Tis the Season

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My guess is that when you hear this phrase you also hear sleigh bells. Sure, it’s mostly associated with winter holidays but quite frankly, ‘Tis the Season can be applied every 3 months: winter, spring, summer and fall. Each one brings about change of all types. From what we wear to what to do. And I believe this is especially true when it comes to the foods we buy and eat.

Decades ago, staying within the season was exactly how the majority of people bought their produce, prepared and ate their meals. Using only what was available at the time of harvest. Times have changed. Consumer demands. Fed EX and other shipping methods enable foods to arrive at our supermarkets all year round. Yet, I find that everything old is new again with an increase in people going back to more ‘ancient’ ways of eating. There is much value to seasonal eating. First and foremost, it provides you with what is the absolute freshest. Then, it’s about keeping in synch with what our bodies need and crave for at a particular time of the season. Think about it. How many times do you jones for a thick, hearty, hot soup in July? How often do your salivary glands thirst for watermelon in February? ‘Tis the season for reason, my friends.

I try my best to buy seasonally, and also try to provide you with recipes appropriate for the season. Full disclosure, I have been known to purchase strawberries in the dead of winter for a dessert or a smoothie. But overall, my goal is eat what’s hot of the presses. Or should I say, pull directly from the ground.

So what’s in season now? A bounty of goodness.

Peaches & Nectarines

I love stone fruits, especially peaches and nectarines. They are sweet, juicy and refreshing all on their own. But you can grill them and serve with ice cream. Or use them to top a crostini to create a wonderful appetizer that is light and clean, but does it’s part to satisfy the appetite. Or check out the salads below that combine a few other items that are also great right now.

Fresh Ricotta Crostini

Ricotta & Nectarine crostini with mint syrup.

Ricotta & Nectarine crostini with mint syrup.

Peaches or nectarines can be used.

Peaches or nectarines can be used.

Corn on the Cob
Who doesn’t love themselves a corn on the cob during a BBQ? Slathered with butter. Or just a good sprinkle of coarse salt… YUM. But I love salads, so here are two that utilize corn, and one actually using peaches, too. A double hitter.

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Corn Salad: Raw & Roasted

Crunchy by way of the 3c’s: corn, celery and cucumber. Soft bites provided by potatoes and chick peas. Zest and zing offered by red onion and lemon. Perfect.

Corn & Fruit Salad

Sweet and refreshing. This salad is ideal for any BBQ.

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Berries: Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries and Blackberries

Here is a fresh salad that incorporates not just berries but two of the other in season items, nectarines and corn. This salad not only gives a sweet flavor pop in your mouth but an actual physical pop of the fruit and crunchy corn. The other salad has the blueberries playing off the tartness of citrus.

Summer Salad Full of Fruits
I love all the textures in this one. There is so much, it can be a lunch all by itself.

Butter Lettuce with Orange, Blueberries & Crunch

Fruit in a salad for me is way more interesting than the usual suspects like tomatoes. I feel tomatoes have a higher purpose than salad. That’s not to say that fruit is less than. Quite the contrary.

Fresh Fruit Bark

Something sweet but naturally sweet.

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Tomatoes
Bring it on tomato time. How many seasons have you seen me buying boxes upon boxes, pounds upon pounds of these ruby jewels? So this season won’t be any different. Just a reminder of some of the things you can do with these babies.

Yes that is 100 pounds of Roma tomatoes. I was excited until I got them home and realized just how overzealous I was.

Yes that is 100 pounds of Roma tomatoes. I was excited until I got them home and realized just how overzealous I was.

Oven dried tomatoes   can made a placed in a jar in your fridge, then used for various recipes.

Oven dried tomatoes can made a placed in a jar in your fridge, then used for various recipes.

Luscious linguine with earthy notes from the spinach, salty from the olives and a sweetness that the mighty tomato brings.

Luscious linguine with earthy notes from the spinach, salty from the olives and a sweetness that the mighty tomato brings.

This tapenade is perfect as a sauce, or a dip or compliment that brings a powerful flavor addition to meats, cheeses, and more.

This tapenade is perfect as a sauce, or a dip or compliment that brings a powerful flavor addition to meats, cheeses, and more.

Oven roast tomatoes and serve as a side dish with fish and rice or any other grain.

Oven roast tomatoes and serve as a side dish with fish and rice or any other grain.

White Eggplant App - Greek Style

Here the tomatoes are in a supporting role, but an important one. I love this dish. It can be an appetizer or a side dish and has just zest and zing.

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Freshly sliced tomatoes with pesto. You can’t go wrong with simply slicing them and enhancing with salt and good olive oil or a tad of pesto, or the tapenade from above.

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I could make this post go on forever. The recipes and ideas for using what’s fresh and amazing right now are endless but I hope this jump starts your imagination and your kitchen creations.

Ready, Set, Go!

Off to your local farmer’s market. Sniff, pluck and pick the best and the freshest. ‘Tis the season… that is until the next one.

Sunday Blues - of the Soothing, Swooning Kind

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So the story goes... I needed to go to IKEA.  You must be wondering why, since I don’t need another napkin or tablecloth, dish or candle, or anything for that matter.  But alas, we did need a new patio table. Pause a moment, to digest the thought that we are replacing our 17 year old IKEA teak table with the exact same table. Not only proving the enduring quality of some of IKEA’s items, but lo and behold, the table's solid quaility has kept it on their selling list after all these years.  Since we loved it so much, why mess with a good thing.  And that was what steered my vehicle to IKEA.

The brand, spanking new  IKEA table . And it was the very last one standing in the aisle. I totally lucked out.

The brand, spanking new IKEA table. And it was the very last one standing in the aisle. I totally lucked out.

Now, I'm sure many of you have wandered through IKEA and know that there is only one route... the one they force you to take through the entire store.  Naturally, on my search for the table, I picked up a few other items along the way.  It’s one of those stores where you say, “oh, this is only $5, and that is only $3”. But by the time all your items roll down the conveyor belt into the big blue plastic IKEA bag you just purchased (again) to carry home your 'stuff', it is too late and the complete and utter sticker price shock of the final total hits, and hits hard.  Every dollar truly does add up, my friends. It’s a brilliant tactic.  Price a bunch of stuff low, creating a false 'inexpensive'  buying experience and then when the customer hasn't realized it they just spent a fortune in your store.  There is a sucker born every day, and I was born again on that day.

In filing up of my big blue bag, I happened upon blue and white dish towels. Why? you ask. Didn't I just say I don't need another thing?  Well, because I am drawn to simple, pretty things.  I can’t tell explain exactly why, but I absolutely adore the stark contrast of blue against white. Like a vision of some Greek village. It makes my knees buckle.  So I bought two packs. I wasn’t sure if I would make pillows out of them.  Use them as actual dish towels? Incorporate them into one of my apron designs?  I just had to have them.  It’s a sickness, I fully recognize that.  Who gets swoony over dish towels?  Apparently... ME.

I did none of the above with them. Instead they came to the rescue in another way. We were hosting a BBQ this past Sunday and since I was feeling quite under the weather I didn't have a tablecloth plan.  Literally 1 hour before the guests arrived I still had decided what the table would look like. These dish towels would now become napkins that would grace my outdoor table-scape.  I guess my hubby knew that blue and white swoons me because when I asked him to pick me up flowers in the city at Dahlia, what did he choose? Blue and Whites.  It was fate.

3 arrangements lined the center table and created a harmony of blue.

3 arrangements lined the center table and created a harmony of blue.

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As I unrolled the dish towels, I realized each one was a different graphic design, and if even possible, I loved them that much more. So my need for high contrast, plus my obsession with not being matchy-matchy was thoroughly satisfied. A cornflower blue tablecloth tossed down, white dishes stacked up in order of food served, topped with blue and white IKEA dishtowels twisted once pluse florals to repeat the theme... I’d say Sunday afternoon blues are feeling just fine.

A single, simple twist of the 'napkin' placed over the stack of dishes creates an laid back vibe. LOVE LOVE LOVE the different graphic pattern and how easy and casual it makes it all feel.

A single, simple twist of the 'napkin' placed over the stack of dishes creates an laid back vibe.
LOVE LOVE LOVE the different graphic pattern and how easy and casual it makes it all feel.

Zucchini Crudo

Zucchini Crudo

Cucumber/Smoked Trout rounds are easy.  Chop the trout into small pieces, mix with sour cream, using a scoop dollop onto a slice of cucumber and top with more sour cream.

Tomato & Mozzarella Tart

Tomato & Mozzarella Tart

Cucumber topped with smoked trout & sour cream

Cucumber topped with smoked trout & sour cream

InterMezzo
Steamed Mussels with ciabatta

Steamed mussels with herbs, garlic and wine.

Steamed mussels with herbs, garlic and wine.


First course
Pasta with fresh herbs & garlic, grated Parmigiano Reggiano & Roasted Tomatoes

Main Course
Grilled Iberíco Pork Shoulder & End Loin  
Grilled Langostinos
Corn on the Cob
Nectarine/Corn Arugula Salad

Presa Iberíca and Pluma Iberíca are pork should and end loin cuts from Iberíco pigs. The pork is marbled with flavorful fat that melts in your melt like no other. You can buy them these frozen only at  Despaña SoHo .

Presa Iberíca and Pluma Iberíca are pork should and end loin cuts from Iberíco pigs. The pork is marbled with flavorful fat that melts in your melt like no other. You can buy them these frozen only at Despaña SoHo.

Large and juicy, langostinos on the grill are divine.

Large and juicy, langostinos on the grill are divine.

Nectarine and Raw Corn Salad over Arugula and Boston Lettuce with an orange/lime vinigiarette.

Nectarine and Raw Corn Salad over Arugula and Boston Lettuce with an orange/lime vinigiarette.

Dessert
Peach Cobbler
Honey Dew
Cheese/Fruit Plate
S'Mores

This is a recipe from Ina Garten

This is a recipe from Ina Garten

Creates a nice crust to crack into with warm peaches below, then served with whipped cream

Creates a nice crust to crack into with warm peaches below, then served with whipped cream

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It was a wonderful day filled with LOVE. 
Food made with LOVE.
New  friends and old friends full of LOVE.
And blues that make you the other 's' word -  swoon

 

The new white marble LOVE addition to my collection was gifted to me with love by Angelica. You can never have too much.

Love is is the air. Angelica and Marcos

Love is is the air. Angelica and Marcos

JuanCarlos manning the grill, fortified with hydration.  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

JuanCarlos manning the grill, fortified with hydration. Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Gathering around the grill with our friends from Bilboa, Spain: Ana, JuanFran, their daughters, and Cecila   Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Gathering around the grill with our friends from Bilboa, Spain: Ana, JuanFran, their daughters, and Cecila

Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Who doesn't love the hammock. Also, in blue and white.  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Who doesn't love the hammock. Also, in blue and white. Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

JuanFran, quite the chef himself, giving JC a hand.  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

JuanFran, quite the chef himself, giving JC a hand. Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

We have the A-OK sign!  Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

We have the A-OK sign! Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Amore!!!  Photo credit: asithappens.format.com

Amore!!! Photo credit: asithappens.format.com

Fresh Ricotta Crostini featuring Summer Toppings

Ricotta crostini topped with the freshest, summer seasonal produce.

Ricotta crostini topped with the freshest, summer seasonal produce.

At the farmers' market this week, one of the new items to scoop up was fresh peas in their pods.  Oh, the excitement and sheer joy of bringing home new seasonal produce. Now, I know this may not be everyone's reaction, but it's fun playing with food.  As per usual though, I didn't have an inkling of what I would make but I knew I had to get me some peas.

Then off to our local organic market I wandered and found pea shoots.  Again, not sure what their destiny would be but had to get them, too. Especially since it felt in keeping with the peas.  I also found French Sourdough bread, which I grabbed in an effort to test how my wheat and yeast sensitivity would fair with this one.

Once I was home, I still didn't have a clue as to what I would do. But just when all hope seemed lost, I thought of ricotta. Whenever in doubt you can always count on cheese as your salvation. With that, I was off to the races with a plan in hand.  I decided that I would celebrate some of the jewels of the season and feature them on crostini.  

Now don't get too excited thinking I'm a genius.  This is not some super "oh my God, what a innovative idea" moment. It's a just a few good pairings that are easy to assemble and even easier to enjoy.  It's summer for Pete's sake.  We all want no brainer food ideas.  This one fits the bill.

Here are the stars of today's show.  
French Sourdough Bread, Fresh Ricotta, Fresh Peas, Pea Shoots, Nectarines, Mint, Tomatoes, Basil

Look at that bounty of summer jewels.

Look at that bounty of summer jewels.

I almost feel silly giving any kind of instructions as this couldn't be easier, and it's pretty self explanatory, but... 
First things first, toast the bread.

You can mix and match at will. One thing remains the same; dollop some the ricotta on each slice and then build each crostini using whichever of these flavor busting seasonal ingredients tickle your fancy to create your perfect crostini. 
Here's what I did.

Pea-Pea Shoot Crostini

  1. Shuck the peas and blanch them. You can also eat them raw. (Can't find fresh, use frozen ones and blanch.)

  2. Top the bread with ricotta.

  3. Add shoots & peas pressing them in.

  4. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and drizzle with olive oil.

Fresh Tomato-Basil Crostini

  1. While still warm, rub the toasted bread with fresh garlic.

  2. Top with ricotta, fresh slices of tomatoes, basil.

  3. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and olive oil.

It's as simple as rubbing it on

It's as simple as rubbing it on

Fresh bite of summer

Fresh bite of summer

Roasted Tomato Crostini

  1. Roast grape tomatoes with oil and whole garlic pieces.

  2. Mash the garlic with sea salt, pepper & oil.

  3. Spread the garlic mash on the toast.

  4. Add ricotta, roasted tomatoes, basil and drizzle with tomato juices.

Roasted garlic cloves, sea salt, pepper and olive oil

Roasted garlic cloves, sea salt, pepper and olive oil

Spread as much or as little, but spread this golden goodness.

Spread as much or as little, but spread this golden goodness.

I'm sure you will figure out what to do with all those candy jeweled roasted tomatoes. One idea: make more crostini!

I'm sure you will figure out what to do with all those candy jeweled roasted tomatoes. One idea: make more crostini!

Sweet and savory bite.

Sweet and savory bite.

Nectarine-Mint Crostini

  1. Make a mint simple syrup by heating up equal parts sugar and water with mint leaves until sugar dissolves.

  2. Drizzle the simple syrup on top of the bread.

  3. Top with ricotta, nectarine, minced mint and drizzle some more.

It seriously doesn't get easier than this. These make a wonderful little afternoon snack.  How about a luxurious breakfast treat.  An elegant brunch item. Naturally these are ideal as a party appetizer.
So simple. So fresh.  So seasonal.

These are but a few of the endless variations for crostini. But ones the truly celebrate the summer's seasonal offerings.  Make one. Make them all.  
A few other topping ideas:

  • Sautéed spinach with garlic, oil and red pepper flakes

  • Sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic, oil and shaved Parmesano Reggiano

  • Fresh figs drizzled with honey (you can also add chopped prosciutto)

  • Strawberries, fresh thyme sprinkled with raw sugar

Seriously, it's bread with cheese, top it with whatever floats your boat, and then happy sailing.

Summer Salad Full of Fruits

Now that the weather seems to be cooperating and we have returned to summer, it's time to reset our menus back to regularly scheduled programming of offering foods of the season again.

Batter up: Fruits and Vegetables.  How many times have you heard your mom say "eat your fruits and veggies"? As we have all come to learn, moms know best.  These two food groups are the real powerhouses of the food chain, packing all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals you could ever want.  So it made perfect sense that I would combine both in a summer salad to take full advantage of all those heathy benefits.  

I think it's pretty evident by now that my salads contain the not so obvious ingredients.  Thus today's combo should not come as a surprise.  No lettuce and tomatoes pairing here.  Call me odd, that's ok.  I am, but in a good way.

I have an intense fondness of combining textures and flavors.  Sweet and savory.  Soft and crunchy. The fruits and vegetables of summer hit all the right notes,  checking those objectives off my list with the extra bonus of adding freshness and interesting flavor profile

My thoughts on this salad were how many seasonal stunners of the moment I could put together in one dish. Corn, blueberries, nectarines, arugula.

Not much more to this story, other than flavor, flavor, flavor.

Summer's bounty of the moment.

Summer's bounty of the moment.

Ingredients                                               Dressing

1 bunch arugula  (6-7 c)                                                       2/3 nectarine
3 nectarines (1 for the dressing)                                          1/4 c scallion, rough slice
1/3 c blueberries                                                                  1/2 T balsamic vinegar
1 ear of corn, grilled                                                             4 T olive oil
1/3 c blue cheese                                                                 1/2 t course sea salt
1/4 c red onion, thinly sliced                                                1/4 t cracked black pepper

Instructions

Wash the arugula well.  It tends to have a ton of sand, so soak it in cold water in a strainer and lift it out of the water so the sand stays on the bottom.  You may need to do this several times. Dry and arrange in a large platter.

Oil, salt and pepper the corn, then grill it.  I like using a cast iron grill pan but use whatever is most readily available.

While the corn is grilling. Slice the onions and nectarines.

Once the corn is done, you can begin assembling the salad, layering all the different ingredients atop the arugula in a pleasing manner.  I cut some of the kernels off of one side of the cob, then cut the cob in half and place onto the salad.

For the dressing, blend the nectarine, scallion, salt and pepper into a paste. Add the vinegar, oil and pulse until blended. It will be a thick dressing.

You can serve the dressing on the side or drizzle on top.

The flavors of this summer salad creates little flavor bombs in each bite.  The arugula provides a peppery note perfectly juxtaposed to the sweetness of the nectarine and blueberries.  The red onion has a spicy bite that stands up to the crunchy, savory kernels of corn. Then the salty, sharpness of the blue cheese is mellowed by the creamy sweetness of the dressing.  This is party in your mouth kind of salad. Perfect to celebrate summer's bounty.  Ideal pairings: hamburgers (with cheese & caramelized onion), grilled pork chops, grilled white flesh fish (ie: Rainbow Trout, Flounder). Summer fun in a bowl. The easiest, and best way to eat your fruits and veggies!

 

Roasted Fish & more - A Meal in the Country

We have dear friends who have a lovely home in the NY countryside.  

This is not their house but the relaxing vista on the way.  Take a deep breath as we enter a blissful weekend.  (Photo credit: asithappens.me)

This is not their house but the relaxing vista on the way.  Take a deep breath as we enter a blissful weekend.  (Photo credit: asithappens.me)

When they invite us up to spend the weekend, we have a blast on so many levels including making delicious meals together.  We all have the same cooking methodology; use few and fresh ingredients and make them sing. Another special treat about their home is their vegetable garden.  This is a treat and a carved out section of envy. It is the truest sense of farm to table eating. During our last visit we kept it super simple preparing items and eating as they came out of the kitchen.  We pulled together a couple of light salads to nosh on during the day.  
This is a post about the art of simplicity.

Arugula salad with beans, corn & cucumber

No need for a recipe, just combine those ingredients and dress with the Magic 3 and squeeze of lime. Besides the refreshing taste, we all loved how the colors of the salad were a perfect reflection of the handcrafted bowl our friend Ron made.  Check out his work at    Miller Pottery HVNY.

No need for a recipe, just combine those ingredients and dress with the Magic 3 and squeeze of lime. Besides the refreshing taste, we all loved how the colors of the salad were a perfect reflection of the handcrafted bowl our friend Ron made.  Check out his work at  Miller Pottery HVNY.

Watermelon & Feta

Some crisp watermelon, feta and fresh herbs from their garden paired with a Spanish Albariño,   La Val

Some crisp watermelon, feta and fresh herbs from their garden paired with a Spanish Albariño, La Val

Zucchini "carpaccio"

This was a completely off the cuff creation that was good but needed some refining.  I've made the adjustments and the improved recipe will be in a future post.   (Photo credit: asithappens.me)

This was a completely off the cuff creation that was good but needed some refining.  I've made the adjustments and the improved recipe will be in a future post.   (Photo credit: asithappens.me)

All those refreshing dishes were our day time lunching bites.

At night we again kept it simple:  Roasting some fish, tossing a salad and warming beans & potato.

Oven Roasted Grouper

For the fish, we wanted to keep the fresh purity of these beautiful grouper fillets, so they were seasoned with the Magic 3 (salt, pepper, olive oil) and then added parsley, some sautéed onions and roasted tomatoes. (Remember the previous posts on roasted tomatoes and all the different uses... Well, here is one glorious way to use those candy-like jewels.)  Roast at 350 for 12-20 depending on the thickness of the fish.

On an aluminum lined baking sheet, place the fillets, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt/pepper and top with tomatoes, parsley, garlic and onion. 

On an aluminum lined baking sheet, place the fillets, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt/pepper and top with tomatoes, parsley, garlic and onion. 

Half the onions and sauté them in a cast iron pan until they become golden brown on both sides. (Always season with Magic 3). Then add them to the fish before roasting.  The leftovers can be used to serve as a side dish.

Half the onions and sauté them in a cast iron pan until they become golden brown on both sides. (Always season with Magic 3). Then add them to the fish before roasting.  The leftovers can be used to serve as a side dish.

For the salad, use the freshest greens you can find.  In our case, no car necessary. We were lucky that all that was required was a pair of scissors to snip some from their abundant, and I mean glorious, garden.  If only JuanCarlos and I had this kind of green thumb.  Ron gets two thumbs up for this magnificent 'living salad bowl'. 

Ron choosing the best of the best from his garden.   (Photo credit: asithappens.me)

Ron choosing the best of the best from his garden.   (Photo credit: asithappens.me)

Garden Greens with Nectarine

I say, don't mess with perfection.  

Look at that fluffy green-ness. Perfectly crisp, perfectly fresh, perfectly perfect.                   (Photo credit: asithappens.me)

Look at that fluffy green-ness. Perfectly crisp, perfectly fresh, perfectly perfect.                  
(Photo credit: asithappens.me)

The garden fresh greens didn't need too much, so I only added some scallions and nectarines and dressed it with a light lemon, garlic vinaigrette.  (Since we are heading out of nectarine season, they can be substituted with avocado, or apple. The idea for the salad is have a sweet element to it.  Use whatever you like.)

Beans & Potatoes 

For the bean/potato dish, another simple pairing of just a few items.  Cut 2-3 potatoes into bite sized cubes and boil until just before tender.  Drain and set aside.  In a skillet, sauté garlic and shallot in oil. Add the potatoes and season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste.  Add the small cannellini beans to warm through. And now here is yet another use for those roasted tomatoes. Wait for it... instead of using the tomatoes in this dish (which would certainly be a lovely addition) I used spoonfuls of the oil and juices that bubbled out while roasting.  This creates another level of flavor that makes this dish warm and yum!  Chop some fresh parsley to finish.

Do you see all that juice?  That is liquid gold and what I used in the potato/bean dish.

Do you see all that juice?  That is liquid gold and what I used in the potato/bean dish.

The meal was quite tasty without a lot of fuss.  The best part; sharing good, nutritious food with people we love.  I hope you, too, can carve out some time this weekend or next to take in nature's beauty and create a meal that brings you joy and stir up some love with the ones you love. 

Here's leaving you with a little zen.

(Photo credit: asithappens.me)

(Photo credit: asithappens.me)