about family recipes. A lovely woman from Mississippi was telling me about some of her family’s traditional Lebanese dishes, filtered through generations in the Missisippi Delta. She mentioned in passing that her family always soak the bulgur in lemon juice. That idea stuck with me as a way to pep up the dish. And it does. This version of tabbouleh is bright with lemon juice, really tart and unique. I love lots of fresh herbs, but have added a few spices for a little flair. So now I like tabbouleh – my way. I make this for parties and cook outs, but also just to keep a bowl in the fridge for quick lunches and snacks.
But here’s the thing about tabbouleh. This is my blueprint, lifted from someone else’s recipe. You can do what you want. More tomatoes or cucumbers, no garlic, a little chopped hot pepper. What you find at your market or in the garden. I do offer some hints. I like to give my knife and board a workout and finely chop all the ingredients, so each bite has a good mix of flavors, rather than a big chunk of tomato or cucumber or a big parsley leaf. With all the lemony tang, I’ve never really thought this needed salt, but do as you will.
Summer Market Tabbouleh
Serves 4 as a side dish, easily doubles
1/2 cup fine bulgur wheat
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 plum tomatoes
1 cucumber, seed scooped out
1 green onions, white and light green parts
1 small garlic clove
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sumac
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon coriander
1. Place the bulgur in a bowl. Then mix the lemon juice and 3/4 cup water in a pan and bring to a boil. Pour the liquid over the bulgur and give it a good stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.
2. While the bulgur is soaking, finely chop the tomato, cucumber, green onions and place in a large bowl. Pass the garlic clove through a press into the bowl, or chop it to a fine paste on a board and add it. Finely chop the herbs and add to the bowl. Add the olive oil, sumac, cinnamon and coriander to the bowl and stir well to blend everything. Set aside.
3. When the 15 minutes have passed, uncover the bulgur and fluff with a fork. If there is any liquid in the bowl or the bulgur seems wet, place it on a fine sieve and press out any liquid. Return to the bowl and fluff with the fork. Leave the bulgur to cool for about 5 minutes.
4. Scrape the bulgur into the tomato cucumber mix and use a fork to mix everything together, breaking up any clumps in the bulgur and scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Cover the bowl again and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld.
Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Baked Zucchini and Tomatoes
Are you on Twitter? Follow Stir It Up! @CSMFood
Oh, sweet watermelon. Juice running down my chin, too much loving to all be contained in one bite and somehow the whole face gets involved.
I think every kid must have a memory somewhere of leaning over a balcony looking over a lawn spitting their watermelon seeds down below. Juice dripping down each arm all the way to the elbows, then down the front of what used to be a clean T-shirt, and spread from ear to ear (and maybe a little in the hair) – or maybe that’s just me. I’m 35 now and still haven’t mastered the art of eating watermelon without getting it all over the place.
Gosh, I had missed watermelon, living here in this remote fire tower. Almost as much as I missed regular hot showers and regular garbage pick up.
Procuring one took until now and involved a 9-hour drive. Not all for a watermelon of course, we can buy one in town and that’s only a round trip of 3 hours. But the bonus was going home with one. Or should I say a 1/4 of one, perfect for our little fridge! What a treat. My sister cut off a chunk of hers for us to take home. Exactly the perfect size we could handle.
Watermelon is one of those things that once you cut it open, it needs to be eaten fairly promptly or refrigerated. With our current refrigerator situation, a watermelon the size of a beach ball was out of the question. It would use up far too much valuable real estate. It’s really about calories. What little space we have is taken up with more calorie dense foods such as cheese, eggs and of course lots of veggies. If fruit can’t survive on the counter, it doesn’t get purchased. I know there are those ever so precious ones the size of a cantaloupe that would be perfect, but somehow by doing that some of the pleasure is lost for me. There’s just something about buying fruit that takes two arms to carry out of the store. That’s half the fun!
The other part of the fun, of course, is eating it!
Whether you enjoy watermelon for desert or for a main, watermelon is one of those fruits that truly screams summer. Like ice cream cones and Popsicles or corn on the cob done on the grill.
RECOMMENDED: 12 recipes to beat the heat wave
As part of our bounty (which this salad is made up of) we also scored a bunch of wonderful produce and herbs from my sisters garden. We also stopped by the Italian Market to pick up other treats like cheese, olives, cured meats and a whole grain boule. Joshua even drove the the 1-1/2 hour return drive to pick up grass-fed meat from our favorite Edmonton butcher while I was at my appointment. Amazing! So to say the least, we are feasting.
I thought I’d share with you a recipe using said bounty. Now, I know what you might be thinking. Tomatoes and watermelon don’t really constitute a real bounty, but I guess it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. And in this case, the mouth.
I know that it’s simplicity might lead one to think that it’s not anything special but I do hope you’ll give it a try.
Why it works: The subtle acidity of the tomatoes plays nicely against the sweetness of the watermelon, both bursting with bold flavorful juice with every bit. The saltiness is brought in with the feta cheese, which sure helps to balance out all that sugary goodness. The cucumber brings in a fresh astringent quality with a slight bitterness brought in by the peel. There’s spicy kick and crunch from the slivers of radishes. I decided to add some young dill heads (or tops) from my sister’s garden that are all dill in the nose, but slightly peppery in the taste. It might be best described by being similar to arugula in flavor. The dill flavor is much milder, but feel free to use dill weed instead (if you’re like me and young dill heads are hard to source reliably), just use it sparingly.
Watermelon Tomato Salad with Radishes and Feta
1-1/2 cups of grape tomatoes halved (cherry or sliced tomatoes would be beautiful, too)
1-1/2 cups cubed watermelon
3-inch segment of cucumber, seeded and sliced
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 young dill head, split into individual flowers (or 1 teaspoon chopped dill)
2 ounces crumbled feta (goat or sheep work well here but cow’s milk would work, too)
Drizzle of olive oil
Cracked fresh pepper
Assemble the ingredients into a large bowl or plate. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh pepper. Serve with your favorite crusty bread.
RECOMMENDED: 12 recipes to beat the heat wave
Related post on Beyond The Peel: Real Food Menu Plan for Two
Are you on Twitter? Follow Stir It Up! @CSMFood