Monday, September 18, 2017

Meatless Monday--Grilled Caponata Salad

I hope you weren't coming over here for something pumpkin and/or spice.  I'm not there yet.  We still have so much late summer produce to enjoy and that is not something we should ignore.

With a pretty small amount of effort, this salad takes your normal green salad from blah to bellisima.  The idea for this salad came from a caponata panini recipe I'd pulled from a magazine some time ago.  I was looking for something a lighter, and I figured salad was just the thing.  A little chopping and a few minutes at the grill (or indoor grill pan) really make all the difference here. 

Warm, grilled vegetables feel hearty and substantial, while swapping out bread and a good amount of cheese keeps this meal from weighing you down.  In reviewing caponata recipes to look for any possible variations, I noticed some of them called for golden raisins.  I had some on hand, so I decided to use them.  I'm glad I did--the balance of earthy vegetables, salty olives and capers, and sweet raisins made this salad standout.     

Savor the last of summer's harvest with this perfectly balanced vegetarian grilled caponata salad piled high with all the fresh vegetables we'll miss come mid-winter.

Grilled Caponata Salad
an Apple a Day original

For the Salad:
1 small eggplant, sliced into 1/2-in. thick planks
1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-in. thick rounds
1 small summer squash, sliced into 1/2-in thick rounds (or planks depending on grill grate)
1 small zucchini, sliced into 1/2-in. thick rounds (or planks depending on grill grate)
1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored, and quartered
1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for brushing grill
salt and pepper, to taste
4 good-sized handfuls fresh spinach, cleaned and chopped
1/4 c. kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1/4 c. drained capers
4 oz. goat cheese (omit for a vegan salad)
1/4 c. golden raisins

For the dressing:
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
1/3 c. balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 TBSP Dijon mustard

1.  Preheat grill or indoor grill pan to medium heat.  Lay out vegetables and brush both sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  

2.  When grill is ready, brush with olive oil.  Place vegetables down on one side, starting with eggplant and onions, which will take the longest to cook.  Let cook 2-3 minutes, then flip and grill 2-3 minutes more.  Remove, let cool slightly, and chop eggplant and bell pepper into bite-sized pieces and squash and zucchini into half moons.

3.  To assemble salad, divide chopped spinach among four bowls.  Top with one fourth each vegetable mixture, olives, capers, goat cheese, and raisins.

4.  To make the dressing, place all ingredients in a mason jar and shake to combine.  Taste and adjust amount of oil according to preference.  Drizzle over salads and enjoy.

Yield: 4 servings 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Honeydew Basil Smoothie

Welcome to the dog days of summer, friends.  Between the heat, my travels, and having my kitchen in various states of functionality due to the renovation, I haven't been doing much major cooking.

But that hasn't stopped me from making a whole lot of smoothies, toasts, and salads.  If there's a meal I can make on a small plot of counter top without having to run the oven for more than a few minutes, I'm all over it.

This smoothie, with all its green ingredients, is nutrient-dense and so perfectly refreshing.  Honeydew isn't a typical smoothie ingredient, but it's integral to the texture.  I'm usually a fan of smoothies so thick you almost need a spoon to eat them, but this one's thinner nature made it feel all the more hydrating.  You don't see basil in smoothies all that often either, but I'm a sucker for nearly anything basil, especially at this point in the summer when my plant is going wild and I've already made a couple batches of pesto.

The days are long and hot right now and my kitchen is constantly covered in dust, but with simple recipes like this, I think I'll make it through just fine.    

Stay happy, healthy, and hydrated during summer's hottest days with this cool and refreshing honeydew-basil smoothie.

Honeydew Basil Smoothie
adapted from Women's Health, July/August 2017

1 c. frozen cubed honeydew melon
1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt*
1 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. fresh spinach leaves
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves
up to 1/4 c. ice cubes (optional)

*note: You can use vanilla yogurt in place of the plain yogurt.  If you do this, omit the honey and vanilla extract and take care to look at the sugar content of the vanilla yogurt you choose.

1.  Place all ingredients, except ice, in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add ice cubes and blend again, if desired.

Yield: 1 smoothie

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Bourbon Brown Butter Peach Ice Cream

July is National Ice Cream Month and it seems particularly inhospitable of me to not share a single recipe for my favorite summer dessert.  True, I'm perfectly content to enjoy ice cream year round, but it does seem to be that much better on a warm summer evening out on the back porch.

Especially when it involves the sweetest, freshest, summer peaches.  And brown butter.  And bourbon.  Heavy on the bourbon.

For some of you, peach season is just drawing to a close.  For others, it's just hitting it's stride.  Either way, this ice cream is one of the best ways I can think of to preserve that perfect peak flavor.  Peaches and cream is a classic combination.  But when that cream is married with rich brown butter, deep dark brown sugar, and sweet, oaky bourbon, you've got yourself just the kind of summer treat that could make an otherwise reserved and well-mannered adult run after an ice cream truck.  If the ice cream truck served bourbon, that is.    

Rich brown butter, dark brown sugar, and sweet, okay bourbon give ripe summer peaches just the oomph they need in this decidedly adult version of peaches and cream ice cream.

Bourbon Brown Butter Peach Ice Cream
from Garden & Gun, quantities halved for a smaller batch

2 c. whole milk
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. egg yolks (from about 6 eggs)
2 TBSP butter
3/4 c. pecan pieces, plus more for garnish (optional)
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
3/8 c. bourbon 
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. peeled fresh peaches, cut into small pieces and mashed

1.  In a heavy bottom sauce pot, heat together the milk, cream, and granulated sugar until sugar is dissolved and mixture is hot to the touch.  Do not let the mixture come to a boil.

2.  Place egg yolks in a large bowl and temper them by whisking the hot milk mixture in a little at a time.  Pour the mixture back into the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard becomes thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the custard from the heat and strain through a fine strainer into a container that will hold at least a half gallon of ice cream.  Set aside.

3.  In a 2-quart heavy-bottomed sauce pot, combine the butter, pecans (if using), brown sugar, and bourbon.  Cook, stirring until the mixture reaches 200° F on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat and strain the liquid through a fine-meshed strainer into the ice cream custard.  Set the pecans aside and keep refrigerated in a separate container.  Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator for at least two hours, up to overnight.     

4.  When the ice cream base is sufficiently cooled, freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.  When it is nearly frozen, add in peaches and pecans (if using) and freeze completely.  Spoon ice cream into a freezer safe container and allow to freeze two hours more before serving.

5.  To serve, pull ice cream from freezer and allow to sit out 2-3 minutes to soften enough to scoop.  Pour a splash of bourbon on top and sprinkle with additional pecans, if desired.  Do not microwave the ice cream as it will become very hard and icy when refrozen.

Yield: one half gallon

Monday, July 10, 2017

Meatless Monday--Greek Spaghetti Squash Toss

I am absolutely, completely, 100% on vacation hangover.  As you read this, I'm certain to be back at work, sending emails, making calls, analyzing data, and doing the sorts of things responsible adults are supposed to do.

But I'd rather be back at the beach.

I'm sure you can relate.

The beach is where there are no deadlines, no conference calls, and no alarm clocks.  At the beach, rush hour traffic probably refers to the line for milkshakes at the drug store counter.

Meals are almost always prepared on the grill and, even though I tried to be mindful of what I was eating, there was always ice cream calling my name.  Or bourbon.  Or pimento cheese.  

If you can't indulge a little on vacation, are you really vacationing?      

But I'm home now and it's time to get back on track.  Fortunately, there are recipes like this--easy to make, full of clean ingredients, and most importantly, bursting with flavors I love.  It's not bourbon or pimento cheese, mind you, but it's still pretty alright with me.   

Get back on track this Meatless Monday with the bright, clean flavors of this easy, healthy Greek spaghetti squash toss that's sure to please vegetarians, vegans, and meat eaters alike.

Greek Spaghetti Squash Toss
an Apple a Day original

1 medium spaghetti squash
3 TBSP olive oil, divided
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 TBSP red wine vinegar
1 (14.5-oz) can chickpeas or cannellini beans, rinsed
1 c. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 c. diced red onion
1/4 c. halved Kalamata olives
1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese (omit for vegan dish)
1 TBSP minced parsley, for garnish
red pepper flakes, if desired

1.  Preheat oven to 400° F.  Using a large sharp knife, carefully cut the spaghetti squash in half.  Scoop out the seeds.  Rub 1 TBSP olive oil on each half and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet, cut sides down, and bake 25-30 minutes or until fork tender.  Let cool until you can easily handle the squash.  Using the tines of a fork, scrape the squash into strands.  If you've never worked with spaghetti squash, Food Network has a good photo tutorial.     

2.  Meanwhile, whisk vinegar and remaining olive oil together in a medium bowl.  Toss with beans, tomatoes, red onion.  

3.  To assemble, place squash in a large serving bowl or, if eating as an entrée, into two individual bowls.  Top with bean mixture, then sprinkle on olives, feta, parsley, and red pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

yield: 2 entrée or 4-6 side servings   

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Red, White, and Blue Double Berry Coconut Popsicles

I'll eat ice cream all year round, but for some reason, popsicles are a decidedly summery treat to me.  Especially if they're of the red, white, and blue variety.

As a kid, I loved bomb pops.  The red, white, and blue layers meant three separate flavors.  As an adult, I'm less inclined to cheer for three types of artificially flavored, dyed sugar water.

But my adult self can get behind these pops.  Sure there's still some sugar, but not a ton.  When the fruit is in season, it's plenty sweet on its own.  Who wants to sugar it up and mask that perfect peak flavor?  The fresh fruit layers balance perfectly with a layer of lightly sweetened coconut milk mixed with a bit of vanilla, making these an ideal treat for any summer celebration that includes friends or family with dairy allergies or intolerance.  If you need to keep diabetics in mind, use stevia and omit the juice for a no sugar added treat.

Two quick bits of advice, though.  First, be sure to make these a day or two ahead of your get together so each layer has time to set.  Second, you'll need the kind of popsicle mold that uses wooden popsicle sticks so you can take the lid off to make the layers. 

Okay, three pieces of advice.  You might want to make extras.  They're guaranteed to be a hit.

Fresh seasonal berries and rich, creamy coconut milk combine to make the ultimate dairy-free red, white, and blue popsicle you'll want to take to every summer gathering.

Red, White, and Blue Double Berry Coconut Popsicles

adapted from An Edible Mosaic

1 1/2 c. lightly-packed chopped strawberries
2 TBSP water or pineapple juice, divided
up to 4 tsp. granulated sugar (or 3 packets stevia)
1 c. canned light coconut milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. blueberries

1.  Purée the strawberries, 1 TBSP water or juice, and up to 1 tsp. sugar in a blender of food processor.  Strain and pour about 2 TBSP of the mixture into each of 9 or 10 popsicle molds. Freeze until solid.

2.  Combine the coconut milk, vanilla, and 2 tsp. sugar in a small bowl.  Mix until sugar is fully dissolved.  Pour 2 TBSP of the mixture into each popsicle mold.  Freeze until this layer is slushy, about 10 minutes, then insert the popsicle sticks and freeze until solid.

3.  Purée the blueberries, the remaining TBSP of water or juice, and up to 1 tsp. sugar.  Strain, if desired, and pour about 2 TBSP into each popsicle mold.  Freeze until solid.

4.  To unmold the popsicles, quickly dip the bottoms into warm water to make them easy to slide out.

Yield: 9-10 popsicles