Summer’s Harvest: What To Eat On A Hot Day? Veggie Salads With A Refreshing Lemon-Mint Dressing

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Quick, satisfying, colorful, seasonal, nutritionally rich.  Isn’t that how you want to eat on a warm day? You’ll likely be able to get this salad on the table in 20 minutes or so.  Make the lemon-mint dressing while the corn steams, then it’s just a matter of slicing and arranging. Yes, arrange the little salads elegantly, but don’t be too fussy as this meal is meant to be casual. I’m providing a recipe, but it’s just a template–make a similar salad with whatever you have available or like best. Take a photo of  your salad and email it to me so I can post it. I’m sure other readers would love to know how you put yours together. Detailed recipes after the jump.

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Produce Superstars: Make This Spread While Fresh Fava Beans Are In Season

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I probably don’t need to tell you that humble food bloggers like myself don’t exactly get rich blogging. Not that I’m complaining, because there are some great perks. Most notably, we get to eat the food which shows up on our blogs! And I have to tell to you, I barely got these photos taken before I started scarfing down the subject of today’s post.  Maybe I was overly hungry, but these little buggers really hit the spot! It takes a bit of time and patience to prep the fava beans, but after that, this recipe is really easy. Fresh favas, also known as broad beans, are in season now–so go for it!  You won’t regret it. Recipe after the jump…

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Photos: top–fava beans in their shells (center), on the left are the beans taken out of their shells, on the right are the beans after being peeled. Bottom photo–Fresh Fava Bean Bruschetta.

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Oodles of Noodles: You’ll Love These Noodles With A Spicy Peanut Dressing

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I’ve just spent four days cooking for fifty friendly and appreciative women from the Center for Spiritual Living of San Jose who gathered at the Saratoga Springs Retreat Center. Among all the things I cooked, this rice noodle salad with a spicy peanut dressing rated as one of their favorites. While clearly Asian, it’s hard to say whether this recipe is more Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesian or Thai–perhaps it’s a bit of each. Although white rice noodles are an Asian staple, I’m suggesting you upgrade nutritionally by using brown rice spaghetti, which you’ll find at Trader Joe’s, and very likely at your local supermarket as well. Serve this as a side dish, or make it a light entree by adding a few ounces of seasoned tofu or tempeh, or whatever protein you fancy. Make plenty, because these noodles are so much fun to eat, I’m betting that even your skeptical non-vegetarian friends are going to want seconds (full recipe after the jump).

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Summer Preview: Baba Ghanoush, A Classic Dip Updated With Cumin And Smoked Paprika

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I’m of the opinion that a well-flavored dip along with crudité, crackers, cheese, olives and other nibbles constitute an easy-to-do, but elegant appetizer. And baba ghanoush, a combination of smoky eggplant purée and tahini, is one of my favorites. Some form of seasoned eggplant purée is made throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East regions, and a variant can be found as far east as India. Eggplant, inedibly bitter when raw, is transformed by deep roasting or grilling into something mild and almost sweet. Because people seem to make it at home only rarely, it feels a bit special and is nearly always warmly received. Usually I wait until eggplants are in season in mid summer to make baba ghanoush, but I was asked to make it for a wedding reception I catered this week, so I thought  I’d share this recipe while it’s fresh in my mind. File it away until the day when eggplants appear at your farmer’s market… Continue reading

Cooking Techniques: James Holloway Shares His Recipes For Eight Great Salad Dressings

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I’m a great advocate for making salad dressings at home. Buy quality ingredients and learn a few simple techniques, and soon your homemade dressings will be far better than any you could buy, and at half the cost.  Really.  My co-chef for the Monday night vegetarian dinners in Palo Alto, James Holloway, is the king (well, at the very least, the prince) of salad dressings. He’s ever coming up with creative ways to dress the various green, vegetable and grain salads we serve throughout the year. Here, James shares with us eight of his dressing recipes, from a simple red wine vinaigrette to a rich blue cheese caesar aioli. See his recipes after the jump…

(Photo: balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar/ via Wikipedia) Continue reading

Great Food Fast: What to Eat When It’s too Hot to Cook

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More amazingly hot Indian summer weather in the Bay Area!  Having eaten out a lot recently, I woke up today feeling like I was suffering from a vegetable deficit.  Yet, in this heat, who really feels like cooking? Knowing that I needed to eat something fresh and healthy, my mind turned to a composed salad.  A “salade composée,” is something I used to make eons ago when I worked in a French restaurant. This kind of salad is a collection of little salads, each separate, rather than tossed together. The French love to eat them for lunch during the hot months.  It’s a useful concept, because it’s endlessly adaptable to whatever ingredients you have on hand or to whatever you feel like eating. Since I had very little on hand, I made up a challenge for myself: I’d go to Trader Joe’s and in only 15-20 minutes compose a menu and buy everything I needed. Actually, my ground rules were a bit more complicated than that. I knew I wanted a dark, leafy green, also a cruciferous vegetable, a vegetable protein, and a whole grain or a whole grain bread. I tell how I put together my “salade composée” after the jump… Continue reading

Cooking Techniques: For Old-Fashioned Goodness, Try Canning at Home

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( A NOVICE CANNER LEARNS WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THOSE APPLES)

Although as a kid I remember my mother canning peaches, plums, tomatoes, pickles, and who knows what else, canning has always seemed  mysterious to me. So when my neighbor Ric Duran offered to walk me through the process and to let me use his canning equipment, I had to say yes. Here’s what I learned: canning is not that difficult.  Most of the work is in preparing the food to be canned–and that’s just cooking. Then it’s a matter of having a large pot with a lid and a rack, new jars and lids (or used jars in perfect condition), tongs.  That’s about it, although of course one must observe strict sterilization procedures and proper processing times.  Apples are among the easiest things to can because they have a pH of less than 4.6 and are considered acidic enough to be safe from the major danger in improperly canned food, botulism. Photos of my canning adventure and a recipe for apple-pear butter (which really turned out to be delicious) are after the jump. You might want to cook up a batch even if you don’t feel like canning.  It should keep well for a week in the fridge, and you could always freeze the rest in small freezer bags. If you do want to try your hand at canning, the excellent website of the National Center for Home Food Preservation explains everything in clear English.

PHOTO ABOVE: With help from my neighbor, Ric Duran, my apple-pear butter was a canning success. The lovely lady in the background photo is my great-great aunt, Mary D. Jones. The multiple-exposure shot was made in a photographer’s studio sometime in the 1890’s.  She lived to be nearly 101, and I remember her well.

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