Stone Fruit Panzanella with Basil Vinaigrette

IMG_9948Growing up with peach trees in my backyard, I have always thought of stone fruits as the quintessential summer produce. As summer slowly comes to an end, I’m taking full advantage of the season’s produce while I still can, and adding them to a variety of dishes. For days when you want something light and summery, but still a bit hearty and filling, this stone fruit panzanella fits all of the above.

IMG_9947Ingredients: 1 small loaf of bread, 3 nectarines, 3 plums, 2 large heirloom tomatoes, 1/2 cup burrata, 3 cups arugula, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper.

IMG_9933Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 350F. Cut the loaf of bread into slices, then rip apart using your hands to make small pieces. Toss the bread with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl, then place on a baking sheet. Bake in oven for about 8 minutes. You want the bread to be a little toasted, but not so much that they turn into crunchy croutons.

IMG_9934Slice nectarines, plums, and tomatoes into wedges and add to a large bowl. Add arugula, bread, and burrata in small dollops.

IMG_9935For the dressing: 1 shallot, 1 cup packed basil, 1 garlic clove, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper.

Add all dressing ingredients to a blender, and blend on high until all ingredients are completely liquified.

IMG_9945Drizzle dressing and fresh ground pepper over salad before serving.

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Stuffed Squash Blossoms

IMG_9897Summer at the farmers market means an abundance of produce options. We’ve started to go somewhat regularly to stock up on produce for the week, enjoy a meal from one of the hot food stands, and browse around to discover unique items. On our most recent trip, I purchased a box of squash blossoms. I couldn’t wait to fill them with a creamy cheese mixture, serve with a flavorful tomato sauce, and share them with friends.

IMG_9888Ingredients (for blossoms): 30 squash blossoms, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1/3 cup shredded manchego cheese, 1/3 cup goat cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 Tbsp ground cayenne pepper, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 cup cold water

Instructions: bring a large pot of water to a boil and add all blossoms at once. Boil for about 30 seconds, then immediately remove the blossoms and add them to a bowl of ice water. After blossoms have sat in ice water for about a minute, dump them into a colander, then place them on paper towels to drain.

IMG_9890While blossoms are drying a bit, prepare the filling. Combine cheeses, egg, cayenne, and pepper in a bowl and mix until smooth, then scoop filling into a piping bag. To fill each blossom, gently open them to have access to the center. Place piping bag tip toward bottom and fill until filling reaches the opening of the petals. Cover the exposed filling by folding the petals over the top of blossom. Place all blossoms on a plate, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so that the cheese will set.

IMG_9892IMG_9893To make the batter, combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and a dash of salt in a bowl. Slowly add cold water to bowl while whisking with a fork until batter is thick but still creamy.

IMG_9894Add 1/2 inch of oil to a heavy skillet and heat to 375F. Take blossoms out of refrigerator, and lightly dust with flour. Dip blossoms one by one into batter and place in hot oil. Cook for about 2 minutes, then flip and cook the other side. You’ll see the batter crisping and setting on the bottom as your cue to flip. Set each blossom on a plate with paper towels as they cook.

IMG_9899Ingredients (for sauce): 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 large sliced garlic clove, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper.

To make the sauce, add tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Let tomatoes simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

IMG_9898Serve blossoms over warm tomato sauce as an appetizer or as a snack.

 


Portobello Fries with Basil Dip

 

IMG_9868Of all the great ways to prepare mushrooms, portobello fries is at the top of my list. The crispy outsides with the warm earthy inside make these ultra indulgent, and paired with a rich basil dip it can be a substitute for regular fries, or an appetizer for a dinner party.

IMG_9864Portobello Fries: 6 large portobello mushroom caps, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp pepper, 1 tbsp salt (I used pink salt here since it has a bit of a subdued taste compared to table salt), 2 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 1 qt canola oil.

IMG_9865Add oil to a sturdy pot, and heat on high. Clean the mushroom caps, remove stems, and gently slice into strips. Mix eggs with milk and whisk in a bowl. In a separate bowl combine flour, garlic powder, pepper, and salt, and mix with a fork. In batches, add mushrooms to egg mixture and thoroughly coat, then transfer to flour mixture and coat, then add mushrooms to hot oil. You will know the oil is hot enough if you sprinkle a tiny bit of flour into the oil and it starts to sizzle. Fry the mushrooms for about 4 minutes, until crisp and starting to brown. Remove from oil and place on a plate to cool.

IMG_9871The dip follows a similar method used when making homemade mayonnaise, but with a few additions.

Basil dip: 2 cups fresh basil leaves, 3 garlic cloves, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1 cup extra light tasting olive oil, 1 tsp mustard powder, 1 tsp zest, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tbsp lemon juice.

IMG_9870Add the egg, basil, garlic, mustard powder, fennel seeds, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of oil to a blender. Blend for about 1 minute, then very slowly pour in the remaining 3/4 cup of olive oil. Once you have poured in all of the oil, add the zest and lemon juice, and blend for an additional 10 seconds.

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Garnachas

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Garnachas are a traditional Guatemalan small plate dish that I have been eating for as long as I can remember. The fact that they’re easy to make and require only a few ingredients makes these a great option for easy dinners, or as a unique appetizer for dinner parties.

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The key to excellent garnachas isn’t just in the meat, but in the tortillas. The tortillas are traditionally thick and small, and lightly fried to give them just a hint of a crunch.

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups corn flour, 1 cup water, 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 lb ground pork, 1 red bell pepper, 1/2 large yellow onion, 3 garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, 1 teaspoon dry thyme, 1/4 red cabbage, 1/4 white cabbage, 2 green onions, 1/4 cup cilantro, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon lime juice.

Instructions: to make the tortillas, combine the corn flour and water in a bowl and mix until the dough is soft (add more water one tablespoon at a time if the dough is too dry). Shape the tortillas into small thick circles, then place on hot griddle. Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a pan. Cook the tortillas on the griddle for only one minute per side, you want them to be firm but not cooked through. As the tortillas finish on the griddle add them to the hot oil pan and lightly fry, about 2 minutes per side.

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Place ground pork meat in a large bowl. Roughly cut the bell pepper and onion and add to a blender along with garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, 1 teaspoon thyme, and 1/3 cup of water. Liquefy the vegetables until smooth and add to bowl with pork. Using a spoon thoroughly combine the pork and vegetables mix. Add the pork to a large pan and cook until most of the liquid is gone and the pork is cooked through (about 25 minutes).

To make the cabbage slaw chop the cabbage, green onions, and cilantro. Add vegetables to a bowl with mayonnaise, lime juice, and a dash of salt a pepper to taste. Mix the salad with a large spoon until well combined. Add the meat to the fried tortillas and top with slaw.

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Roasted Garlic Knots

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I have finally mastered making delicious garlic knots that are crisp on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside. For these decadent knots I used a favorite pizza dough recipe, and instead of chopping up fresh garlic as many garlic knot recipes do, I decided to roast an entire garlic bulb and make a thick paste that thoroughly infused the knots with flavor.

For the dough:

Ingredients: 1 packet active dry yeast, 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for dusting), 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more to grease a large bowl), 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 teaspoons salt.

Instructions: Add yeast and warm water to a small bowl, gently stir and let sit for five minutes, then add honey and stir.  Add the flour, salt, and oil to a large bowl. Slowly add the water to the flour bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. You should be able to make a slightly sticky large dough ball. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about three minutes. Place dough on a well oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel; let sit for 1 1/2 hours, until the dough doubles in size. Remove dough from bowl and cut into three equal sized pieces. Gently roll the pieces out into balls, cover and let sit for an additional 15 minutes. Roll each dough ball out to flat long shapes, then cut into strips with a knife.

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For the garlic paste:

Ingredients: 1 whole garlic bulb, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon dry parsley.

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Instructions: chop off top of the garlic bulb and roast in 350F pre-heated oven for 30 minutes (the cloves will gently start to pop out when ready). Let cool and squeeze out garlic cloves. Mash with a fork in a small bowl, add olive oil, salt, and parsley.

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Brush the garlic paste on each strip to cover one side entirely.

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Tie each strip into a knot, and place on a lightly floured cookie sheet. Brush remaining olive oil onto tops of knots and bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Make sure to eat them when they’re fresh!

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My Famous Deviled Eggs

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My deviled eggs are not actually famous, but they sure are popular among my friends and family! This is one of my staple recipes for casual hosting, or bringing to a social gathering. I follow a pretty traditional recipe, with just some minor tweaks.

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Ingredients: 1 dozen large eggs, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon yellow mustard, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika.

Instructions: bring a large pot of about 2 quarts of water with 1 tablespoon of salt to a roaring boil, add eggs and cook for about 20 minutes. Drain eggs and rinse under cold water. Peel eggs and cut in half length wise. Remove the yolks with a small spoon, place in a fine mesh colander, and push through with a spoon to get rid of lumps. Place yolks and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, mix to combine. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a star tip and pipe into eggs. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

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Homemade Sesame Pretzels

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As the weather continues to get chillier I have been thinking up comforting treats to bake at home. Now that we have a stand mixer, that task has become even more exciting. Recently, James and I decided to try out pretzel making for the first time. The results were absolutely delicious and the process was both fascinating and a lot of fun. I found a basic recipe online, and made just a couple of tweaks to the process.

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INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 cups of flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon dry yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup baking soda

1 tablespoon salt

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons whole milk

Coarse sea salt and sesame seeds for sprinkling

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INSTRUCTIONS:

In a bowl mix the 2 1/2 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons of salt, set aside. In a small saucepan heat milk until it begins to simmer then turn off and let cool for a few minutes. Add yeast and honey to milk and stir until fully incorporated. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment add half of the milk and half of the flour mixture, stir with a wooden spoon to fully meld together. Then add the remaining flour and milk, and mix with paddle attachment for about five minutes. Once the dough is fully mixed switch to the bread hook attachment and knead on medium speed for about ten minutes.

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Add the olive oil to a large bowl and swish around to spread it out. Form a ball with the dough and add to bowl, cover and let sit for 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450F. If you have a baking stone (or in our case a clay baking dish) place in oven while it heats up.

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Once the dough is ready, separate into twelve equal sized pieces.

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Roll the dough out into long strands and twist to form the pretzel shape.

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While you are twisting, bring a pot of water with the baking soda and tablespoon of salt to a boil.

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Gently place the pretzels (up to two at a time) in the water, flipping them over after twenty seconds. You will notice that the pretzels float once they are ready to be taken out. Place them on a rack to dry for a couple of minutes. In a bowl whisk together the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of milk. Brush each pretzel with the yolk mixture and top off with desired amount of sesame seeds and coarse sea salt.

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Place pretzels on a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper underneath and put in oven over the baking stone. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, until pretzels and golden. Dip in your favorite mustard and enjoy!

 


Spinach and Artichoke Dip

 

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Most fourth of July celebrations include a BBQ, summer drinks, and of course snacks.  When I’m hosting I like to have a good variety of dishes that are easy to snack on, but when I’m only bringing one dish to a group gathering my go to is often spinach and artichoke dip. It’s a dip generally loved by all, and a quick and easy dish to make when pressed for time.

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I like to add a few extra ingredients from the traditional spinach and artichoke dip to give it more flavor. It has always been a crowd-pleaser to any event I have taken it to, and makes for easy cleaning when it gets completely eaten up.

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Ingredients:

4 cups chopped spinach

2 cups roughly chopped artichoke hearts

1 cup chopped basil leaves

1 1/2 packages of cream cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

3/4 cup shredded cheese blend (I buy the pre-blended packages which usually have parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, romano and asiago)

2 tablespoons mustard

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Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Let the cream cheese sit at room temperature for a few minutes to get it softened. Mix cream cheese and sour cream in a pyrex/oven safe dish and mush together using a rubber spatula. Add the chopped spinach, basil leaves, artichokes and mix. Add mustard and parmesan cheese, then cream contents together until fully mixed.

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Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until dip has just started to bubble. Let cool and serve with tortilla chips or chopped vegetables.

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Wine and Cheese Night

Ok – a lot of people have wine and cheese night, or at least have an opinion on whether or not they would ever want to have a wine and cheese night. We have several friends who don’t care much for wine and would call a wine and cheese evening pretentious/snobby. I however, love wine, love cheese, and think indulging in these delicious combinations is more than acceptable and in fact strongly encourage it. Now, wine and cheese can each get pretty expensive if you happen to be very particular about it. We, however, like to keep it simple, relatively inexpensive, and experimental.

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We invited a couple of friends over a few weeks ago and instead of going out for the evening we decided to stay in with some treats. It’s turned into a fun evening of chatting away and trying new delectable combinations, and oh what a feast we had.

For the most part we took a ‘poor-mans’ approach to our selections. We wanted to have food that tasted good, even if the true connoisseurs would not agree. For the wines we choose a few different ones from Trader Joes that ranged from $2.00 to $20.00 – I am a true believer that wine does not have to be expensive to taste good. Personally, I am a red wine drinker, but we decided to stick to lighter wines this time around to experiment with flavors while keeping it cohesive.

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We wanted an array of textures when it came to the cheeses – we decided on: gouda, sharp cheddar, brie, goat cheese, and burrata, which are all easily found at any super market.

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We put a lot of emphasis on the sides to accompany our wine and cheese. These were the real secret ingredients that made the night a success. We had a lot of variety from pates, grilled vegetables, pickles, savory jams, and a selection of sliced deli meats. These are all especially important if any participants are lactose intolerable or sensitive so they may still thoroughly enjoy the food. We used baguette slices and peppered crackers as the bases for all the fun combinations.

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The best part for us as hosts was being able to fill up and relax at home knowing that we wouldn’t have to drive home at the end of the night. We will definitely have many more ‘wine and cheese’ nights.