While visiting a friend in Colorado some weeks ago, I discovered that she has also been on a kale kick. She served this raw kale salad explaining that it was her latest obsession. Her husband reminded her not to overserve it to the point that she got too tired of it and abandon it forever. I am guilty of the same habit. I find myself over enthusiastic about certain flavors and I overdose on them.
After returning from Colorado a number of weeks ago, I consciously worked to limit my consumption of this salad to avoid the love-overconsume-overdose cycle. Now and then, I harvest all the fresh leaves from our kale garden and mix it with apple, almond and Pecorino cheese before drizzling it with lemon vinaigrette.
One of the admirable traits of a kale salad is its ability to last a day and not wilt. Be sure to massage the dressing into the leaves and let it sit for 15 minutes or more before eating. I’ve found that tenderizes the leaves. And, don’t be bashful about making a double recipe and eating the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Kale, Apple, Almond and Pecorino Salad
1 bunch curly kale
1/3 cup toasted, slivered or chopped almonds
1/2 cup Pecorino cheese cut in 1/4 inch squares
1 apple, sliced thin – pink lady, gala, or fuji
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 3 Tbsp)
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Wash and dry kale leaves. Fold them in half and pull stem out removing it all the way up, even through the bottom part of the leaves where it is thick. Tear the leaves into bite sized pieces or chop the leaves crosswise in 1/2 inch ribbons. Place them in a bowl.
Toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat until light brown. Remove from heat and cool.
Cut cheese into 1/4 inch dice. Cut apple right before tossing in the dressing to avoid browning.
To make the dressing, whisk lemon with olive oil until combined. I like to shake them together in a jar. Add a pinch of salt and black ground pepper. Drizzle dressing on kale little by little, massaging into the the leaves with your hands. You may have more dressing than desired, depending on how much kale you have. When it is all coated, add the cheese, almonds and apples and toss together.
Let sit about 15 minutes before serving. It lasts in the refrigerator one day.
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Summer didn’t just arrive in Chicago this year. It squeezed its big, hot, sweaty self between us on the couch and settled in, kicking off its shoes, radiating heat and acting like it had no place else to be for a while. In weather like this, you don’t want to heat up the kitchen cooking a big, hot meal that no one feels like eating anyway. Poaching in butter isn’t necessarily a hot weather cooking technique, but in this case it was perfect for the heat.
I stumbled on the technique when I was looking for more traditional fish poaching methods that I figured might involve white wine and broth. When I read Melissa Clark’s informative and charmingly confessional piece on the topic in the New York Times, I was hooked.
In addition to giving the fish a rich, buttery, herbed flavor, butter poaching keeps the flesh moist and tender, something that’s not always easy to do with frying or pan searing. And in the time it takes to toss the greens and plate the meal, the cubes of fish cool slightly, making this a perfect summer meal.
The recipe below is a true recipe, complete with amounts and cooking times. But more than that, this is a cooking technique I encourage you to explore. Play around with the herb choices—I’ve really been enjoying fresh thyme these days, but I’m thinking tarragon might be good. So would parsley or something else. You could even go spicy and experiment with a little cumin or curry (I would start with a light hand here).
I used salad greens. Clark talks about serving the fish over egg noodles. I could even see adding some drained and rinsed cannellini beans to the pan when the fish is nearly cooked through. For the fish, anything not too delicate so that it breaks apart as it cooks will work. As long as you keep the heat low and don’t overcook, you’ll come up with something wonderful.
Butter Poached Tilapia with Thyme and Mixed Greens
2 6-ounce tilapia fillets (or other firm white fish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 generous teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
A couple of good handfuls of mixed greens
1 generous tablespoon fresh lemon juice
baguette or crusty bread as an accompaniment
Prepare the fish. Pat tilapia fillets dry with paper towels and cut into bite-sized chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Place butter and olive oil in a large nonstick skillet and melt together over very low heat, swirling the pan to combine. Add the fish chunks to the pan. You should not hear any sizzling sounds at this point—if you do, the heat is too high. Sprinkle the thyme leaves over everything.
Cook the fish, turning frequently and gently—I used wooden spatulas. Be careful to not let it brown. Also, move the fish gently around the pan; when the heat is very low, your pan can be hotter in the center where the flame is concentrated. (As the fish warms, you may hear it sizzle a little. Not to worry—just turn your flame as low as possible and keep an eye on the fish so it doesn’t brown). Cook just until the fish is opaque and firm feeling, about 7 to 10 minutes, depending on how low the heat is. Thinner pieces of fish will cook faster; transfer them to a plate with a slotted spoon or spatula as they do. I started removing the thinnest end pieces at about 5 minutes. When all the fish has been transferred to a plate, turn off the heat.
Prepare the mixed greens. This is not a “meanwhile” step. Before cooking the fish, place your greens in a salad bowl. Do the rest of this after you cook the fish. You want to watch it carefully to not overcook it. Whisk the lemon juice, a generous tablespoon of the butter and oil mixture from the pan and some salt and pepper together. Drizzle over the mixed greens and toss to coat.
Assemble the salads. Divide the mixed greens between two dinner plates. Give each an extra grind of pepper, then pile tilapia chunks in the middle. By now, it’s probably barely warm. That’s perfect. Serve with slices of baguette. The photo above doesn’t show this, but we dipped one side of the baguette slices quickly in the remaining butter and oil mixture in the skillet. No need to slosh them around in there—just a quick touch will make them taste of the butter, the oil and the thyme.
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I truly believe things in their simplest state can often bring out the best in something. Like a perfectly clean sun kissed face on a warm summer morning, a single balloon to tell someone you were thinking of them, a walk through the forest with only the sound of your own steps along the gravel trail and birds singing.
This salad is one of those things. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated, just good natural ingredients that are allowed to shine through as summer starts to make its way into our lives. Zucchini right now is at its most tender and delicate. The corn adds a sweet crunch without crowding any of the other flavors. This would also make a great addition to any picnic.
The Chipotle Corn Salad can be made and served on it’s own, served as a side dish, or even as a corn salsa for tortillas. Try topping a lovely zucchini or tomato soup with it.
So it probably won’t come as a surprise that Corn Salsa also happens to be one of my favorite ways to eat corn.
Chipotle Corn And Zucchini Salad
Chipotle Chili Oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1 dried chipotle pepper, roughly chopped
In a small pan over low heat, gently warm the oil and the chilies. Be careful not to heat the olive oil too much, warm to the touch is what we’re after, so as not to ruin the healthy properties of olive oil. Remove from the heat source and allow the chilies to soak in the oil while the soup is cooking. Taste the oil and adjust the spiciness by adding more oil if it’s too hot. If it’s not hot enough, return to the stove and warm it up one more time. The flavor will develop the longer it sits.
Chipotle Corn And Zucchini Salad
2 ears of corn
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup dice celery
2 small green onions or 1 large
1 tablespoon Chipotle Chili Oil (see above)
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt to taste
1 medium sized zucchini
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Peel away the leaves of the corn. Put the corn in a large pot with approximately 4 inches of water. Cover with a lid. Bring to a boil. Once the water starts to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the corn from the water and place in a cold water bath. Cut the kernels of the corn and place in a bow. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Add salt to taste and set aside.
Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, thinly slice the zucchini. Toss the sliced zucchini and mint with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Top the zucchini mixture with the Chipotle Corn Salsa or mix the corn into the zucchini and serve cold.
Related post on Beyond The Peel: Beet and Pear Slaw on Tortillas with Dill Crème Fraiche
Fourth of July picnics kick-off three glorious month of eating outside in the fresh air. Here are a few ideas to fill your picnic table.
For the grill
Four variations for turning an ordinary hot dog into a tasty delight.
Loin flap steaks, flat steaks, and top sirloin are less expensive cuts that deliver delicious flavors.
A good bun, melted blue cheese, grilled toppings (hold the ketchup!) make for a perfect burger.
Turkey burgers 'livened up' with Asian flavors.
Beef kebabs with a cherry barbecue sauce.
Homemade veggie burgers allow you to play around with flavors.
Season grilled corn-on-the-cob with Parmesan, lime, and paprika.
Grilled summer vegetables make a wonderful napoleon when paired with fresh tomato, basil, and mozzarella.
Sides and Salads
A slaw with a vinegar base that will hold its form inside a cooler or on a picnic table.
Green bean and potato salad with lemon-dill aioli.
A vibrant summer salad with fresh flavors and colors.
Two different ways to flavor a classic egg salad.
A just-right salad for lazy summer days.
Quinoa is a protein-rich seed that has a nutty flavor when cooked. It works as a wonderful base for salads.
Dried cranberries, feta cheese, and pumpkin seeds add extra flavor and crunch.
These crisp, lively fresh dill pickles get their flavor from dill, garlic, jalapeño peppers, coriander, and mustard and fennel seeds. And they’re ready to eat in 24 hours.
A sweet pickle that will win over even those who say they don't like pickles.
A favorite, all-purpose summer condiment.
Three weeks ago I started my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), resulting in an explosion of vegetables in my life.
A CSA is similar to a farm subscription. Its mission is as follows: “Members participate in their own food supply by committing to share in the harvest of a local grower. By joining a CSA, you express your support for locally grown, ecoganic food, and the farmers who grow it.”
Way back in the winter when the growing season began, Emily and I joined and bought one mini-share, (one medium-sized bag of veggies), which we split from June through mid-November. The shares are delivered to her office every Tuesday afternoon.
Our farm grows mostly vegetables and herbs. Other CSA farms operate in different ways: some include meat and dairy, some you buy week by week. I like the subscription method because there’s no forethought required on my part. I will receive large quantities of vegetables all summer and fall and that is that. And for the cost of just $7.50 per week, I don’t need to buy any produce at the grocery store for 5-1/2 months.
I especially enjoy the creativity required by my CSA. I try vegetables I’ve never heard of, wouldn’t usually buy, or maybe don’t even like. I find myself googling phrases like “kohlrabi recipes,” “how to roast turnips,” “can I eat fennel raw?” and “vegetables on the grill.”
So far I’ve had yellow squash, zucchini, red potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, escarole, garlic scapes, green onions, kohlrabi, basil, Swiss chard, turnips, and lots and lots of beets.
If you think of beets as those sad squares at the salad bar, think again. Fresh beets are very flavorful, dazzlingly colorful, and absolutely delicious. I eat them in all things, recently focusing on risotto preparations. The first time I made beet risotto, I used farro as my grain of choice, but it took forever to cook.
The following recipe uses a Trader Joe’s box risotto. If you use regular risotto rice such as Arboria rice instead, I suggest adding some herbs or spices or at least a veggie or chicken broth for extra flavor.
3 medium-sized beets, cut into 1/2 –inch cubes (about 2 cups). I leave the skin on, but you can peel them if you like.
2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 box Trader Joe’s Mushroom and Herb Risotto (or 3 cups risotto/Arborio rice)
3 cups water, vegetable broth, or chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top
In a medium-sized saucepan, heat oil. Add risotto rice and green onions and toast while stirring occasionally until the rice is browned (2-3 minutes).
Add 3 cups water or broth of your choice and TJ’s flavor packet (if you’re using the box mix), and beets. Bring to a boil, then turn to a simmer.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed. If the rice is still crunchy, add more liquid, a 1/2 cup at a time, until it’s done. (If you’re using the box mix, this should take about 20 minutes. If you’re using Arborio rice, it might take up to 45 minutes.)
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
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This is no ordinary birthday cake. On the outside, it appears plain white and completely unassuming. But, the inside is extraordinary – it looks like an American flag! What better way than to celebrate our nation's founding?
Here’s a little look at the construction of America’s birthday cake.
How to build a patriotic cake
Inspired by 17 and Baking
For a step-by-step photo guide, click here.
Mix up a white cake batter.
Divide up the batter by thirds into bowls and use gel food coloring to mix up a blue batter and a red batter. Leave one batter white.
Using greased aluminum cake pans (you'll need 6!) divide the white batter between two pans, divide the red batter between three pans, pour the blue batter into one pan. Bake according to your cake mix instructions, but watch closely since the individual cakes won't be as thick.
Once they have cooled, use a long serrated knife to level the cakes.
Frost a red and white layer together. Place the blue layer on top. Using a ramekin as a shape guide, cut a circle through all three layers. Discard the inside of the blue layer and the outside of the red and white layer.
Fit the now smaller red and white layers inside the larger blue layer, like a puzzle.
Build the base of the cake by spreading a thin layer of frosting between a red layer, a white layer, and another red layer. Place the cake layers trimmed-side down to spread the frosting more easily.
Place the red, white, and blue layer on the top of the red, white, and red layer base.
To keep your serving platter clean, tuck wax paper along the edges of the cake while you frost. Spread a thin layer of frosting all around the cake. Think of this coat of frosting as the corset holding all of the layers and crumbs in place. Refrigerate until the frosting is firm.
Spread a second layer of frosting over the cake and decorate as desired. When the frosting is complete, gently pull the wax paper away.
For a step-by-step photo guide on The Gourmand Mom, click here.
Sign-up to receive a weekly collection of recipes from Stir It Up! by clicking here.
I'm quite reticent to call this the perfect burger, but's it's close. Plus, aren't burgers one of the more touchy, subjective food subjects? Some people are all about the beef – if it's Wagyu or not, how it's raised, how juicy it is. Other people are all about the accoutrements and the bun. I'm in the latter category.
I grilled up a bunch of yellow peppers and onions and made some herbed mayo. And I bought brioche buns. Buns. Since we only make burgers at home once every few months, there's no way I'm going to wreck it with a bad bun. Good buns are very hard to find, it turns out.
Also I hate ketchup on burgers. I like ketchup on fries and fried egg sandwiches, but that's about it. If I've just gone to all the trouble to grill peppers and onions, I'm not going to spoil everything with ketchup. I am a mayonnaise lover from my youth (another touchy subject – some people shudder at the thought of mayo) so I have my burgers just with mayo or I often make a quick garlic or herbed version like I did here.
My patties were nothing special – just meat and salt. So I'll let you do those your way. And my brioche buns were grilled (cold buns are another thing that can wreck a burger). Otherwise, here's how to do the peppers and mayo, and blue cheese doesn't hurt, either. I put it on when the burgers are almost done so it turns into a gooey, creamy mess.
Grilled Peppers and Onions
6 yellow (or red or orange or combo) bell peppers
1 large red onion
1 large yellow onion
salt and pepper
Preheat grill on high. Brush whole peppers with olive oil, and cut onions into 1/2-inch thick rings and brush with olive oil. Grill everything together. Onions will take about 4 or 5 minutes on each side, and you can take them off before the peppers are done and set them in a bowl.
Grill the peppers until charred all over – 10-12 minutes. Put the charred peppers in a plastic or paper bag and let them sweat and cool down in there, about 15 minutes. This helps the skins come off easily. Peel the skins off, cut and seed them, and add them to the bowl with the onions.
Toss everything with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
1 cup mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, minced
1 handful chopped fresh herbs (I used oregano)
juice of 1/2 lemon
lots of salt
Stir together and smooth on a lightly toasted bun.
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Eat This Poem is a new blog that combines food and poetry in much the same way Feasting on Art considers food and art. Eat This Poem is written by Nicole Gulotta who has an MFA in poetry enabling her to marry beautiful words with delicious food. Working with her on a collaboration only felt natural and when she suggested a post investigating William Carlos Williams and Pieter Bruegel, I knew I was fated to work with her.
While an undergrad I double majored in both English and History of Art and in my final semester, I did an entire course in William Carlos Williams. My major paper considered the collection of poems titled "Pictures from Bruegel" which is a composite representation of Bruegel’s work through the viewpoint of Williams. The poetry illustrates the way in which Williams’ eye follows the canvas and his impressions while gazing upon the works.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder, the 16th-century Flemish Renaissance painter, was a master landscape artist. Within these landscapes, small narratives are depicted which are focused on the life of the working class society. The scenes are split between work and play with subjects varying from wedding dances to haymaking as pictured in "The Harvesters." This panel is one of six created to depict the seasons and represents the late summer/early autumn when peasants would reap the hay.
Rather than focus on the action of the peasants, Bruegel chose to take a broad view of the landscape to portray the way in which the land is transformed through farming. Although the landscape is the heart of Bruegel’s painting, the subjects of "The Corn Harvest" by William Carlos Williams are the peasants in the foreground of the canvas. For further reading about Williams’ "The Corn Harvest" and an inspired recipe for a farmers egg sandwich with basil aioli, visit Eat This Poem.
Grilled Corncobs with Parmesan, Lime & Paprika
Inspired by a dish served at Ms.G’s in Potts Point
Yield: 2 servings
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
juice of 1/2 of a lime
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
handful of fresh coriander leaves
Husk the corncobs and remove all of the silk. Rub them with a bit of butter and place on a grill or in a griddle pan over medium-high heat. Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the corncob, rotating every couple of minutes until the cob is evenly cooked. The corn will be soft and tender when done.
Remove from heat and immediately cover with a quarter cup of grated Parmesan cheese so the residual heat in the corn melts the cheese. Squeeze over the lime, dust with the hot paprika and scatter the coriander leaves. Serve immediately.
Related post on Feasting On Art: Spicy Sauteed Corn
One of my favorite shows on TV is “Cupcake Wars” on Food Network. Every Sunday night, you can find me in front of my TV, stressing out with the cupcake bakers on how to pass the taste challenge (Round 1), the taste and presentation challenge (Round 2) and creating a display and baking 1,000 cupcakes in 2 hours (Round 3) with 4 baking assistants and a bearded carpenter clad in plaid.
When I first started watching the show, it stressed me out so much I almost couldn't watch it. It reminded me too much of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and the daily stress of making desserts in time for the lunch deadline (you don't sit down and eat lunch until the desserts are done, plated, on display and your station is clean). I've since gotten used to the show so now I can actually distance myself enough to enjoy the cupcakes they're making rather than cringing in empathic sympathy for what the contestants are going through.
What does fascinate me about the show is all the flavor combinations they put together. My idea of the perfect cupcake is a well-made, moist, plain (i.e. non-filled) cupcake topped with the thinnest layer of frosting and no decorations that I would otherwise only pluck off and never eat. “Cupcake Wars” goes to the opposite end of the spectrum and the most exotic (or sometimes just plain weird) flavors are baked into the cupcakes, they're filled with “stuff,” thickly topped with frosting, and decorated in all sorts of ways. Most of them are probably cupcakes I wouldn't eat but some of them sure look pretty. And some do put together flavor combinations I would probably like.
Despite my aversion to cupcake fillings, I decided I'd try it out – namely because I found a cool new baking gadget to play with: the cupcake corer. Granted, a small knife or the large-enough end of a decorating tip could accomplish the same thing – making a hole or well in the center to be filled with filling. But for $4.99, no tax, and free shipping, I felt I could indulge in a new baking gadget.
I was meeting my cousin and her son, Vanilla King, for dinner and I needed something befitting his moniker. (I gave it to him, after all, since he's the only kid I know who not only prefers vanilla, but actually doesn't like chocolate. Doesn't like chocolate.) In any case, what better cupcake for Vanilla King than a vanilla cupcake filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with vanilla icing? I used Martha Stewart's recipe for Yellow Butter Cake and made a half recipe into cupcakes. Turns out I didn't have regular cupcake liners on hand so I used the mini panettone molds instead. They made for a bigger, taller cupcake than I intended.
I used the CIA recipe for pastry cream because it's my favorite. If you are only making 1 batch of cupcakes, a half recipe of the pastry cream would be more than enough.
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups cake flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tables milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter cupcake pans or line with baking cups.
In a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until combined after each addition.
Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake pans and smooth with an offset metal spatula. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centers come out clean, 20-25 minutes or less. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Let cool completely before coring and frosting.
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted (more or less, depending on the consistency you want your frosting)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk, adjust with confectioners’ sugar for desired consistency
With an electric mixer, beat butter on medium high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return to medium.
Add vanilla and milk, and beat until frosting is smooth. If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 10 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.
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Making oven fries are easy and dressing them up with herbs or spices really takes the chip into a different realm.
Garlic Cilantro Fries
2 lbs. potatoes – Idaho or Yukon Gold, whichever you prefer, scrubbed and cut into French fries, wedges or thick-cut chips
Salt and pepper to taste
1 heaped teaspoon granulated garlic
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro (coriander)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Insert a wire rack into an 18- x 13-inch sheet pan and set aside. Roasting the potatoes on the wire rack helps the heat to circulate evenly all around the potatoes and prevents you from having to tossing the potatoes half way through the cooking process. However, if you do not have a wire rack (aka cooling rack), add the potatoes directly to the sheet pan and toss the potatoes half way through the cooking process.
When the water comes to a boil, salt the water. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Time starts when the water comes back to a boil. Drain potatoes well and blot off excess water with paper towels.
Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Drizzle oil all over potatoes, sprinkle black pepper and granulated garlic, toss gently to mix and coat. Fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and oregano can be minced and be added to the potatoes to give you flavored chips. Spread potatoes out in a single layer on wire rack and place in oven. Roast for 30 minutes or until potatoes are deep golden with some gently browned edges.
Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully and quickly remove the rack and transfer the chips to a large bowl, sprinkle the cilantro all over the chips and toss to coat. You can use parsley instead of cilantro if you like. Or you can add cumin (ground and or ground), garam masala or your favourite dried spice mix. The potatoes should be adequately salted from being cooked in the salted water so there should be no need to add more.
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