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Posts Tagged ‘summer’

chop drop soup

This is not so much a recipe as it is a map or method to creating soul satisfying soup in five easy steps.  Let your imagination go wild, with the blessing of your taste buds of course.  Soups are a perfect way to use seasonal veggies that you may find at your local farmers market.  Say there is an unusual squash on the table, ask the grower if it is hard, bitter, sweet, or soft?  Bitter squash is not the best candidate for soups, at least in my view, so I avoid those.  Zucchini is about as bitter as I will go.  Give chop and drop a try!

Step 1

Empty the veggie drawer into the (clean) kitchen sink or counter.  Wash all skin-stay-on veggies.

Step 2

Peel and trim veggies.  Chop into manageable pieces.  Hint: the smaller the dice the hastier it cooks!

Step 3

Drop into a soup pot with a swirl of olive oil, sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Stir.

Step 4

Add liquids.  Choose your favorite stock, broth, bouillon, OXO, Knorr, or even tomato puree, or can of cream of whatever plus milk.

Step 5

Wait.  Poke the veggies to see if they are tender. Heck, you could even taste one or two.

You are ready to eat!

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On occasion I like to write about the nooks and crannies around town, places I've lived, or traveled to.
This category, Nites Out, is a special section for eating outside of my own kitchen!
Search for Nites Out to find more places to dine...

Before Big Brother started school this year we took a family vacation.  Florida was hot and humid, but not as hot as Texas (and many other states during the crazy heat wave) and we welcomed the rain.

Being our first visit to Miami Beach, we had no idea what to expect in terms of restaurants and what kind of fare we would find.  Here are the three food highlights from the trip.

First stop was Maya Tapas & Grill (Lincoln Rd).  We were seated outside under a canopy.  Our waitress/hostess was very friendly and she gave us directions to stores and where to park.  I ordered the Smoked Turkey sandwich with salad instead of fries.  The salad alone could have been my entire lunch, and there wasn’t a lick of iceberg on the plate (which is a good thing).  We ordered pizza for the kids, which had a great tomato sauce on it, and Hubby had the salmon.  My plate won the best value award, and there were leftovers.  Something else to note: a can of pop will run you 2 – 3 bucks each!  After that shocker we headed to find a store to buy bottled water and juice boxes.

Smoked Turkey Sandwich

The next day we found ourselves at the north end of the island in an area called Hollywood.  It didn’t look glamorous as the name would have you believe.  Everything looked tired and old, nobody was hanging around this area so it was very quiet.  I pulled into a small parking lot with a restaurant at each end.  Tavern Opa (410 N Ocean Dr) was about to open for the day, at 4 o’clock.  Arriving early had its advantages, one being free parking, the second is having the whole place to yourselves.  Soon after we ordered, a couple more tables were populated.  The owner was sitting behind us, placing his orders for food, albeit very loudly talking on his mobile.  It’s your joint, I get it, but don’t you have an office somewhere?  I ordered a couple of appetizers, lamb sausage with peppers and the opa fries.  The sausage was really greasy and very umm… lamb-y.  I wondered if it was goat instead of lamb, or what parts of the poor thing ended up on this plate in order for it to taste so strongly of mutton.  Opposite to the lamb were the fries.  A small portion, probably less than a Russet’s worth, of potato fried in olive oil and topped with cheese and herbs.  They were a hit with the kids, as fries are not part of our regular meals, neither are nuggets nor cardboard burgers, but that’s a whole other subject.  The table also came with bread and humus that you pounded in a tall mortar with a wooden pestle.  It was heavy with olive oil and garlic.  The interior was dark and you could see the bay from most tables.  The wait staff were not friendly, even though we were obviously tourists, maybe that’s how they always are or they were not looking forward to the mess the kids left behind.  My kids are not messy, they might have dropped one piece of food the entire time, they can get loud though.

Chivito Emperor beef sandwich

The final restaurant we tried was El Rey Del Chivito (6987 Collins Ave).  Collins avenue runs parallel to Ocean Drive and is home to several restaurants and grand hotels.  We walked from our hotel up Collins and had a variety of places to choose from.  The saying that busy places are the best ones can be used if you ever find yourself in Miami Beach.  Chivito had a couple of open tables left by the time we arrived at 9:50pm.  Guests all seemed to share a jovial mood as they ate and chatted away the evening in something that resembled a high school cafeteria.  Small lacquered wood tables huddled together throughout, the wait staff could barely maneuver the spaces left in between.  This was a unique restaurant, the founder is a guy from Uruguay, the walls were covered floor to ceiling with football memorabilia (the correct name for soccer, you’re welcome) and license plates.  I tried to speak only in Spanish with our waitress, trying to practice, trying being the operative word.  I might have confused the poor girl with my Spanish because we ended up with the same dish.  Hubby wanted the Emperor sans pan, while I ordered the sandwich version.  After waiting over 30 minutes for the food to arrive we didn’t have the luxury of time to correct it.  Big Brother was grasping at consciousness while Little Sister needed a change of scenery and space to be a toddler.  It was late and were flying out the next morning.  So we enjoyed the steak, egg, ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce, bacon sandwiches and kept the kids from having a meltdown.  Miracle I tell ya.

Looked cool from the outside

Miami Beach was cool, I gave it a “Corpus Christie on steroids” rating.  It’s completely tourist-driven.  Here’s a puffer fish some kids found at the beach, I spotted a sea turtle too.

Puffer Fish on the beach

King Mackerel caught on our fishing trip

Miami Beach from the fishing boat

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In Canada the summers are short and typically rainy.  During the few stints of sunny days, the kiddy pool was filed and my brother armed himself with the water hose.  Our deck off the living room was stained a dark chestnut-brown.  The sun would make the wood incredibly warm.  We would soak our feet in the pool on the patio then make footprints on the deck, how fast they faded told us how hot the day was.  Besides the cool water to douse each other with, my mom would make us floats to cure us from the heat.

The floats were commonly made with homemade root beer and vanilla ice cream.  I remember how sweet and creamy they were, and my brother and I asked for seconds.

This summer was a revival for the float.  I don’t have home-brewed root beer, nor do I have vanilla ice cream.  That didn’t matter one bit though.  I used what we had on hand: Sprite and sherbet.  The kids loved it, albeit Big Brother didn’t understand at first why we were putting sherbet in a cup instead of a bowl.

I liked the strawberry sherbet with the citrus of the pop.  Ice cream, since moving to the south, is reserved for winter.  The lighter fruity sherbet (or sorbet) are better for 100 degree weather.  I will have to make the original float with root beer and rich vanilla ice cream for the kids at some point.  It’s a classic.

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Transform watermelon into a drink that will have you saying “Ooh la la!” after the first sip.

  • 2 cups watermelon
  • 1 cup cantaloupe
  • 1 cup pineapple sorbet
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt

Blend and strain into a glass.

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1/2 papaya, cubed

1/2 cup raspberry yogurt

1/2 cup milk

1 cup crushed ice

Enjoy this as breakfast or to cool off in the afternoon.  The sweeter and riper the papaya, the better this smoothie will taste.  You can add honey or agave if you like, I found this particular papaya didn’t need any help.  The yogurt gave enough support.

Papaya is supposed to help you lose weight, but you have to eat it in the morning and then nothing else for at least 2 hours.  I have no proof that it works but they are delicious.

If you’ve never had papaya, try this smoothie!

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Mangos are crazy cheap right now… 25 cents a piece!  Strawberries are in season in Texas too, so what better combination would there be for a smoothie! 

hulled strawberries

diced mango

strawberry sherbet

crushed ice

YUM!

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Basil Serrano Polenta with Smoked Pork Tenderloin

 

It’s the end of summer, at least we thought it was… It hit 99 degrees today.  So what better day to cook outdoors!  My dear hubby wanted to smoke something and started a fire for me to work with.  I had the foresight to prepare a tenderloin with a marinade sèche straight out of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking by Julia Child (finally I could open up her book again!)  I will always use her recipe for pork because this was beyond delicious, it left you with a mouth-watering flavour of the pork plus my added twist of smoke.  Unbelievable! 

With the tenderloin, I made Polenta for the first time, on the BBQ as well.  Who needs plain boring polenta?  Not me! So I experimented a little: 

  • 2 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 1 Serrano, into slivers

Bring the 2 3/4 cups of water to a boil, meanwhile mix the polenta, sea salt and cold water in a bowl.  Slowly add the polenta to the boiling water, stirring with a wooden spoon constantly.  Once all of the polenta is in the pot, turn down the heat to low and stir in the onion and garlic powders.  Cover with a lid for a few minutes as it will splatter, and trust me it’s HOT.  Cook while stirring for 10-15 minutes.  When the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pot, it’s ready to be poured out into a baking dish.  At this moment, add the basil and Serrano and mix it quickly to distribute them as evenly as you can. Let it cool for 30 minutes in the pan or pie tin to set up.  I used a pie tin because I knew it was going on to the grill, otherwise a baking dish is fine for the oven.  If you bake it off in the oven, it’s about 20 minutes at 350ºF.  On the grill, I covered the tin with foil and popped it on for about 30 minutes over indirect heat.  If you’re not sure it’s done, take out a small slice to see if the bottom is soggy, if it is, put it back for another 10 minutes, uncovered.  In the end it should hold it’s shape all on its own. 

I think the leftovers will be fried and garnished with parmesan cheese… mmm cheese… 

The potatoes you see on the plate were also prepared on the grill.  Super easy: quartered Yukon gold potatoes, halved Roma tomatoes, chucks of onion, about 4 whole cloves of garlic, nice bit of fresh rosemary, good tablespoon coriander seeds, same with sea salt, just enough oil to coat everything.  I had my 5-year-old help me by stirring everything in a huge bowl and grind fresh pepper over top.  Then we put the whole lot into a foil bag (just fold a large piece of foil like an envelope) and covered it with one more layer of foil (I tend to burn the potatoes on the grill since it’s outside and the doors are shut I can’t smell them when they start to char).  I start the potatoes on the heat then move them to the indirect heat once the foil is very hot and you hear them sizzle.  Since they are over indirect heat, they can stay on for the same amount of time as the meat, roughly an hour and a half.  Mind you, I had hot coals, no flame, for this time.  If you are using a gas grill, this amount of time would obliterate the veggies, so use your judgement according to what method you use!  There are lots of variations on potatoes-in-a-bag on the grill (oven works too), use flavours you like and veggies you like.  Heck, you could eliminate the potatoes all together and use bell peppers and squash!  They would be ready in about 20 minutes, or less.  

For the duration of summer, which lasts until Halloween around here, I would like to make it a point to smoke something every other weekend.  Once the grill is ready and the wood is chopped, you can smoke a lot of food with little effort if you plan ahead. 

Happy grilling 🙂

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Eggplants have to be my new favorite “different” veggie.  Just recently, I’ve discovered how to properly prepare eggplants so that they are not bitter, but soft and buttery instead.  If all you can find are the teardrop shaped deep purple specimens, they can go from bitter to gussied up for the pan in no time.  The trick is to salt out the bitterness. 

Cut your eggplant in half, lengthwise, sprinkle on salt to cover the flesh which is now exposed.  Place the two halves, cut side down, on a cookie rack (you can also balance them on two short glasses or cans if you don’t have a baking rack).  The idea is to let the eggplant release water.  The water carries the bitterness with it.  Leave the eggplant to sweat while you make a cup of joe or tea.

Water should have accumulated underneath the eggplant by now (give them about 15 minutes).  Wash off the surfaces with just a tiny bit of running water, then pat dry.  There, eggplant ready to dice!  You can apply the exact same method to zucchini squash.

  • olive oil
  • 1 purple eggplant, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, thick slices
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 roma tomatoes, diced roughly
  • sea salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 lemon

Here is how I made this dish… Sauté diced eggplant in olive oil.  Add sea salt as you turn the cubes over.  Just as the eggplant starts to soften and has a bit of golden color to it, remove it from the pan and set aside on a plate.  Sauté the onion, garlic, zucchini, and red bell pepper until the onion and garlic are golden.  Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper.  When the tomato skins start separating from the flesh, add the eggplant to the pan again.  Adjust the seasoning if required.  Juice the lemon over everything, then turn off the heat – it’s ready!

Serve the veggies with some rice or what ever else is on the menu, today it was baked samosas.  This is a great way to get some veggies, including eggplant, to the family dinner table.

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This was one of those days when I could not decide what to make for dinner and hubby had browned a pound of ground turkey by the time I arrived at home with the kids.  

Turkey and Veggie Pasta & Pizza

 

A little poking around the kitchen provided two ideas, pizza and pasta.  There was an abundance of broccoli heads since both my husband and I bought some on the way home the day before.  He buys it because he likes it,and  I buy it because he likes it.  Some of the broccoli needs to work with the turkey, they will be great with some pasta.  

My son wanted to help make dinner, he loves pizza, so I thought he could help with parts of the meal.  I sliced up a zucchini and he dropped them in to a pan to brown.  He took out two flour tortillas and added the shredded cheese once I covered them with tomato paste.  We walked outside to the garden.  We picked some basil leaves for both the pasta and the pizza.   

The mini pizzas were loaded up with shredded mozzarella cheese, half of the ground turkey (browned), oregano, fresh basil, red onion, and the browned zucchini cut into a small dice.  I baked them at 400F just until the edges of the tortilla were crisp and the cheese had melted.   

Penne pasta was cooked and a head of broccoli was cut up and added for the last couple of minutes of the pasta’s cooking time.  Drain the whole pot then add the pasta and broccoli back in along with your choice of sauce and julienne the fresh basil.  Then add the remaining turkey, zucchini and parmesan cheese.  Warm through and serve 🙂

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Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

 

Creativity comes from strange places sometimes.   

We’ve hit a dry and very hot spell of weather. The temperature climbs and I want to jump into the freezer to get a short reminder of where I come from and why I love the south. I wanted to be rid of snow, ice, and horrible storms in winter… I dreamt of palm trees, a soft breeze and sun-kissed skin. Be careful what you wish for!   Well, I do have a palm tree out front of the house. The wind is more like a giant hair dryer blowing hot air in my face. Turns out, my skin doesn’t appreciate the sun very much and burns without a tinsy bit of golden colour left after the throbbing pain subsides. I digress….    

I made some cucumber yogurt stuff to go along with dinner one night, there’s still some left in the fridge begging to be eaten. “What do you go with?” I asked the bowl of cool cucumber dressed in red onion and yogurt. “Chicken and tortillas was fun!”, it eagerly replied. “We’re fresh out of those, sorry”, I said with a shrug. “Oh, I know! Try me with eggs!” At this point hunger had taken over and anything sounded good. I didn’t want to dig out a frozen chunk-o-fish and have to deal with thawing, flavouring, and cooking on such a hot day when all I wanted was a late lunch. But eggs? And cucumber? That just didn’t seem possible, “um, hard-boiled eggs… What did you think I meant lady?” “Hey, now you’re talkin’!”   

To make the Eggcellent Summer Sandwiches, you will need (these are approximations):
3/4 cup finely diced cucumber
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
juice of half a key lime or tsp or so lemon
sea salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
2 -3 tbsp plain yogurt (drained) or greek yogurt
1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp light mayo
hard-boiled eggs (1 per sandwich), optional – leave out yolks for even lighter sandwich!  
 

Adjust the amount of yogurt and mayo depending on the actual volume of eggs and cucumber, and how you like mayo on your sandwiches.  I tend to go light with mayo on any sandwich, you can always add a little more later.   

This was an unusual twist on the boring old egg salad sandwich.  The tang from the yogurt mixed with the yolks since they sort of dissolve away when you mix all this up  

There are more baby cucumbers growing outside in my garden which now have more hope of being devoured in a recipe like this.   

Enjoy 🙂  

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