Stay Cool As A Cucumber With This Easy-to-Make Chilled Soup

————

————

While the rest of the country is finally cooling down, in the Bay Area, right on schedule, indian summer is warming us up. Last weekend was hot in Lake County where I cooked for forty men from the Center for Spiritual Living of Santa Rosa who were on their annual retreat. Hoping to create a light but satisfying lunch, I concocted this chilled cucumber soup. For the omnivores in the crowd, I made it with yogurt and buttermilk. After the jump you will see how I made a vegan version, as well as the salad bar lunch which accompanied this cooling soup.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Summer’s Harvest: Cantaloupe Stars In This Simple, Elegant Dessert

———–

———–

If ever there’s a time when local melons are in season, now is that time.  So, I suggest that you run, not walk, to your nearest market and pick up a melon or two. They’re so useful. Purée for refreshing soup, freeze for granita, cut up for fruit salad, or just slice and eat as is. Here, I’ve paired cantaloupe with blackberries and raspberries for an elegant dessert. The only thing I added was a bed of coconut cream under the berries (to make coconut cream, whip with a fork the thick, creamy part of coconut milk, add just a bit of maple syrup, leave the watery part for another use).

I can think of few things more delicious than a sweet, ripe cantaloupe. To find that perfect melon, first of all, start with local melons. They’re far more likely to be ripe than ones picked green and shipped from afar.  After that, use your senses–sight, smell and touch. The overall look of the melon should be creamy beige–not green. Also, of course, inspect for soft spots and mold. Smell the melon up close, does it smell like a cantaloupe? If so, you’ve got a good one. However, if it smells really strong, it’s probably too ripe. Keep in mind that melons stored at very cool temperatures will have less of an aroma, so smell is only one indication. Touch is the sense I find most useful in selecting cantaloupes. Press the melon lightly with a thumb, a really hard melon was probably picked too soon and may never ripen properly. Pay particular attention to the round, indented area at the melon’s stem end. Press in there, it should give way slightly,  but if this area is actually soft, your melon is likely over ripe. Even melons which are nearly ripe can benefit from sitting a day or two at room temperature. After that, wash well, slice open, scoop out the seeds and cut the juicy flesh into bite-size pieces. Cantaloupe pieces will keep well for several days stored in a covered container in your fridge, and they make handy snacks for adults and kids alike.

———–

———–

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

———–

———–

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.

———–

———–

Continue reading

Summer’s Harvest: Three Sweet Berries Together in a Delicate Gel

———–

———–

You don’t need me to tell you that it’s berry season. You’ll likely find lovely, ripe berries in abundance at your farm market. Eat them right out of the basket–what a pleasure. Pour on a little cream (or more likely, your favorite substitute), and if the berries are ripe and sweet,  you’ll have a memorable dessert.  But if you’re in the mood for something a little out of the ordinary, try this elegant summer gel made simply with fruit juice and agar agar, a sea vegetable used as a dessert gelling agent throughout Asia. Although it goes together quickly, make it at least a couple of hours ahead, so there’s time for the gel to cool and set. If you’re remembering the jello you ate as a kid, forget all that. This gel is so much more delicate and sophisticated. Make it in a loaf pan, then slice and garnish with additional fruit and something creamy. In the photo, the garnish is coconut cream, made by using a fork to whip only the thick part of canned coconut milk.  You can add a little sweetener if you like, but I didn’t and it worked well. The recipe, as usual, is after the jump.

———–

———–

Continue reading

Great Grains: Celebrating Our All-American Grain, Corn

———–

———–

I’m writing this on the 4th of July, a day when we celebrate America, and what could be more American than corn? Corn (known as maize in much of the world) is as central to the peoples of the Americas as rice is to Asia.  Simply put, it is fundamental. As many of you know, I grew up on a farm in the great Midwestern corn belt where in summer we lived amongst a sea of waving corn. July days were often so hot and muggy all you wanted to do was jump in a cool lake. However, we knew better than to complain, as corn loves the heat, and grows so fast you can it see shoot up from day to day. An abundant corn crop meant money in the bank, and survival for another year. Most of that corn was field corn, the kind kept in the field until fall, harvested dry, and used for cattle feed, corn oil, and these days, ethanol. But we and neighboring farmers also grew sweet corn under contract to the Green Giant Company, whose canned and frozen corn was sold world wide.  During the five or six weeks sweet corn was in season, my memory is that we ate it every single day and never tired of it. So, I suppose you could say corn is in my blood, and to this day I pretty much love all things corn. So, for the next few weeks, I will be offering corn recipes, including one for Fresh Corn Tofu Frittata (after the jump). Previously, I’ve posted recipes for millet and corn croquettes, lemon cake made with cornmeal, and corn pudding.  Enjoy!

———–

This award-winning corn was shown at the 2008 Olmsted County Fair, Rochester, Minnesota (photo by Jonathunder, via Wikipedia)

Continue reading

Summer’s Harvest: Cook Up a Lovely Pot of “Sufferin’ Succotash”

————

———–

“Succotash” is one of those words that’s just a whole lot of fun to say. To my mind, the best way to get a chance to say it is to cook up a batch of this homey American dish. Succotash has deep roots in American culinary history, as first citing for use of the word dates to 1751. I’d imagined it was of Southern origin, but it turns out to be from New England, it’s name derived from the Narragansett Indian word for “boiled corn kernels.” Although lima beans and corn are the defining ingredients, quite honestly, you could substitute fava beans or edamame and still have a respectable succotash. Since we’re in midsummer, I give you my warm weather version, using fresh ingredients. When the weather turns cool, I’ll share my alternate recipe which makes use of dried corn and lima beans, along with winter squash. Eat this as a vegetable side dish, or do as I did for dinner tonight: stuff it into warm corn tortillas and top with salsa. It was a wonderful light meal. And if you can’t recall who popularized the phrase “sufferin’ succotash,” it was Sylvester the cat in classic Warner Brothers cartoons from the forties and fifties (which I must confess, I’m old enough to remember). See my recipe after the jump.

———–

Continue reading

MacroChef Remembers: 101 Menu Ideas for Summertime Meals

———–

———–

Blogger’s Note: Can it be that summer has returned already? O.K., technically it is still three weeks away, but really–today is June 1st, it must be summer.  A year ago I posted 101 menu ideas for summertime meals, and since most of you were not yet reading this blog then, I’m reposting them, hoping that you’ll find my list useful. Happy Summer!

Here is what I wrote then: Sometimes the hardest part of putting a meal together is just coming up with an idea of what to cook. Last fall I posted 101 menu ideas for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, and now I’m doing a warm weather version.  There are ideas for soups, appetizers, salads, main dishes, side dishes and desserts. There are already recipes on this blog for a few of these suggestions (marked**). For others, I will, when I’m able, put up recipes for those most requested (leave a comment to let me know which items you’d  want a recipe for). Just to get us started, here’s a recipe for a Cool Soba Noodle Salad…During the summers I lived in Japan when it was just too hot and humid to eat warm, cooked rice, cold soba noodles got me through. I’ve been enamored of them ever since.  Here’s my, only slightly California-ized, version. (Recipe and 101 Summertime Menu Ideas after the jump…)

Photo: Soba Noodle Salad, one of 101 menu ideas for summer.

———–

Continue reading