The weather is gorgeous – 70+ and sunny. Love it! It’s the perfect weather to renew good habits. I’ve been taking regular walks outside both to enjoy the weather and to start training for the Susan G Komen 3-Day for the Cure, which I’ll walk later this year. I’m also loving all the fruit that’s starting to appear in the stores and farm stands. I’ve been getting tired of apples and bananas and have been waiting for berries and nectarines.
This is one of my favorite fruit salads – mixed berries topped with just a touch of homemade vanilla syrup. The syrup adds a brightness and uniqueness to the berries and is a great way to dress up a simple fruit salad for a more formal event, such as a wedding or baby.
Mixed Berry Salad with Vanilla Syrup
Adapted from Fine Cooking, June/July 2004
- 6-8 c. fresh mixed berries (any type that are in season. I like a combination of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1/4 c. granulated sugar
- 1/4. c. water
- Clean and slice berries and toss in a large bowl. Cover and place in the fridge to keep cold.
- Fill a small saucepan with 1/4 c. water and 1/4 c. sugar.
- Split vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds from one half of the vanilla bean and place in the saucepan with water and sugar. (Save the vanilla bean pod for a garnish, or place in your jar of vanilla sugar or vanilla extract.)
- Over medium heat, bring water and sugar to just boiling. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Lower heat and simmer for 7 minutes, allowing the vanilla to infuse the syrup.
- Allow syrup to cool before moving to a refrigerator to chill completely.
Serve: Pour 1-2 Tbs. syrup over fruit & enjoy!
Have I ever mentioned that my hubby is a picky eater? While he’s gotten much more adventurous since we moved in together 3 years ago, there’s still a number of items I can’t make for him. No tomatoes or bell peppers, unless they’re hidden so he can’t see them. No light vinaigrette in salads (Ranch and honey mustard are his favorites). Squash… not so much. Maybe on the rare occasion when we’re grilling. Polish stuffed cabbage? Hell no.
So what do I do when I want to make dishes using tomatoes (like this Greek Pananella) or another one of the banned items? I try to save them for potlucks with friends, but when that doesn’t pan out, or I get impatient, I call a good friend. K has offered to move in, just so I have someone a little less picky to cook for. Thanks K, but I’ll just invite you over for dinner weekly.
With an invitation to a friend’s secured and all of the ingredients in the house, I gave these roasted tomatoes a whirl. I loved the way roasting the tomatoes made them slightly sweet and super soft. The basil pesto was a burst of flavor. I imagined eating one of these atop a slice of crunchy French bread or making these as a side to a roasted or grilled fish for an extra punch of flavor. The best part? This recipe can easily be adjusted to serve 1 or 12.
Roasted Tomatoes with Pesto
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? (p. 179)
also on Food Network
- 2 – 2 1/2 lbs. large red tomatoes
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 c. pesto
- 1/2 c. freshly grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
With the tomato stem facing up, slice tomatoes into 1/2-in. thick slices. Place slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with oregano, kosher salt (~1 tsp.), and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes, until tomatoes are beginning to soften, but still hold their shape.
Remove baking sheet from oven. Top each tomato slice with a bit of pesto (~1/4 – 1/2 tsp. on each) and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Return to the oven for another 7-10 minutes, until Parmesan begins to brown and the tomatoes look softened.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with a little more salt (if desired). Serve hot or at room temperature.
As summer approaches (some might argue that it’s already here, with our 90+ degree weather), so do cookouts, BBQs, and summer picnics. Almost weekly, my friends and I get together for some sort of pot-luck — lunch or dinner accompanied by soccer and kayaking in the park, an impromptu Sunday BBQ, or a summer holiday festivity. We all bring something and end up going home with containers of leftovers. It really is an awesome time.
I do have my stockpile of recipes set aside for these occasions – tortellini salad or a summer orzo salad for a side; skirt steak marinated simply with a little kosher salt and pepper; or easy cookies for dessert. This past Memorial Day, I decided to try something new, Ina’s Old-Fashioned Potato Salad. I was a little skeptical about the dish. I tasted the dressing when I first made it, and it was super tangy. But, it was too late to run to the grocery store and make something else, so I threw it in the fridge for an hour and hoped for the best. I’m so glad I stuck with it! After sitting for a few hours, the dressing had mellowed out and my girlfriends and I were gathered around the bowl, forks in hand, eating right out of the serving dish. (Plates were ignored and the guys were at the grill). This salad was a winner, and incredibly addictive. Less than a week later and I am already getting requests for it.
Ina’s Old-Fashioned Potato Salad
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home (p. 86)
- 3 lbs. small red potatoes or other thick-skinned potatoes (potatoes with thinner skins tend to be a little messier, with the skin peeling off)
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 c. mayonnaise
- 1/4 c. milk
- 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbs. whole-grain mustard
- 1/2 c. fresh dill
- 1/2 c. diced celery
- 1/2 c. diced red onion
Fill a very large stockpot with water and 1-2 Tbs. kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Add whole potatoes and cook, 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are “barely tender” when pierced with a knife.
Drain water, returning potatoes to pot. Cover with a clean dish towel, allowing the steam to continue to cook the potatoes until tender but still firm, another 15-20 minutes. Once cooked through, uncover and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, combine mayo, milk, mustards, dill, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut into 1 1/2-in. pieces. Toss with 3/4 of the dressing, adding more if needed. Toss onions and celery, along with 1 tsp. each salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
This year was the first time I’ve participated in a CSA (community supported agriculture). I love that I’m supporting local farmers and providing them with a reliable source of income. However, I do have mixed feelings on the program. I love the CSA I belong to – I love the variety of fruits and veggies I get, and the quality. However, I don’t like not knowing what I’m going to get each Tuesday. It makes it hard for me to plan, since I do so much planning and cooking on the weekends.
That being said, getting some unexpected surprises has helped me broaden my horizons and test out new recipes. For instance, I’ve mostly only had butternut squash, although I’ve had acorn squash a few times. Every time, I prepare it in the same way – halved, scoop out the middle, and roast it with butter and brown sugar in the middle. This recipe is close, but the rosemary and white wine add a lighter flavor (as opposed to pure butter and sugar). An added bonus? My squash-adverse hubby actually liked this recipe. One more point for Fine Cooking.
Acorn Squash with Rosemary & Brown Sugar
Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 107 (p. 24)
- 1-2 lb. acorn squash (unpeeled), halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 8 wedges
- 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 c. dry white wine
- 3 Tbs. packed dark brown sugar
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary (be sure to use fresh – dried rosemary isn’t nearly as good!)
- 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Wash the squash and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and then slice the squash along each ridge, so that the squash is in wedges.
Heat a 11-12 in. sauté pan over medium heat. Add butter and oil. When melted, add squash, arranging in a single layer. Cook until all sides are golden-brown, flipping as needed, about 10 minutes total.
Add wine to pan, scraping bottom to get up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle brown sugar, rosemary, lemon juice, salt, and pepper over squash.
Cover and lower heat. Summer until squash is almost tender, about 10 minutes.
Raise heat and cook for another 5 minutes. Sauce will thicken and squash will be tender. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot.
This Roasted Potato Salad is another favorite of mine for summer cookouts. Not only does it stand up well to the heat, but it showcases summer vegetables very well. I also love that it is an easy recipe to adjust to taste. As you can tell from the photo, I skipped the tomatoes this time around, but added in extra bell peppers and corn. The one thing I don’t normally change about this recipe is the basil (I love basil!), but feel free to use the herb of your choice.
If you experiment and come up with new combinations that you love, please share!
Roasted Potato Salad with Bell Peppers, Corn & Tomatoes
Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 80 (p. 50)
- 2 lb. small red-skinned potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
- 1/4 cup + 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt & black pepper
- 2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 ear of corn in husk, or 1 can of corn (drained)
- 1 1/2 bell peppers, any color or color combination, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
- 3 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
Roast the Potatoes: Preheat oven to 450F. Place potatoes in a single layer on a heavy-rimmed baking sheet. Toss with 3 Tbs. olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Make sure potatoes are coated. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until potatoes are slightly browned and tender when pierced by a fork. Set aside to cool.
Put Together Salad: Toss roasted potatoes, peppers, onion, tomato,basil, and corn (is using an ear of corn, remove husk, rub with 1 tsp olive oil, and roast for 20 minutes, rotating once, until kernels are lightly browned) in a large bowl.
Just prior to serving, whisk remaining 1/4 c. olive oil and red-wine vinegar. Then you have one of two options:
- Drizzle on salad. Season with salt, pepper, and if desired, more basil. Serve immediately.
- Or, set olive oil mixture on the side and allow people to drizzle their serving separately. This is best for BBQs or dinners where the salad might sit out for a while.
When I was little, I used to hate cheese. I was the weirdo that took it to the extreme, taking the cheese of pizza. But as I’ve grown, my taste has changed, and I’ve come to really enjoy some cheese. The formerly-dreaded cheese tortellini is one of those foods that I’ve recently taken a liking to.
This tortellini salad has become one of my favorite sides and lunches. With the veggies, it’s a wonderful accompaniment for a summer BBQ. Throw in some grilled chicken and you’ve got a filling pasta salad for lunch.
Adapted from Good Housekeeping’s Step by Step Cookbook (p. 328)
- 2 pkgs. (9-oz each) tortellini
- ¼ c. white wine vinegar
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 tsp. sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 1 medium red pepper, cut into 1/2-inch squares
- 1 medium yellow pepper cut into 1/2-inch squares
- 1 jar (6 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
- Parmesan or asiago cheese
May also add grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, arugula or spinach, or any other veggies of choice.
Prepare tortellini as directed and drain.
Make the vinaigrette: Whisk together white wine vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper.
Finish the Salad: Add peppers, tomato, and artichokes to tortellini. Toss with dressing. Garnish with grated cheese.
Serve at room-temperature or cold.
When I told K that Greek Panzanella was on the menu for this week, she offered to move in. I mean, since the hubby share the same taste in vegetables that I do, I need someone else living here to help eat tasty dishes such as this one. Well, K, you get to keep your place, share my dish, and even go home with a doggy bag. As soon as we tossed everything together, she and I were picking out the pieces of from this Greek salad well before the rest of the meal was on the table. Hope you enjoyed the left overs and get a chance to make this real soon!
PS – This dish be prepared ahead of time, and tossed together 30 minutes prior to serving.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa on Food Network
Ingredients for the Salad:
- Olive oil
- 6 c. French bread cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3/4 a baguette)
- Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 bell peppers, in a large dice
- 1 cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, then quartered and seeded
- 1 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 a red onion, in a large dice
- 1/2 lb. feta cheese, cut into cubes (or 8-oz. crumbled feta)
- 1/2 c. calamata olives, pitted (optional)
Ingredients for the Vinaigrette:
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground black peppers
- 1/2 c. olive oil
Prepare the Salad:
Brown the bread cubes, either in a large saute pan on the stove (medium heat, tossing frequently for 5-10 minutes) or on a baking sheet in the stove (450F for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through). Bread cubes should be drizzled with olive oil (about 3 Tbs.) and salt before toasting. Set aside to cool slightly.
Place cucumber, onion, peppers, and tomato in a large bowl, while setting aside the feta, olives, and toasted bread.
Make the Vinaigrette:
Whisk together all ingredients except olive oil. Add olive oil slowly, still whisking. Pour 3/4 of vinaigrette over vegetables and set aside.
30 minutes prior to serving, toss vegetables with bread, feta, and olives. Allow flavors to blend. If needed, add remaining vinaigrette.
Serve at room temperature.
I was really happy to see Pink Parsley Catering picked Scalloped Tomatoes for one of this month’s Barefoot Bloggers recipe. I had seen Ina make it earlier this year and have been wanting to try it, but my hubby doesn’t eat tomatoes. Glad I got the excuse to make this, even if I was eating it all by myself. It reminded me of warm bruchetta – the crunch of the bread and Parmesan with the wonderful basil and tomatoes. Another great one from Ina!
Note: I did edit the dish to serve 2 instead of 6, and used slightly less tomatoes than called for (reflected below).
Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa
- olive oil
- 3/4 c. dense bread cut into 1/2-inch diced (I used day old French bread with crust but Ina calls for a French boulle without the crust)
- 4 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
- scant 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- scant 1/4 c. julienned basil leaves
- scant 1/3 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350F.
Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes and stir to coat, drizzling a little more olive oil if needed. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring periodically, until cubes are evenly browned. Then add tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil.
Pour tomatoes into a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan and drizzle with 2 tsp. olive oil. Bake 30-40 minutes until top is browned and tomatoes are bubbling.
One of the great things about summer are the BBQs and all the time outside. Almost every week, a bunch of us would head to the park with all sorts of goodies to grill on the park’s charcoal grill. We’ play volleyball or soccer, watch the kids on the playground, and maybe go for a walk or go kayaking. Then, we’d crank up the grill and enjoy lunch or dinner in the sun.
This salad is the perfect accompaniment to a summer BBQ. It can be made up to 3 days a head of time and served warm or at room temperature. Add as much fresh herbs you’d like – I loved it with lots of fresh basil.
Couscous & Grilled Veggie Salad
Adapted from Fine Cooking #73 (p. 59)
- 1/3 c. red-wine vinegar
- 1/8 c. chopped black olives
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 2/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
Ingredients for the Salad:
- extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into 1-inch strips
- 3 small carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch strips
- 2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch strips
- 1 small bunch scallions, trimmed
Ingredients for the Couscous:
- 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1-3/4 c. uncooked couscous
- 2+ Tbs. chopped fresh basil (or mint, parsley, or a mix)
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- lemon juice, to taste
Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, 1 Tbs. of the olives, mustard, and olive oil. Whisk in the remaining olives. Season to taste with pepper.
Grill the vegetables: Heat grill on medium-high heat. Brush veggies with oil and season with salt. Grill until veggies are marked and tender, turning as needed. The zucchini, peppers and scallions with be ready first, the eggplant second (be sure to make sure it’s still a bit crunchy), and the carrots last. Let cool slightly.
Chop veggies into 3/4-inch pieces. Toss with half of the vinaigrette.
Fluff couscous and toss with veggies, remaining vinaigrette and fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
One of the things I love about summer is the BBQs and fresh foods. While so many pasta salads are made with mayo or Italian dressing, I like to mix it up a bit. I’ve made this pasta salad a couple of times, varying both the veggies and herbs that get mixed in.
Orzo Salad with Grilled Zucchini & Red Peppers
Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 80 (p. 36, 39)
Ingredients for the Rosemary Oil
- 1 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped off and minced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Let cook about 5 minutes, until the flavors fused and the oil is bubbling (let oil bubble/sizzle 2-3 minutes). Set aside to cool. Extra oil may be stored in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Ingredients for the Salad:
- 2 red bell peppers
- 1 1/4 lb. zucchini
- 5+ Tbs. rosemary oil
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 3/4 lb. orzo pasta (or fregola or other small pasta)
Grill the Veggies: Heat grill to medium heat.
Note: If you’re using a grill basket to grill the veggies, its easiest to cut into 1-inch chunks before grilling. If not, slice both peppers and zucchini into quarters.
Toss veggies with 2 Tbs. oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Grill until veggies have nice grill marks and are tender, tossing as necessary. Remove from heat.
Make Pasta Salad: Cook pasta according to instructions. Drain.
Toss grilled veggies, pasta, red wine vinegar, and remaining 3 Tbs. rosemary oil. Add additional rosemary, oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
Serve cold or at room temperature.