It’s the Simple Things

Happy September! Welcome to blue sky days and the winding down of the summer season. Although our summer is still making its presence known, we had a tease of fall a couple of nights ago that promised a welcome cooling off not too far down the road.

I’ve overused the word “busy” lately, because that’s what this year has been. Busy with work, busy with family, busy with life. And it’s all a very good thing. The only bad thing about it is that my blog has suffered a bit, as has my inventiveness in the kitchen. I beat myself up about that a little…thinking that I should only post when I have something excitingly new and different to share. Am I right or am I procrastinating? I’m not sure.

What I am sure of is that as time goes on and the busier I get, I find it’s the simplest things in life that get you by and prove to be the most enjoyable. Like taking a ten minute break or walk during the week to clear your head, or a lovely longer hike in a forest over the weekend. An evening sitting out on the deck enjoying an unexpected cool breeze and the night sounds. An unplanned road trip for a day just for a change of venue. An ice cream on a sugar cone. A spontaneous run through someone else’s sprinkler on a hot day! Moments.

Enjoying the simpler things also applies to food. Of late we’ve been enjoying the simplest of dishes comprised of the summer season’s bounty. Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches both traditional with plain bread and mayo…and with some twists, fresh field peas, green beans from the garden roasted or snapped, a squash casserole, or with a bit more effort a squash and tomato galette, watermelon salad, grilled corn salad, lemon, strawberry, blueberry, or peach sorbets or pops…simple, delightful.

So today what I’m sharing is just that. Some simple, easy foods to enjoy before the season is over and we move into fall. Some of the recipes above I’ve posted before and you’ll see those highlighted and can follow the links to their posts. Some of the new recipes below aren’t really recipes so much as a method. Most all of them are quick to make and leave you with some time to sit and enjoy their simply wonderful flavor. I highly recommend dining alfresco if you have the opportunity!

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Some seriously good eats. Field peas, charred broccoli with lemon and goat cheese and Cooking Light’s carrot and potato pancakes with curried yogurt dipping sauce. A Vegetarian’s delight!

Our Classic Family preparation for field peas or snapped green beans:
4-6 side servings

3/4 lb. shelled, rinsed and drained field peas such as black-eyed, pink-eyed, purple hull or lady peas
— OR —
3/4 lb. snapped green beans, rinsed and drained
2 oz. good quality raw bacon strips
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
1 measured teaspoon granulated sugar

Place the peas or the green beans in a medium-sized saucepan. Cover with water by 1 inch. Add the bacon, salt, pepper and sugar and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat down and cook until just tender to the bite, about 15 to 20 minutes. Scoop out with slotted spoon and enjoy.

If you only try one of these recipes, don't miss this corn salad!

If you only try one of these recipes, make it this corn salad!

Grilled Corn Salad
(Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit Magazine) My new favorite!
Serves 4

5 ears of fresh corn, husk and silk removed
3 1/2 tablespoons of good quality mayonnaise (I use Duke’s)
2 generous tablespoons of fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon ground smoked paprika
1/8 scant teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 1/2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh cilantro
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare a grill or grill pan for medium heat. Grill the corn, turning it occasionally until tender and charred, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Using a chef’s knife, hold the cob upright over a cutting board and cut the kernels off the cob cutting downward. Transfer the cut corn kernels to a medium bowl.

In another medium bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, lime juice, paprika, cayenne, feta and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Combine the corn with the dressing mixture and toss to thoroughly coat. Cover the salad with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 15-30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Serve with additional feta and cilantro sprinkled over if desired. (Dressing can be made 2 days ahead, covered and chilled. Corn can be grilled and cut from cob 1 hour ahead and stored airtight at room temperature.)

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Mint or Baby Arugula (Rocket)
Serves 4-6
(This salad is best made shortly before you plan to eat it. The watermelon will release its juice the moment the salt hits it.)

1/2 of a small seedless watermelon, fruit cut from rind and into 1 1/2 chunks (about 8 cups)
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped OR 2 1/2 cups of baby arugula leaves
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (or more to taste)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large bowl gently combine the watermelon, mint or arugula, a generous pinch of salt and several good grinds of black pepper to taste. Add the feta cheese and gently toss to combine. Taste again and add more salt, pepper and feta if desired. Serve within an hour, ideally, to keep the watermelon from becoming too soupy.

BLT Pizza
You’ll have to decide for yourself how many this will serve depending on your level of hunger…at least 2 folks. Prepared crust gets this on the table in 15 minutes from the time your bacon is cooked.

1 Prepared 12-inch pizza crust
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 medium fresh tomatoes such as heirloom Cherokee purple or other favorite, sliced fairly thin
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of slivered or chopped fresh basil leaves (about 10-12 leaves)
4 ounces fresh buffalo mozzarella sliced, then cut into 1 inch pieces
3 cups baby arugula leaves
good quality extra virgin olive oil

Pizza stone and a peel, ideally
corn meal if using a peel to help release the pizza

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F with a pizza stone placed in the middle rack of the oven. If you do not have a pizza stone, place your crust on a flat baking sheet instead of a pizza peel and proceed to top it as below.

Place a good pinch of corn meal on your pizza peel if using one, then place the prepared pizza crust on top of that (or a baking sheet if not using a stone.) Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil over the pizza crust and use your clean hands to rub it all over the surface and edges of the crust.

Place the tomato slices evenly across the crust leaving a scant 1/2 inch border along the outside, trying not to overlap but covering the surface area of the crust very well. Sprinkle the black pepper over the tomato slices and then evenly distribute the basil over the tomato slices. Place the mozzarella on top of the tomatoes and basil, again evenly distributing. Using the peel, place the pizza into the oven on top of the stone, centered, or place your baking sheet directly into the oven. Bake the pizza for 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly, and the edges of the crust are nicely browned. Use your peel to remove the pizza from the stone and place it on a large cutting board, or slide your pizza off the baking sheet onto a cutting board. Top the hot pizza evenly with the crumbled cooked bacon, then the arugula. Finish the pizza with a tiny drizzle (about 1 teaspoon) of olive oil on top of the arugula. Cut into six wedges and serve.

BLT Pizza is a one dish meal!

BLT Pizza is a one dish meal!

 

Light and Lovely Lavender Lemon Sorbet

sorbet7BI’m a bit late posting and therefore late in wishing you all a Happy Spring! Yes, has arrived for some of us, and maybe not so much for others. We’re blooming here, in between the freezing temps and then zooming up to the high 70’s. It is still March after all.

The longer days and blooming flowers make me want something light and delicious. A palette cleanser of the very best kind. This elegant and easy to make Lavender Lemon Sorbet fills that desire perfectly. The combination of floral essence and flavor of the lavender buds tames and compliments the tang of the lemon. In fact, they are symbiotic in a way…bettering each other in the marriage. Adding buttermilk to this sorbet creates an underlying creaminess in its texture, without taking it all the way to a sherbet consistency. It’s really delightfully refreshing, any time of the year.

I didn’t strain out the lavender flower buds from my simple syrup because I enjoy the visual appeal and seed-like texture, as well as the pop of lavender essence that they add to the finished product. But if you don’t care for that tiny bit of herbal and floral chew, then by all means, strain your infused syrup before adding it to the rest of the mixture.

This is my new favorite sorbet and I’ll be making it over and over again. I hope you’ll make it, too. Be sure to use cooking quality lavender for this and all recipes that call for lavender. Cheers and have a great weekend!

Lavender Lemon Sorbet
Makes 3 pints

2 teaspoons cooking lavender buds (you can find these in gourmet sections of fine grocery stores and cooking stores)
1 cup cane sugar, divided
2/3 cup water
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
4 cups buttermilk, I use low fat but any kind will do

Combine 2/3 cup of the sugar, 2/3 cup water and the lavender buds in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for about 1-2 minutes, until the syrup is clear and all the sugar has melted. Take it off the heat and allow it to infuse and cool for about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, lemon juice and zest, and the buttermilk and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the lavender infused syrup (straining it through a fine sieve first if you want to remove the buds), and stir well to combine. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator to chill for about 5 hours or overnight. Process the mixture in your ice cream freezer according to the directions, then remove the dasher and scoop into freezer containers (it will be quite soft), then seal them. Place the sorbet into the freezer and allow it to harden the rest of the way, then scoop out and serve as desired.

Note: To make this recipe without an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into a metal tray or baking dish and place it in the freezer. When the mixture starts to freeze, rake a fork through it several times to break up the ice crystals. Repeat this process about 4 or 5 times over the course of three hours. This will give you a sorbet that is really more of a granita. You can run this through a food processor to make a finer texture, then put it back in the freezer and run your tines through again several times until it has refrozen. If you don’t run the fork through it and break up the ice crystals, it will freeze solid.

You can also pour the mixture into ice pop molds.

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