Tag Archives: summer

Savor summer’s end: Savory heirloom tomato cobbler

Savor summer’s end: Savory heirloom tomato cobbler

Proving that tomatoes can turn a classic dessert into a savory delight.

Even though turning on the oven in the middle of August isn’t on the top of most people’s list, there are a few dishes that are worth the extra mercury on the thermometer. Tomato cobbler is one of them.

“Cobbler? But that’s a dessert!,” is the reaction of most folks. Not in this case. This cobbler is a savory take on the classic sweet dessert and uses fresh and juicy summer tomatoes in place of the fruit (though, technically, tomatoes are also considered to be fruit).

Why tomatoes, you ask? Sure, you could throw them in a nice, cold salad, but have you ever popped them in the oven and baked them until they burst? Their natural sugars are enhanced with the application of heat and roasting them brings out their sweetness and even more flavor over eating them raw. In short, roasted tomatoes are a-mazing. If you have access to heirloom tomatoes, splurge and use them in this dish as they have even more “meat” and flavor to them than most tomatoes in the market.

To make this easy tomato cobbler, the vegetables (or “fruit and veg”) are cooked in a pan and poured into a baking dish over a cornmeal batter. To give it an even more homey and rustic look, use an ovenproof or cast iron pan to cook, bake and serve it in. And if you get the hankering for this savory side dish and tomatoes aren’t in season, simply use drained, canned tomatoes (the no-salt added kind). It tastes great when served fresh out of the oven, but tastes even more heavenly if it is allowed to sit and cool a little while and served at room temperature. It also makes fantastic leftovers when reheated and served the following day.

Grab the sumptuous flavors of late summer while you still can, crank up that oven, and make this mouthwatering cobbler as soon as humanly possible.
Read the rest of this entry

Taste the tropics in this piña colada-inspired sundae

Taste the tropics in this piña colada-inspired sundae
Pineapple Sundae logo

My current muse for a sweet sundae recipe is the tropical piña colada drink, from which I borrowed the flavors of pineapple, coconut and rum.

With warm, sweltering weather on our doorstep, I get a hankering for cool desserts like ice cream sundaes. My current muse for a sweet sundae recipe is the tropical piña colada drink, from which I borrowed the flavors of pineapple, coconut and rum (because, as is common with most of my recipes, there’s booze involved in one form or another).

In my opinion, there’s definitely a science to building the perfect sundae and every one should have these four basic elements: ice cream (which is a given), sauce, crunchy stuff, and “other stuff”.

Vanilla was my go-to the ice cream for this piña colada-inspired sundae. While I usually consider vanilla a rather boring and unadventurous choice by itself, it does serve as a wonderful canvas for a sundae where there are many other strong flavors going on. I mean, what doesn’t go with vanilla?

Next up: sauce. A sweet sauce transforms a simple bowl of ice cream a sundae. I took the rum element of the piña colada and incorporated it into a quick and easy-to-make caramel sauce. It may sound fancy and a bit daunting to some, but it is simply made up of butter, brown sugar, and rum. Heat the ingredients up together (with a few steps in between) and — voila! — it becomes a caramel rum sauce fit for just about any dessert.

To cover the “other stuff” on the sundae checklist, I chose to use fruit — my fruit of choice being pineapple — and toasted coconut. Fresh pineapple is wonderful by itself, but when roasted it becomes even more sweet and ambrosial. By simply tossing pineapple in brown sugar the exterior will caramelize, turning to a golden-brown color, taking the flavor to heavenly heights. Toasted, unsweetened coconut flakes add a final pop of flavor and tie the whole dish together to achieve the piña colada essence.

And last but not least: the crunchy stuff. There are no crunchy bits in a piña colada, but a sundae simply must have something crunchy on top — the obvious choice being nuts. I decided to use toasted pistachios for some crunch and a pop of color, but cashews or macadamia nuts would also play well with the other flavors in this dessert.

For a sweet taste of the tropics, have a go at the recipe below. I’ve also listed some dairy-free/vegan substitutions for those with special diets so that they, too, can enjoy this treat.
Read the rest of this entry

Say “Opa!” to these Greek lamb sliders in pita pockets

Say “Opa!” to these Greek lamb sliders in pita pockets
Besides being utterly delectable, these Greek lamb sliders are healthy as well.

Besides being utterly delectable, these Greek lamb sliders are healthy as well.

When it comes to burgers, quality meat can make a simple burger great, but flavorful additions can really put it over the top. Herbs and spices mixed into the meat, tasty toppings, quality cheeses and fancy buns can all contribute to make one stellar gourmet burger.

Take, for example, my Greek-inspired sliders. Feta cheese and warming spices add a flavorful kick to the ground lamb, and instead of lettuce and tomato, the red wine vinegar-tossed spinach and onion serve as the topping. And forget the boring standard bun, these Greco masterpieces are sandwiched between fluffy pita bread.

Besides being utterly delectable, they’re actually pretty healthful as well. Lamb meat contains omega-3 and monounsaturated fatty acids (a.k.a.: the good fats). When grocery shopping, go for pasture-raised New Zealand lamb (or grass-fed beef) as it contains higher levels of these essential fatty acids. For a lightened version of the sliders without sacrificing any of the flavor, simply nix the Feta and the pitas, and either bake or grill them instead of pan frying.

These Greek sliders are perfect for a summer cookout party, a game night in with friends, or even a simple weeknight meal. Not into mini food? The recipe can easily make four full-sized burgers as well. Serve them alongside a Greek salad, some grilled or broiled eggplant, and pair them with a crisp, light Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa or New Zealand. Read the rest of this entry

Spice up your Cinco: Two twists on classic tipples to celebrate the 5th of May

Spice up your Cinco: Two twists on classic tipples to celebrate the 5th of May

Ginger Beergarita 1_logo

Due to the simple fact that we Americans have to make just about every holiday an excuse to drink, I’m sure that most of you are well aware that Cinco de Mayo is this weekend. That means parties, sombreros, and tequila drinks galore. And no, for the last time, it does not mark Mexico’s Independence Day (that’s September 16th); it’s a celebration and remembrance of Mexican fighters taking down the French forces at The Battle of Puebla in 1862. Use that one to impress friends and potential one-night-stands on Sunday.

I digress. On to the drinks!

Tired of celebrating with the standard margarita, I decided to concoct a new tequila-based libation. I borrowed the idea of the “Beergarita” — a mixture of Mexican lager beer, limeade or sour mix, and tequila — and gave it a sweet and spicy twist by replacing the lager with ginger beer, and adding fresh ginger and jalapeno. Ginger and reposado (slightly aged, amber-colored) tequila are a great flavor pairing in this Ginger Beergarita and the addition of the jalapeno enhances the spiciness of the ginger — which can easily be omitted from the recipe if you’re not a fan of heat.

Not that this would be the first thing on your mind when mixing a drink on Cinco, but the Ginger Beergarita also has some great health benefits. Ginger has natural immune system-boosting properties and helps to fight of certain types of cancer cells with its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects. Bonus: ginger has been a natural remedy for migraines and nausea, so this drink may actually reduce your hangover on May 6th.

So while celebrating the rich culture and heritage of Mexico (and the time they kicked some French ass) by guzzling far too much cerveza and tequila, try out the following exotic tipples this weekend.
Read the rest of this entry

Anything But Rabbit Food: Refreshing, lettuce-less summer salads

Anything But Rabbit Food: Refreshing, lettuce-less summer salads

No lettuce required: Summer Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Salads are a staple of summer and they come in many forms. What pops into most folks’ heads when the word “salad” is uttered is most likely a plate full of leafy greens. While lettuce based salads are well and good, there are other forms of “salad” to consider this time of year, like ones consisting entirely of veggies and/or fruit. They’re a great way to utilize the best produce that this season has to offer and can be a great way to boost the nutritional content of your meal (barring they’re not swimming in mayo or sour cream because that kind of negates the “healthy” aspect).

This first recipe utilizes fresh, raw veggies that are tossed in (my take on) creamy Green Goddess dressing and it makes for a great side for a summer gathering. Instead of smothering this dish in a mayo and/or sour cream based dressing, it gets its creaminess from avocados and buttermilk — the latter being much healthier than you might think (one cup contains less than 100 calories and only 2.2 grams of fat). Make the dressing a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to marry and feel free to toss the veggies together with the dressing up to an hour before serving.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
Makes 4 servings

2 ears of sweet corn (raw)
1 medium-sized zucchini, diced
1 bell red or orange pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced

1 medium ripe avocado, pitted and diced
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons sliced fresh chives, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, ribs and seeds removed and minced
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Read the rest of this entry

DIY Dips and Spreads: How to whip up your own ketchup, mustard and Ranch dressing

DIY Dips and Spreads: How to whip up your own ketchup, mustard and Ranch dressing

USE A CONDIMENT: Make your own ketchup, mustard and Ranch dressing to gussy up those summer spreads.

With summer officially in full swing, many minds conjure up ideas for outdoor parties which then turns to the thought of food. The fare at these warm weather parties often include grilled items, cold salads and various other spreads. But while most folks are envisioning burgers, brats and deciding what to include on the crudité platter, I’m ruminating over what accompanies said items.

To me, the stars of the show are the condiments — able to mask any overcooked hunk of meat or bland sandwich — and Heinz just doesn’t cut it for me anymore, so I choose to make my own condiments. The ingredients are inexpensive, plus they’re easy to make and customizable to suit any taste. Check out the following recipes to impress your cookout guests (and never get caught buying boring condiments again).

‘Better than 57′ Ketchup

Before making my own ketchup, I assumed Heinz 57 was the end all, be all because that’s what the commercials tell us, right? Try this simple recipe on for size and you’ll won’t have to battle with that infamous glass bottle again.

Makes a little over 1 cup

14 ounces of crushed tomatoes or plain tomato sauce (1 small can or 1/2 large can)
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste)
A dash of freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan, whisk together and put on medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a heavy simmer, then lower heat and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. Partially cover the pot as the mixture will splatter as it cooks. The mixture will thicken as it simmers. Let cool to room temperature, then either serve it or put it in a covered container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Read the rest of this entry

The white wine spritzer gets a classy, 21st century makeover (recipes)

The white wine spritzer gets a classy, 21st century makeover (recipes)

Credit: Voga Italia

While many consider the wine spritzer to be a throwback drink (made popular in the ’70s and ’80s), it seems that lately the spritzer has been making its way back onto the trendy cocktail scene.

The spritzer of days gone by was typically two parts white wine to one part club soda. (Can you say “boring”?) But today’s mixologists are giving them modern, grown-up twists by mixing them with top-shelf sparkling wine, Champagne, fresh fruits and exotic liqueurs.

So, the next time you have guests over or throw a cocktail party, mix up some of these nouveau spritzers for refreshing alternatives to the typical liquor-mixer cocktails and throwback white wine spritzers.

Read the rest of this entry