Friday, August 31

Labor Day Menu Planning

No birthday is complete without a cake. Try something different featuring fresh summer fruit. Pictured: Blackberry Buttermilk Cake

I’m lucky enough to have a birthday that always falls on or around Labor Day, making every year’s celebration last at least three days. It’s an extra excuse to do something special and take advantage of the last long weekend of summer. My fiancé and I will be taking a drive up California’s central coast, enjoying some of the state’s most beautiful beaches, quaint towns, and great local seafood. Hopefully we’ll also get a chance to stop off at a farmers market or roadside stand and pick up the last crop of summer produce to enjoy when we get home. Here are some recipes to help you eat (and party) like it’s your birthday too.

Take advantage of the last heirloom tomatoes of the season with one more caprese. Pictured: The Perfect Caprese Salad

A special occasion (or any meal) is always made better with some lobster. Pictured: Steamed Whole Lobster

Corn is one of my favorite summer vegetables. Pictured: Corn & Chorizo Salad

No party is complete without a refreshing cocktail. Pictured: Kumquatinis

Thursday, August 30

Shrimp & Yellow Tomato Orzo

As I mentioned last week, the tomatoes have been especially great lately and I couldn't resist buying some of these adorable yellow pear-shaped ones last week. Since they're so sweet, I balanced them by creating a garlic-and-onion-y sauce. This recipe is basically a riff on my classic shrimp scampi but uses orzo (a small rice-shaped pasta) and a few extra ingredients. It's the kind of all-purpose, homey dish that I could eat every night of the week. Leftovers are also great eaten as a cold or room-temperature pasta salad.

Shrimp & Yellow Tomato Orzo:
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season generously with salt, add in 1 c. orzo pasta, and cook until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over high heat and add in 1 tbsp. olive oil and 3/4 lb. peeled and de-veined shrimp. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the shrimp for 2 minutes per side, or until just opaque, then remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Add in a little more oil, 3 cloves of minced garlic, and 4 thinly sliced scallions and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until tender and fragrant but not brown.
  • Add in 1/2 c. dry white wine and cook for 5 minutes, or until reduced by half.
  • Drain the orzo, toss with a little olive oil, and divide onto plates.
  • Add the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon and the shrimp. 
  • Turn off the heat and stir in 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley and 1 tbsp. cold butter.
  • Check for seasoning, then divide the shrimp and sauce over the orzo and serve.

Serves two-three

Wednesday, August 29

Corn Bisque

This soup tastes exactly like buttery corn on the cob

Corn Bisque

We've had an abnormally hot summer this year, which is great for afternoons at the beach but not so ideal for coming home to an AC-less apartment and trying to make dinner. Luckily we just had a much needed spell of cooler days and I was able to celebrate by making this corn bisque. I think it’s honestly the best soup I’ve ever made – my fiancé and I were chugging our bowlfuls until they were empty and wiped out a four-person serving between the two of us. I kept calling it “corn hot chocolate” because the flavor and sweetness of the corn really comes through here. It’s the perfect dish to take your from summer to fall and best enjoyed with some crusty bread (I had this baking in the oven while the soup was simmering).

Corn Bisque:
  • Remove all the kernels and remaining corn pulp from 6 ears of corn and set aside along with the bare corn cobs.
  • Meanwhile, melt 1/2 stick butter in a large pot and cook 1 minced onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Add in the corn kernels and cobs and season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour in 3 c. low-sodium chicken broth and a healthy splash of heavy cream, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover.
  • Cook the mixture for 90 minutes, then turn off the heat and remove the cobs. Let cool slightly.*
  • Puree the soup in a blender and then pour into a strainer set over a large bowl.
  • Stir the soup in the strainer to push through all the liquid and discard the solids.
  • Check for seasoning, then divide into bowls and garnish with a handful of minced fresh chives.

Serves two-four (main course)
Serves six (side dish)
*Adding super hot liquid to a blender can cause it to explode. Never fill your blender more than 2/3 full either.

Tuesday, August 28

Chicken with Fig & Wine Sauce

My fiance absolutely loves figs so I'd been saving this recipe for when the fruit came in season. Figs tend to be super sweet and jam-like but they take on a great smoky charred flavor after they caramelize in the pan and cook in red wine.The recipe only calls for a handful of ingredients, making it one of those nearly-instant weeknight meals that is still sophisticated enough for company. Feel free to play around with the recipe and serve the sauce with pork or leftover rotisserie chicken for even more flexibility.

Chicken with Fig & Wine Sauce:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large skillet over high heat.
  • Season 2 boneless skin-on chicken breasts* with salt and pepper and add to the skillet skin-side down.
  • Cook for 7-10 minutes, or until skin is very crispy and golden, then flip and allow the chicken to fully cook through.
  • Remove from the pan and lower the heat to medium.
  • Add in 1 pt. halved fresh figs,** cut-side down, and cook for a few minutes or until caramelized.
  • Flip the figs and then add in 1/2 c. red wine, 1 tsp. honey, salt and pepper.
  • Cook for a few minutes, or until the sauce has reduced by half, then turn off the heat and add in 1 tbsp. fig balsamic vinegar.***
  • Spoon figs and sauce over chicken and enjoy.

Serves two
*About 6-8 oz. each.
**Or high-quality dried figs.
***Optional. I had some in my pantry and thought it really helped to bring out the fig flavor.

Monday, August 27

Fried Zucchini Blossoms with Spicy Tomato Sauce

I'm always afraid to make fried foods (except for the time I made some killer fried chicken) but have been intrigued by the zucchini blossoms at my weekly farmers market. Eating flowers might sound strange, but this is actually a popular dish in Italy - and for good reason. The blossoms have a lovely flavor and the batter makes them light and crisp. I like to serve them with a spicy tomato dipping sauce and a sprinkle of large sea salt flakes.

Fried Zucchini Blossoms with Spicy Tomato Sauce:
For Sauce
  • Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large skillet and add in 2 minced garlic cloves and a large pinch of red chile flakes.
  • Add in 1/2 pt. cherry tomatoes, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, salt and pepper.
  • Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and falling apart.
  • Remove the thyme stems and transfer the mixture to a blender.
  • Puree until smooth, adding a little water to thin it out as necessary.
  • Set aside.*
For Zucchini Blossoms
  • Add several inches of oil to a large pot or dutch oven and heat until very hot and shimmering but not smoking.**
  • Meanwhile, combine 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, 1/4 c. cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish.
  • In another dish, beat 2 eggs and a splash of milk and season with salt and pepper.
  • Use a damp towel to brush any dirt off the zucchini blossoms, then dunk in the egg mixture and then coat in the flour mixture.
  • Drop a few blossoms at a time into the oil and fry until crisp and lightly golden, about 2 minutes a side.
  • Remove to a paper-towel lined plate and immediately sprinkle with salt.
  • Repeat with remaining zucchini blossoms, then arrange on a plate and serve with tomato sauce.

Serves two-three (starter)
*Can be covered and kept in the fridge one day in advance. Reheat before serving.
**Or use a deep-fryer if you have one. I don't use a thermometer, but I usually test one before doing the whole batch. The oil should bubble furiously but not brown the blossoms too quickly.

Friday, August 24

How To: Grill Corn

I eat corn a few times a week during the summer, usually opting to sauté it with whatever other veggies or herbs I have on hand or throw it in a salad or pasta. The approach is still quick and satisfying but sometimes it’s nice to keep things as simple as possible. Grilling the corn and eating it straight off the cob is summer dining at its finest and always gives me a nostalgic feeling of the easiness of being a kid on summer break. There are many ways to cooking corn on a grill (in their husks, soaked in water, etc.) but I find that brushing them with a little oil and putting the bare ears directly on the hot grates works perfectly. Plus, I love the smoky charred flavor that some of the kernels get from this method. Sprinkle with a little salt and enjoy as is – or if you must get fancy, top with a garlic herb compound butter.

Grilled Corn on the Cob:
  • Remove the husks and silks from the corn and discard.
  • Lightly brush the corn with canola oil and place directly on a hot grill.
  • Cook for 7-10 minutes, turning and rotating it evenly every 3 minutes or so.
  • Remove from the grill and enjoy.

Thursday, August 23

Spicy Zucchini & Mozzarella Salad

I love zucchini in cooked dishes (like this, this, and this) but was inspired to try it raw from a recipe in my JamieOliver cookbook. My fiancé and I were skeptical that this would be a winner since raw zucchini doesn’t sound too appealing but it definitely surprised us. The vegetable can be a little bland on its own, but the acidic dressing, bright herbs, and fiery Thai chiles (an impromptu purchase at last weekend’s farmers market) give this salad tons of flavor. It’s a little spicy but the creamy mozzarella helps to cool it down and keep you coming back for more bites. It’s unique way to use an abundant summer vegetable and a low-maintenance side dish to just about any meal.

Spicy Zucchini & Mozzarella Salad:
  • Slice 1 1/2 lb. (about 2 large) zucchini length-wise into thin strips* and place in a bowl.
  • Add in 2-3 minced Thai chiles**, 2 handfuls of baby arugula, and 2 tbsp. minced parsley.
  • Halve 4 oz. boccocini*** and add to the bowl, then squeeze a lemon over it all and drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil.
  • Season the mixture well with salt and pepper, divide onto plates, and serve.

Serves three-four (side dish)
*I used a mandoline to get thin, even strips.
**Can substitute for 1-2 jalapenos (preferable red).
***Baby mozzarella balls. Or cut 4 oz. of fresh mozzarella into small cubes.

Wednesday, August 22

Roasted Salmon with Cherry Tomato Sauce

I've shared this before, but I can be super picky about tomatoes. I really only like the sweet little varieties or perfectly ripe heirlooms, but there have been so many great offerings at our farmer’s market lately that they’ve made my way into nearly every recipe this summer. My newest obsession is to lightly cook cherry tomatoes with garlic and herbs and then spoon the mixture on top of everything – bread, pasta, frittatas. It’s a great thing to keep in the fridge and adds a quick flavor boost to anything, like this simple roasted salmon. Confession: in an effort to get the skin extra crispy I even overcooked the fish (recipe has been adjusted so this won't happen to you), but the tomato sauce totally hid my mistake and made the whole dish taste delicious.

Roasted Salmon with Cherry Tomato Sauce:
For Sauce
  • Add 2 tbsp. olive oil and 3 cloves of minced garlic to a small pan and bring to medium-low heat.
  • Once garlic is fragrant, add in 1 pt. cherry tomatoes* and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until tomatoes have softened and released some of their juice but still can hold their shape.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley.**
For Fish
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large skillet over high heat.
  • Season two 6 oz. salmon fillets with salt and pepper and add them skin-side down to the pan.
  • Cook for 4-5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4 minutes, or until just cooked through.
  • Divide salmon onto plates and top with tomatoes.

Serves two
*I like to use different colors and shapes.
**Basil or thyme would be a great substitute.

Tuesday, August 21

Duck & Vegetable Asian Noodles

I made extra duck from this meal and re-purposed it for this weeknight-friendly noodle dish (adapted from this recipe). Most Asian noodles I make are more of a stir-fry, but this dish is basically like making Italian pasta but with Asian flavors. I love all of the crunch and greenery from the bok choy and onions, which form a really nice balance to the silky noodles and rich duck meat. It's a great one-pot dish that can easily be adapted to whatever leftovers you might have on hand (I think pork would be a great substitute for the duck) and leftovers make a great lunch the next day.

Duck & Vegetable Asian Noodles:
  • Melt 2 tbsp. duck fat* in a hot pan and add in 1 minced onion.
  • Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until starting to caramelize, then add in 1 bulb of thinly sliced bok choy.
  • Cook for another 4-5 minutes, or until softened, then add in 4 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add in 3 minced green onions and 1 c. cooked duck meat and stir.
  • De-glaze the pan with 2 tbsp. Sherry, then add in 2/3 c. chicken stock and 1/3 c. low-sodium soy sauce.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook 8 oz. noodles** until al dente.
  • Let the soy sauce mixture come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  • Drain the noodles and reserve 1/4 c. cooking liquid.
  • Add the noodles to the pan, adding cooking water as necessary to moisten them.
  • Toss for a minute, then turn off the heat and drizzle with sesame oil and Sriracha hot sauce.
  • Divide into bowls and garnish with more minced green onions.

Serves two - three
*Or canola oil.
**I used Udon, but any variety of Asian noodles would be great.

Monday, August 20

Crispy Duck Legs with Peach & Arugula

Duck gets a reputation for being fancy but its actually very economical. The legs, in particular, can be cheaper than most cuts of chicken and are much more flavorful. The key to cooking them is to let the fat render in the pan for as long as possible so that the skin gets super crispy while the meat bastes and stays succulent. Since the result is pretty rich, I like to cut it with some sauteed peaches, peppery arugula, and balsamic vinegar. Make sure to save the extra duck fat in your freezer and use it to cook vegetables (seen here and here) or other types of meat.

Crispy Duck Legs with Peach, Balsamic & Arugula:
  • Season 2 duck legs with salt and pepper and place skin side down in a hot pan.
  • Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the fat has rendered and the skin is darkly brown.
  • Flip and render the fat on the other side, draining any excess fat as necessary to help the legs cook.
  • Remove duck from the pan and pour off all but 1 tsp. fat.
  • Add in 1 large sliced peach and cook for 2 minutes per side, or until starting to caramelize.
  • Divide legs and peaches onto plates, then sprinkle with a handful of arugula and drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar.

Serves two

Friday, August 17

Cheese Ravioli with Creamy Corn Sauce

Just because I love to cook doesn’t mean that I don’t have a soft spot for certain pre-made or frozen foods from the grocery store. Trader Joe’s frozen items are some of my favorites and their potstickers and edamame are a household staple. To save time on weeknights, I like to incorporate some store bought items into my cooking and keep duplicates in my fridge so that an easy meal is always available. Here, pre-made ravioli gets a makeover with a quick and spicy sauce with fresh sweet corn. It’s a dish that takes just minutes to make but still feels gourmet and put together.

Cheese Ravioli with Corn, Parmesan, & Jalapeno:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter in a large skillet.
  • Add in 1/2 minced onion, 1 minced jalapeno,* and 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened but not brown.
  • Add in the kernels from 2 ears of corn and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add in 1/4 c. heavy cream and simmer for 5 minutes, or until thickened.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook 1/2 lb. spinach and cheese ravioli** according to package instructions.
  • Drain ravioli and immediately add to the corn sauce with a handful of grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Toss ravioli for a minute or until it absorbs some of the sauce, then divide onto plates and serve.
Serves two
*Add more or less depending on how spicy you like it.
**Or any type of ravioli you like.

Thursday, August 16

Zucchini & Potato Hash with Fried Eggs

It’s certainly not a prerequisite, but it seems that all my close relationships are with people who share my love and passion for food. My former college roommate and soon-to-be maid of honor visited me in L.A. last weekend and I was reminded of how nice it is to share a meal with her. We have very similar tastes, and when we lived together we would spend most evenings sharing a meal that one of us cooked or ordered out. She’s a big fan of eating breakfast hashes for dinner and cooks a variation of this recipe nearly every Wednesday, a ritual she deems “Hump Day Hash”. This is a summery-spin on the original (featuring local zucchini and waxy potatoes) that I made last night in her honor. It’s the perfect breakfast, lunch, or dinner meal and it tastes just as good no matter what day you eat it.

Zucchini & Potato Hash with Fried Eggs:
  • Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large skillet and add in 1 diced onion and 3 diced large, waxy potatoes.*
  • Season with salt and pepper and cook for for 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown in some areas.
  • Add in 1/3 c. chicken stock and cook for another 10 minutes, or until stock has absorbed and potatoes are tender.
  • Add in 2 diced zucchini and 3 cloves minced garlic and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown and everything is cooked through.**
  • Cook until the stock has evaporated, sprinkle in a handful of minced fresh parsley, and check for seasoning.
  • Divide hash onto plates and wipe out the pan with a paper towel.
  • Melt and little butter and crack two eggs into the pan and cook until desired doneness.
  • Divide eggs on top of the hash and enjoy immediately.
Serves two
*Such a Yukon gold. Any type of waxy potato will do.
**If a lot more bits stick to the pan, deglaze with a little more stock.

Wednesday, August 15

Nectarine Biscuit Cobbler

I give peaches a lot of love on this blog but I like their fuzz-less cousins, nectarines, just as much. My favorite variety is the mango nectarine, which has a sweeter flavor than some other types. Here the fruit is showcased simply in a cobbler (similar to my favorite crumble recipe but with a denser, softer topping). The sour cream and lemon do a lot to balance the sweet nectarines, leaving a refreshing summer dessert. Serve it with vanilla ice cream and enjoy.

Mango Nectarine Biscuit Cobbler:

  • Combine 3/4 c. flour, 2 tbsp. sugar, a pinch of salt, and 3/4 tsp. baking powder in a bowl.
  • Use your fingers to mix in 3 tbsp. butter until they are in pea-size clumps, then add in 1/4 c. sour cream.
  • Need for a minute, or until the dough comes together.*
  • Meanwhile, toss 4 chopped nectarines with the zest of 1/2 lemon, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, and 1/4 c. sugar.**
  • Scatter the fruit at the bottom of a small baking dish, then divide the topping over it.
  • Bake in a 375F oven for 40 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling and topping is lightly golden.
  • Let cool slightly, then divide into bowls and serve.

Serves six-eight
*Do not overmix or topping will get tough.
**Add more or less sugar depending on how sweet your fruit is.

Tuesday, August 14

Jalapeno Lime Shrimp

We’re lucky enough to eat a lot of fresh seafood at our house and shrimp is always one of my favorites. It’s super adaptable and equally good in pasta, stews, or on the grill. This recipe leans on a Mexican-inspired marinade that imparts a lot of flavor in a just a little bit of time (let it sit in the marinade at room temperature while the grill heats and it will be ready to go). I served it on a large plate that my fiancé and I ate with a corn and avocado salad, but it would also be a great taco filling.

Jalapeno Lime Shrimp:
  • Combine 2 tbsp. olive oil, the juice of 1 lime, the zest of 1 lime, 1 diced jalapeno, 3 cloves of minced garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
  • Add in 3/4 lb. peeled and de-veined shrimp and let sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, pre-heat a grill to high heat.
  • Add the shrimp to the grill and cook for 1-3 minutes per side* or until pink and opaque.
  • Divide onto plates and serve.
Serves two
*Cooking time depends on size of shrimp.

Monday, August 13

Tricolore Frittata

I love being able to go to the farmer's market and find everything that I need to make a meal. Lately ours has been overrun with tomatoes and bell peppers of all shapes and colors which was the inspiration for this dish. A frittata is basically an Italian-version of an omelette and the perfect no-fuss dish to showcase any in-season produce. I ended up eating this for lunch, but it would be just as tasty for breakfast or dinner. Leftovers will keep for a couple of days in the fridge, too.

Tricolore Frittata:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet, then add in 2 thinly sliced bell peppers and one thinly sliced onion.
  • Cook the vegetables for 10 minutes, or until soft, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Beat 5 eggs and 1/2 c. milk in a bowl and add in 2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the eggs to the skillet and transfer for a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes, or until eggs are just cooked.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat.
  • Add in 1 pt. halved cherry tomatoes and 3 cloves minced garlic.
  • Cook tomatoes for 10-20 minutes, or until soft but still holding their shape. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Slice the frittata into wedges and spoon some of the tomatoes on top. 
  • Grate some Parmesan cheese over and serve.

Serves six-eight

Thursday, August 9

Corn & Avocado Salad

I make a lot of different side dishes with corn during the summer (like this and this) and this recipe is another winner. Salads are a great side because you can make them first without worrying that they'll get too cold while everything else is cooking. And unlike salads with tender lettuces, this one won't wilt or get soggy while it sits. I bought all the ingredients for this simple dish at my farmer's market, but it could certainly get doctored up with some red onion, goat cheese, cilantro, or anything else that you'd like to put in. I like the balance between the crunchy corn kernels and creamy avocado and think it would pair well with Mexican food.

Corn & Avocado Salad:
  • Cut off the kernels from 3 large ears of corn and discard cobs.
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet and add in 3 cloves minced garlic and 1 minced jalapeno pepper.*
  • Cook until fragrant and softened, about 2-3 minutes, then add in the corn and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until corn loses its raw flavor, then turn off the heat and let cool.
  • Transfer cooled corn mixture to a bowl and toss with 1 thinly sliced avocado, the zest and juice of 1 lime, and 1 tbsp. olive oil.
  • Check for seasoning, divide into bowls or onto plates, and serve.

Serves two-four (side dish)
*Remove the seeds if you like it less spicy.

Wednesday, August 8

Mustard & Leek Chicken

I'm always posting on here about how bland I think chicken is and then find recipes that completely contradict that. I like this one (taken from a recipe in Jamie Oliver's cookbook) because it doesn't require any special ingredients or fancy cooking methods to transform it into something extraordinary. The mustard and leek combination is a well-known perfect pairing (see it done with pork here), but it's the pan-roasting technique that makes this chicken so tasty. The skin gets slathered with mustard and then hits the hot pan for the majority of the cooking which makes it super crispy and flavorful. While the meat rests, a fast and easy pan sauce is made  and then dinner is ready in less than thirty minutes.

Mustard & Leek Chicken:
  • Season 2 skin-on boneless* chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then slather the skin-side of each with 1 tsp. Dijon mustard.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large skillet to high heat and add a little bit of olive oil to the pan.
  • Add the chicken to the pan, skin-side down, and let cook for 5-7 minutes.
  • Thinly slice 2 leeks** and add to the pan and cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until softened.
  • Flip the chicken, add in 1/2 c. white wine, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until cooked through, then transfer to a cutting board to rest.
  • Stir the leeks and add in 1 tbsp. heavy cream, then turn off the heat and add in 1 tbsp. grainy mustard.
  • Slice the chicken, divide onto plates, and spoon sauce on top.

Serves two
*Ask your butcher to do this for you, or pull off the bones from bone-in, skin-on breasts.
**White and pale green parts only.

Tuesday, August 7

Celery Salad

I try to shy away from recipes where I end up buying a lot of ingredients and only use a little bit of each thing, but I always end up with a bunch of celery in my fridge. This salad (adapted from a recipe in this Ina Garten cookbook) is a great way to make use of it and a nice change up from the celery and almond butter snacks I’ve been having. It can be a pretty bland vegetable, but the sharp lemon and celery seed vinaigrette bring out an inherent sweetness. And to be honest, anything covered in shavings of Parmesan cheese and toasted nuts is going to taste good. It’s a unique side dish that works well with almost anything and it’s worth making even if you don’t have a celery surplus in your fridge.

Celery Salad with Parmesan & Walnuts:
For Dressing
  • Whisk together 1 minced shallot, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 3-4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp. celery seed, salt, and pepper.
  • Set aside.
For Salad
  • Very thinly slice 1 bunch of celery* and toss with 1 tbsp. lemon juice. Let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • When ready to serve, toss celery with the dressing and arrange on plates.
  • Top with 2 oz. shaved Parmesan cheese and a handful of toasted walnut halves.**

Serves two-four (side dish)
*Tender leaves included. Discard any super tough stalks.
**To toast nuts, place in a dry pan over low heat for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned.

Monday, August 6

Peach French Toast

French toast is one of my favorite breakfast foods and something I make often, but this peach topping elevates the dish to a whole new level. The key to a perfect French toast is definitely the bread, and I think that it's a must to use challah or brioche and to slice the pieces to nearly 1" thick. Once the slices get dipped in an eggy custard and cooked until golden brown, a buttery peach-infused syrup gets poured over top. The fruit adds a great layer of texture and flavor to a familiar dish and makes the whole thing feel a little decadent. It's the type of dessert-breakfast that I love to indulge in every once and awhile.

Peach French Toast:
  • Cut four 3/4"-1" slices from a loaf of bread and set aside.*
  • In a shallow bowl, whisk together 4 eggs, 1/3 c. milk, and a splash of vanilla extract.
  • Soak the bread in the custard for a minute or so on each side while you melt 1 tbsp. butter in a large skillet.
  • Add the toast to the hot pan and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden and cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, melt another tbsp. butter in a small pan until foamy.
  • Add in 1 large sliced peach and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until softened and starting to release some juice.
  • Pour in 1/3 c. maple syrup and 1 tsp. vanilla extract and simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes, or until ready to serve.
  • Divide French toast onto plates and spoon fruit and syrup over top.

Serves two
*Day old bread works even better. If possible, try to let your slices sit out for 30 minutes to dry out before adding to the custard.

Friday, August 3

The Perfect Bolognese

The best bolognese you'll ever have, made with three kinds of meat and slow cooked for hours

Zakarian Best Bolognese Sauce

I’m all about eating local, seasonal produce but sometimes I’ll get a craving for something totally different. So even though the skies are blue and the market is full of peaches, tomatoes, and sweet corn, I made a three-hour bolognese sauce. I’ve featured a quick-cooking bolognese here, but this version is the perfect thing to cure a craving and full of vegetables and three types of meat. The variety of ingredients and slow cooking creates a rich, flavorful sauce that’s super complex (and addicting). It takes a bit of time and effort to make, so I created a huge patch and froze the leftovers for when the weather gets colder. 

The Perfect Bolognese:
  • Soak 1/2 c. dried porcini mushrooms in 2 c. chicken stock until plump, then dice.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in each of two large pots over medium-high heat.
  • In one pot, add in 1/4 lb. diced pancetta, 1 diced onion, 1 diced carrot, the porcini, 1 diced celery stalk, and 4 cloves of minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In another pot, add in 1 lb. ground pork and 1 lb. ground lamb, breaking up with a spoon and stirring so that the meat doesn't stick. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the meat for 15 minutes, or until evenly browned, then stir in 4 tbsp. tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Let the vegetables cook for the same amount of time, or until deeply browned. De-glaze the pan with 1 c. red wine, then pour into the pot with the meat.
  • Add in another 1 c. wine and scrape the bits from the bottom of the pan. Let sauce reduce for 5-10 minutes.
  • Add in the chicken stock,* 1 c. milk, 28 oz. crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and the rinds from two wedges of Parmesan cheese.**
  • Let the sauce simmer for 2 hours, or until thick and rich.
  • Stir in a handful of shredded basil leaves and turn off the heat. Remove the rinds.
  • Serve over pasta or polenta.

Serves twelve
*I drained the stock into a bowl covered with a paper towel to remove any grit from the porcini.
**I save all my rinds in a bag in the freezer to use in sauces and soups.

Thursday, August 2

Greek Barley Salad

I make a lot of Greek salads in the summer (like this) because it's a great way to showcase fresh farmer's market veggies, and since there's no lettuce to wilt it keeps in the fridge for days. This adaptation adds in some hearty pearled barley for some extra texture and whole grain goodness. It's the perfect side dish since it does double duty as a vegetable and a starch although it's certainly filling enough for lunch. I served it with grilled lamb for a summery Mediterranean-inspired meal.

Greek Barley Salad:

  • Add 2 c. water, a pinch salt, and 1 c. pearled barley* to a small pot.
  • Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, or until al dente.** Let cool.
  • Meanwhile, halve 2 c. grape tomatoes and dice 1 red onion and 2-3 Persian cucumbers.
  • Stir vegetables and 3 oz. crumbled feta cheese into the barley.
  • Add in the zest of 1/2 lemon, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, and 2 tbsp. olive oil.
  • Season with salt and pepper.***

Serves four - six (side dish)
*Can substitute quinoa or farro as well.
**The barley should absorb all water, but if not, drain in a fine mesh strainer.
***Will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days.

Wednesday, August 1

Broccoli Fried Brown Rice

Even though I love to cook, I occasionally get a craving for Chinese take-out and always end up with tons of leftover steamed rice from the restaurant. It's the perfect thing to use in homemade fried rice, since the day-old grains dry up a little bit and end up cooking better. This is a short-cut version of my go-to recipe featured here, but it still tastes delicious and takes less than five minutes to throw together. The best part is that it can be made almost entirely from take-out leftovers, just open up a few soy and hot sauce packets and throw in whatever leftover steamed vegetables you have from the night before.

Broccoli Fried Brown Rice:
  • Heat 1/2 tbsp. canola oil in a large wok* until very hot.
  • Beat 2 eggs with a fork until pale yellow, then add to the wok and scramble for 30 seconds.
  • Remove the eggs and add in another tbsp. of oil.
  • Add in 1 head of finely chopped broccoli and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until crisp-tender and brown in some areas.
  • Add in 1 container of cooked brown rice,** 3 tbsp. soy sauce, 2 tsp. sesame oil, and a few drops of Sriracha hot sauce.
  • Stir to combine, then add in the egg and 3 minced scallions.
  • Turn off the heat and stir to combine. Check for seasonings, divide onto plates, and serve.

Serves two-three
*Or skillet.
**Or white rice.