Thursday, July 26, 2012

Corn, Avocado and Red Potato Salad

This salad makes the perfect side dish to any summer grilling session.  The smoky and spicy Corn, Avocado and Red Potato Salad pairs wonderfully with any Southwestern-rubbed grilled meat, whether steak, chicken or salmon.  Couple together in a warm flour tortilla, and this dish is complete.

Corn and baby red potatoes are the foundation for this salad, but its flavors boast so much more. Avocado, cilantro, and lime juice add the Southwestern flare, and a minced adobe chile-an essential to this salad- contribute a delightful smoky taste. Radishes, an unexpected but welcomed ingredient, bring a nice crunch to the soft potatoes and its own spicy kick to the dish.

Toss together lime juice, honey, extra virgin olive oil, cumin, chili powder, and salt & pepper for an easy Southwestern grilling rub. For more ideas, check out BHG's awesome spice rubs or Epicurious' Fire it Up Guide. Vegetarian? Add some black beans and baby spinach leaves for the ultimate filling summer salad. Serve with toasted tortillas, crumbled on top.

Corn, Avocado and Red Potato Salad (from Better Homes and Gardens)
Yield: 4 Servings

1 lb. very small red potatoes, scrubbed
2 ears fresh corn
1 ripe Hass avocado, diced
4 medium radishes, thinly sliced
2 scallions (white and light green parts only), thinly sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 canned chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I only used 1/8 cup)
Kosher Salt
Ground black pepper
Flour tortillas (6 inches) (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan, cover potatoes with lightly salted water. Bring to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook potatoes until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Cut each potato in half, transfer to a medium bowl, and refrigerate to cool.
2. Cook corn (preheat gas or charcoal grill to 450 or 500 degrees directly over coals or burners with the lid closed as much as possible, until the kernels are brown in spots all over, 8 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, roast corn in the oven in husks to preserve moisture at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.) When corn is cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cobs.
3. Add corn to the bowl with the potatoes along with the avocado, radishes, scallions, and cilantro.
4. In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, minced chile pepper, and garlic. Gradually whisk in the oil. Pour over the potato mixture and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chilled Summer Squash Soup with Yogurt, Mint, and Sourdough Croutons

I have exciting news to report: Kvell has acquired a food processor! (Thanks A). After combing through dozens of pesto and soup recipes for my new kitchen gadget, I went with a recipe I'd had my eye on for a while: Chilled Summer Squash Soup with Yogurt, Mint and Sourdough Croutons. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical of this soup at first. I mentioned in my Summer Gazpacho post that I was wary of chilled vegetable soups, but I found that gazpacho so refreshing, plus was a big fan of every ingredient in this soup- summer squash, scallions yogurt and mint- that I decided to give it a try, fittingly smack in the middle of our third heat wave of the summer.
And I'm so glad I did, because I was extremely pleased with the result. The yogurt (I used Greek, so it was extra creamy) yielded a smooth creamy texture, similar to grits, that was perfectly consistency for a chilled soup. Crunchy croutons mixed into each velvety spoonful created the perfect texture contrast for every bite. I had been concerned that a lack of spice or acidity would cause the soup to be bland, but this was not the case at all. Simplicity is key here: the natural flavors of each ingredient mesh perfectly together, and I wouldn't add a thing. I really enjoyed this filling soup and highly recommend it as a refreshing meal for any muggy summer day.
I simplified the directions a little bit here by adding some time saving tricks. Instead of using an oven to make the croutons which involved preheating and baking, I lightly toasted the bread via toaster and then pan-fried it in a tablespoon of olive oil for 5 minutes until sufficiently crisp. Also, the original recipe called for letting the soup sit at room temperature for an hour and then refrigerating for 45 minutes....I just refrigerated mine for 15 and found the temperature to be satisfyingly chilled.

 A Cure for Vegetable Anxiety
In Coping with Summer's Bounty of Vegetables, The New York Times officially named today a disease I suffer from every time I go grocery shopping: vegetable anxiety! Citing "C.S.A. subscribers, compulsive farm-stand stoppers and even vegetarians" as potential suffers of this "raw panic", the article details the stress that can ensue from purchasing a bounty of fresh vegetables that so quickly go bad. Luckily, the article offers a solution at the root (hehe) of the problem: Useful Vegetable Tips. Check out the article to learn  how to store your vegetables correctly to prolong their freshness. Tricks include separating fruits from veggies, removing rubber bands from bundles, and poking holes in plastic bags.
Chilled Summer Squash Soup with Yogurt, Mint, and Sourdough Croutons (by Lauren Rothman for Serious Eats)
Yield: 4-6 Servings

For the soup:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (can use butter too)
1 medium bunch green onions, white and green parts, chopped (about 6 individual stalks)
3 medium garlic cloves, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds mixed summer squash (green or yellow zucchini, crookneck, pattypan), chopped into medium pieces
About 3 cups of water
1 cup pain yogurt, low fat or full fat (I used fat free greek yogurt)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, plus additional for serving

For the croutons:
Half a medium loaf of sourdough (or whole wheat) bread, cut into 1/2" slices (about 3 cups bread cubes)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried herbs (optional- I did not use)


1.  Heat olive oil or butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until melted. Add green onions and garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions and garlic begin to sweat but do not brown, about 5 minutes. 

2. Add summer squash and season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until squash begins to sweat but does not brown, about 7-10 minutes. Add enough water so that squash is almost, but not fully, covered, about 3 cups. Cover saucepan partially and lower heat to medium-low. Simmer until squash is just tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. 

3. While soup is simmering, prepare the croutons. Lightly toast 1/2 inch slices of bread in a toaster. Meanwhile, heat 1-2 tablespoons EVOO in a saucepan over medium heat. When bread is lightly toasted, cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Add cubes to saucepan along with salt, pepper and dried herbs (optional) and cook for about 5 minutes, turning frequently until cubes are browned and crisp.  Remove from saucepan and let cool.

4. Use a hand blender to blend soup until mostly smooth. Alternatively, blend soup in a blender in two batches. Add yogurt and mint and blend until totally smooth (again, working in batches if using standard blender), about 1 minute. Strain soup through fine mesh strainer if desired.

5. Let soup cool...for as long as you can make yourself wait. 15 minutes in the fridge "chilled" the soup enough for me.  Check soup for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, yogurt or mint to taste. Serve in bowls, garnished with additional chopped mint and a handful of croutons.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Strawberry Sake Cocktail

I've mentioned many times that fruit is the leading lady of summer, and last post I delved into the different ways to prepare it above and beyond the obvious of eating it raw. This week though, I introduce to you an equally enticing preparation: summer fruit in a cocktail. It's always 5 o'clock somewhere (especially in the summer, don't you agree?) and I envision this Strawberry Sake Cocktail being consumed poolside watching the sun go down, or during a Central Park picnic, or maybe an outdoors concert. This breezy refreshment is just one of many featured in Serious Eat's 22 Ways to Use Summer Fruit in Cocktails, and I definitely encourage you to explore the website for some more fun cocktail ideas.

 I chose this recipe for three reasons: 1. Muddling is fun 2. Sake makes a smooth, light alcohol base that goes down a little more gently than your harder spirits like vodka or rum, and 3. Could there be a more refreshing combination than strawberries and mint? Oh and you want to throw in some lime juice and seltzer too? Sold.

According to Serious Eats, muddling "preserves the tart, fresh flavor of fruit by not messing with it too much." If you don't own a muddler, just use the end of a wooden spoon. I muddled with a lemon squeezer.
The strawberry-mint combination in this drink was truly refreshing, but I have a feeling it would taste wonderful with basil too. 

Strawberry Sake Cocktail (from Serious Eats)
Makes 1 cocktail

2 strawberries, sliced plus another for garnish
3/4 ounces fresh juice from 1 to 2 limes
1 ounce simple syrup*
1 sprig of mint, plus another for garnish (optional substitution: basil)
 2 ounces Junmai Ginjo sake
1 1/2 ounces seltzer water 
*To make simple syrup, combine 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Cool before using. Simple syrup will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

1. In a mixing glass, muddle strawberry, lime juice, and simple syrup in the bottom of a tall glass until the strawberry is completely dissolved. Add mint leaves and gently tap 5 times with muddler. (Do not over-muddle mint or it will taste bitter and muddy.)
2. Fill the glass with ice and add sake. Stir until the fully incorporated. Pour unstrained into serving glass, top with seltzer and garnish with a sprig of mint and a strawberry.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blueberry Peach Crisp

"Stone fruit is summer in your hand," says Mark Bittman, and I couldn't agree more. A ripe peach or nectarine is the perfect treat on its own, but if you can make yours last, these fruits are super versatile to cook with when taken one step further: saute, poach, roast, or grill. And then of course, there's your classic summer fruit desserts, like this Blueberry Peach Crisp.

This recipe does not call for a crust; fresh fruit is layered in the pan and slow-cooked with a sprinkling of sugar and lemon. Halfway through the baking, a crunchy oat topping is gently piled on top followed by a smattering of crushed almonds, creating the ultimate crunch on top of the luscious, stewed fruit.  This crisp is absolutely delicious - orange concentrate adds a subtle citrusy zest to the oat-sugar crumble topping. Good luck not eating the whole thing out the pan. If you do though, keep in mind that this recipe is about as healthy as a crisp can get - no crust saves calories and bad fats, and the topping's oat and whole-wheat flour base is whole grain. Your guests (or you, referring back to the hard-to-not-eat-out-of-the-pan observation above) will be shocked to learn there is only 1 tablespoon of butter in the  entire dish.

And there's more peachy news! According to the June 2012 issue of Tufts' Health & Nutrition Letter, new research shows that the compounds in stone fruits may fight metabolic syndrome -the cluster of symptoms like obesity and hypertension that predisposes people to heart disease and diabetes-through their 4 different types of antioxidants. The phenols attack metabolic syndrome on different fronts, so the health-promoting compounds complement each other.

This recipe is also great because you can use different types of fruit. The original calls for peach and raspberry, which I've made many times and is wonderful- today I was just in more of a blueberry mood. Need a recipe idea for July 4th? Substitute peaches for cherries, and you have yourself a red white and blue fruit crisp.

Blueberry Peach Crisp (from Eating Well)
Yield: 8 servings of 1/2 cup, Total Time: 1 hr 10 min, Active Time: 20 min
2 pounds peaches, peeled (if desired), pitted and sliced (5 cups), or frozen slices
1 cup blueberries (or raspberries or cherries), fresh or frozen
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tablespoon chopped almonds or walnuts


1.Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat an 8-inch-square baking dish (or similar 1 1/2- to 2-quart dish) with cooking spray.
2. To prepare filling, combine peaches, blueberries (or other fruit), granulated sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl; toss to coat. Place the filling in the prepared baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make topping. Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl with a fork. Add butter and blend with a pastry blender or your fingertips. Add oil and stir to coat. Add orange juice concentrate and blend with your fingertips until the dry ingredients are moistened.
4. After 20 minutes, stir the fruit filling and sprinkle the topping evenly over it. Sprinkle with almonds (or walnuts). Bake, uncovered, until the fruit is bubbly and tender and the topping is lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes more. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

"Compounds in Stone Fruits May Battle Metabolic Syndrome." Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter (n.d.): n. pag. Tufts University, 29 June 2012. Web. <>.