Monday, July 25, 2011


This was a week of very hot weather. Heating up the kitchen just did not sound like a good idea. So this week-end primarily cold foods were featured. Here is what was on the table:

Spicy Avocado-Cucumber soup
Green Tea Watermelon Super Punch
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella
Antipasto on Toasted Pretzel Bread Crostini
Caramel Apple and Brie Skewers

The first thing early Saturday I toasted the pretzel bread, cooked the tortellini and grilled the Portobello caps so that the rest of the food could be prepared without turning on the stove.

The soup could not have been easier. Everything goes into the blender and then into the refrigerator to chill. Into the blender goes a cut up English cucumber, chopped avocado, green curry paste, a bit of sugar, lime zest, a seeded chopped jalapeno pepper, unsweetened coconut milk, and lime juice. Coconut flakes and chopped chives are used to garnish. The soup is a wonderful color and very refreshing. A cold soup on a hot summer day really hit the spot.

The punch was another dump everything into the blender drink. Ice, cubed watermelon, Greek yogurt, lime juice, agave nectar and chopped fresh pineapple. The recipe called for unsweetened matcha green tea powder, but a $20 for a very small package, I substituted ground green tea leaves and Chai Seeds. This drink is a very pretty pink and healthy.

I let the previously grilled mushroom caps come to room temperature while I prepared the filling of chopped grape tomatoes, minced garlic, diced fresh mozzarella and minced basil leaves. The caps are drizzled with EVOO and salt and pepper are added and then filled. I liked these a lot. Not quite a finger food, but close.

The antipasto was marinated in Balsamic vinegar, grated Parmesan cheese, minced basil, Dijon mustard, EVOO, honey and pepper. The marinade is put in a zip lock bag along with drained, quartered artichoke hearts, cooked cheese tortellini, chopped red pepper, grape tomatoes, pitted olives, and diced deli ham. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and drain off the marinade. Spoon on to the toasted pretzel bread and garnish with chopped basil. These were great with the soup. I will take some to work as a salad for lunch.

Last but not least, dessert. I'm not a big dessert person, but these sounded good and they were. Place on a skewer, Granny Smith apple chunks and cubes of Brie. Drizzle with hot caramel ice cream topping. Garnish with chopped nuts and dried cranberries. YUM!

Next weekend is expected to be hot again, so look for more cold food. Have a great week and keep cool.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cherries Revisited

This was an interesting week. We had a storm on Monday that did a lot of damage all across the Chicago area. Nearly a million people were without power, I was one of them. It came back just under 48 hours. I packed ice in my freezer to try and save as much as possible. It worked quite well, only a few things needed to be thrown away. I can't say the same for my refrigerator. Pretty much everything went in the garbage, including my cherry preparations from the weekend. I redid the recipes for Cherry Salsa and the Lentil Cherry salad. Here is what was on my table this weekend:

Cherry Salsa with Grilled Grouper
Spicy Vegetable Soup
Lentil-Cherry Salad

The salsa went very nicely with the grouper and I expect it will be good with the grilled chicken breast tonight.

The soup is one that can be served hot or room temperature. Onion is sauteed in EVOO and some smoked paprika. A large box of vegetable broth is stirred in along with diced plum tomatoes, yellow summer squash, butternut squash, Yukon gold potatoes, green beans and a package of frozen spinach. When the vegetables are cooked and the mixture cooled, red-wine vinegar is added. The soup is served with pesto as a garnish. My friend JoAnn gave me a nice bag of basil and the pesto was made with walnuts, sunflower seeds, garlic, salt and pepper. This is blended with the basil while EVOO is added and grated Parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste. It made quite a bit so I filled an ice cube tray with it and froze it for use later.

The cherry-lentil salad was simple and is very tasty. The lentils are cooked until they are just tender. Drain and cool. The dressing is red wine vinegar, EVOO, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. One bunch of green onions is sliced and stirred in with the cooled lentils. At serving the cherries are cut in quarters and put on top as a garnish.

This week is to be very hot; upper 90's and very humid. I have a feeling next weeks table will be light and mostly cold. Stay cool!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

It's cherry time in my world. In the last days I have stemmed and pitted about five pounds of cherries. This week the table features cherries in several ways.

Scallops with Cherry-Tarragon Sauce
Salmon with Caramelized Cherries
Wilted Kale with Cherries
Cherry Salsa with Balsamic Vinegar and Basil
Cherry Chocolate Trifle

Cherry-Lentil Salad

Cherries are only fresh a short time and I want to use them as much as I can during this time. Here is my cherry table:

Scallops are salt and peppered and seared in a very hot pan. They are removed and shallots are cooked until soft. Rice vinegar and chopped cherries are added. The scallops are returned to the pan along with chopped fresh tarragon. The sauce is poured over the scallops at serving. It was an excellent dish and I will use the sauce with other seafood.

Salmon was also cooked quickly in a hot pan. Chopped cherries are added with lemon juice, agave nectar and fresh thyme. Cherries are an excellent accompaniment to seafood.

A side dish of kale with cherries was also part of the table. Shallots are cooked with apple juice. The kale is chopped and added, covered to wilt. At service, the kale is tossed with toasted walnuts and chopped cherries. A colorful and delicious dish.

A dish of cherry salsa was made and will be used during the week with chicken. In a covered container chopped cherries are mixed with chopped jalapeno, shallot, chopped basil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.

Dessert was a cherry chocolate trifle. In a tall glass I chopped Walker's shortbread cookies. Cherries are simmered with brandy (I used water and brandy flavoring) until the cherries are soft. The mixture is cooled and spooned over the cookies. Cream cheese and whipping cream are mixed with a bit of almond extract and spooned over the cherries. Toasted almond slices and grated dark chocolate top the glass and it is chilled. Yummy!

I had a recipe for Cherry-Lentil Salad for the week, but, would you believe...I ran out of cherries. Will need to buy more for the dish and also to freeze and bag for future use.

Have a good week and perhaps cherries will be on the table next week.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Star Spangled Table

Happy 4th of July to you all! It was a great weekend, both with the weather and the table. There were a couple of real stars on the table and I was happy with my choices.

Watermelon Margarita
Tuna Two Ways:
Grilled Tuna Steak with Chard Salad
Grilled Tuna Kabob with Watermelon Salsa
Smokin' Grilled Potato Salad

The watermelon margarita was a bit of a disappointment and I was glad I only made one. The watermelon, tequila, sugar and lime juice are blended and poured over ice. The flavor was fine, but it was a bit chewy. Very pretty however.

The Tuna steak was grilled very simply with salt and pepper and a bit of lime juice. The chard salad was the star of this plate. Chard is stemmed and cut into pieces and placed in a glass bowl. In a skillet anchovy fillets are cooked in a bit of EVOO until melted. Garlic is added until softened. Cherry tomatoes are halved and added to the pan with lemon juice, salt and pepper. The warm dressing is then poured over the chard to wilt. Toasted bread cubes are added. This is a very colorful salad and very tasty. The dressing was a bit different, but one I will use again; perhaps with spinach.

The potato salad was another star. Yukon Gold potatoes are cut in half inch slices and tossed with EVOO, smoked paprika and salt and pepper. I heated and oiled a grill pan and the slices are cooked until puffed and golden. They are then cooled and cut in quarters. They are put in a bowl with diced red onion, sliced celery and chopped parsley. The dressing is Greek yogurt, light mayo, yellow mustard and chopped capers. Lemon juice is added before mixing with the potato mixture. The smokiness of the potatoes gave the salad a lovely flavor and again one I will make again.

The second tuna preparation was a kabob. The tuna chunks were put on wood skewers that had been soaked in water. Along with onion pieces, red and yellow peppers and cherry tomatoes they were brushed with EVOO, Tabasco, lemon grass and Paul Newman Asian dressing. They are grilled until the vegetables were softened and the tuna lightly browned. They were served with a watermelon salsa made of watermelon cubes, chopped kalamata olives, chopped English cucumber, diced jalapeno pepper, red onion and white balsamic vinegar. Loved the salsa. It was pretty on the plate and perfect with the kabob. More of the potato salad joined the kabob and salsa.

On the whole I was pleased with the table. I have not worked with chard or anchovies before but will use them again. The preparations were simple and that made for free time to enjoy the nice weather and a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden for an art festival. I expect fireworks tonight from the country club up the road. Have a great week everyone.