There are moments when the weight of something simple, gets the best of you. All the beliefs and values we have, that compose this big ol' life of ours, can get generalized or maybe even overlooked until someone or some moment or some thing breaks out and makes life quite genuine.
I was reminded yesterday of how much we need people. I have some great people around me, and I am so thankful for the different facets of relationships. All the little wedding decisions and to-do lists got the best of me yesterday, and I lost it while talking to my mom about the color of invitation paper (by lose it, I mean tears, not angry rage). We sat on my parents backyard steps, and I needed her to hug me right then and change the subject. I needed her to comfort me, and ummm, I needed her to go pick out the paper as well. I am SO excited to get married, beyond anxious, but a few tears are expected in all of this. We're not as independent as we'd like to think we are, and it's humbling to admit that we need people; that we're dependent. Sometimes I think we need to be reminded of the obvious, and sometimes it's the little things that take us there. I could keep my mini life lessons to myself, but knowing how I often get wrapped up in my own inner dialogue, I thought one of you may need to get out of your head for a second as well.
On that note, it seems avocado toast is the trendy snack of the summer. I am a partaker myself, but needed another quick snack option, that resembles the satisfying greatness that comes from goodies piled on a good slice of grainy toast. You could use any spreadable cheese of choice, but ricotta keeps everything nice and moist here. Consider making extra zucchini, then you're set for the next few snack times.
ZUCCHINI TOASTS // Makes 4 Toasts, Serves 2
1 Fresh Whole Grain Loaf
4 Zucchini (About 2 1/2 Cups when diced)
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2-3 tsp. Lemon Pepper
1 tsp. Fennel Seed (optional)
Sea Salt (If your Lemon Pepper Blend DOESN'T have salt already)
1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
2 Tbsp. Minced Shallot
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
Fresh Parsley + Mint
Oven to 475'
1. Cut both end off the zucchini. Cut each in half length wise, then each long half into 4 sticks, dice. Repeat with remaining zucchini.
2. Spread zucchini on a large baking sheet, drizzle the olive oil and lemon pepper, optional fennel seed, and salt IF needed. The zucchini should have a very light coating of oil, add a bit more if need be. Use your preferences on the amount of spices too. Spread to make one even layer on the baking tray for more browning. Bake on the upper third rack for 18-20 minutes, or until they've got some good crispy edges. Remove to cool.
3. While zucchini is roasting, mix the ricotta, mustard and shallot together in a small bowl, set aside.
4. Chop even amounts parsley and mint, about 1/3 cup in total.
5. Toast your bread slices, I thought 1/2'' thick was perfect. Spread a few dollops of the ricotta mix, a sprinkle of the herb mix, pile zucchini on top, and another sprinkle of herbs. Yum.
My free time has been a bit limited lately, so cooking hasn't been worth sharing. I would call it more 'assembling' than I would cooking in the past two weeks. I missed it, it is my therapy. I was so excited to be making something that I talked through making this entire salad. Imagine Food Network with no eye contact or matching pans and bowls. I paid close attention to cutting things evenly and paused to share a helpful hint. Hugh started replying to my rhetorical questions at first, until he realized I wasn't responding or looking for feedback, and let me carry on being completely crazy while he took pictures. It's really wonderful that he loves me, because sometimes I just can't help myself from being crazy (Hugh, thank you. xo).
This salad is not complicated in the slightest, but it was the tastiest combination I've had in quite sometime. It reinforces the fact, that finding seasonal, fresh produce guarantees a better product. It was my first time cooking with red quinoa, and I found it to be a bit firmer, which is just perfect to toss into a salad. It is not crucial by any means, but if you can get your hands on some red quinoa, it certainly make a gorgeous alternative to the white variety. I enjoyed this as written below, because I like to eat A LOT of salad, and it not having the weight of cheese or a protein was ideal for me yesterday when I consumed the entire bowl. However, if I were making this for other people, or maybe myself on a less vegetable gluttonous day, it would be excellent with a bit of either feta, goat cheese or a piece of grilled fish to make it more of an entree.
Eat good foods and enjoy your weekend ~
NECTARINE+FENNEL SALAD // Serves 4 as a side
I cannot stress enough how important it is to buy your produce from a local farm stand or farmers market for this salad. Seek out an incredibly fragrant nectarine, a delicate avocado with buttery insides, a plump fennel bulb. It is very light, and what makes it great is the use of ripe, fresh produce. Just a mere suggestion that you could translate as a command.
1/2-3/4 Cup Cooked Red Quinoa
1/2 Cup Shelled, Roasted Pistachio Nuts
1 Cup Thinly Sliced Fennel (use a mandoline if you have one!)
2 Cups Arugula (or lettuce of choice)
// Mustard Chive Vinaigrette //
* These are estimates, give or take to your own taste.
1 Small Clove Garlic
1/4 Cup Roughly Chopped Chives
1 Tbsp. Apricot Jam (Honey or Agave will work)
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1/3 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Put all viniagrette ingredients in a food processor or blender, pulse until everything is combined, about 30 seconds. Taste for salt and pepper.
2. Working in a large mixing bowl, add the cooked and cooled red quinoa, and about 3 tbsp. of the vinaigrette to keep it moist. Stir.
3. Halve the nectarine, remove the pit, and slice into thin pieces. Halve the avocado and cut into small chunks. Add the fennel slices, pistachios and half of the nectarine and avocado pieces to the bowl, save the other half for garnish.
4. I suggest using clean hands to toss everything, so you can be gentle and retain the shapes of the avocado and nectarine. Add desired amount of dressing and give one more toss to coat. Garnish with fresh slices of nectarine and avocado.
We made a quick day trip over to Palm Springs, CA this week to take care of a few wedding things and holy goodness was it toasty. My car thermometer read 115' at one point! I am just now getting over the shock that is extreme heat, and more than ready for the beach this weekend. So, this weekend you will find me in the ocean, swimming, actually getting my hair wet and then making another batch of these mini tarts.
These make a simple and tasty dessert for a number of reasons. They're small, which means you can justifiably eat a few of them. But maybe that's a selling point for just me? The simplicity lends itself to use any type of fruit you have, they'd be great with peaches, strawberries, maybe even fresh mango and use lime instead of lemon if you like tropical flavors. If you want to complete a few steps in advance, you could cut and score the puff pastry, put it on a baking sheet and leave it in the fridge til dessert time. The cream mix and blueberries can be prepped in advance as well, in under 5 minutes mind you. The ingredient list is short, and the hands on time is limited which means I will be making these frequently.
Sidenote: If you'd rather be cooking outside, we had a post on Etsy yesterday of the Rustic Fig Pizza we made awhile back!
BLUEBERRY & CREAM TARTS // Makes 9
I have not attempted to make my own puff pastry, however, Helene at My Tartlette has both a regular and a gluten version on her site if you feel up to it! Recipe inspired by Real Simple.
1 8-oz. Sheet Frozen Puff Pastry, thawed
1 Egg, beaten
6 oz. Reduced Fat Cream Cheese, room temperature
3 Tbsp. Honey, divided
3 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice, divided
Zest of one Large Lemon
1 Cup Fresh Blueberries
Lemon zest and powdered sugar for garnish, optional
Oven to 375'
1. Unfold the the puff pastry and roll over it with a rolling pin about three time, just to thin it a bit.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a cookie cutter or top of a mason jar, gently cut out circles and put them on the parchment. My cutter was about 2'' diameter, you can use what you have, but use your better judgement to increase or decrease baking time.
3. Using a paring knife, score a 1/4'' thick circle border inside each tart cut out. Brush the outer edge with the beaten egg and sprinkle each with a bit of sugar (1 Tbsp. between all of them). Bake on middle rack until golden and puffed, about 14+/- minutes.
4. In the meantime,mix the cream cheese, lemon zest, 2 Tbsp. of the lemon juice, and 2 tbsp. honey until fully mixed and a bit fluffy. Put it in the fridge.
5. Remove the tarts, rescore the circle and press down gently on the middle part to flatten. Allow them to cool about 5 minutes.
6. Dollop about 1 Tbsp. of the creamy mixture in the middle of each tart (again, this will depend on the size). Put the blueberries in a bowl. Warm the remaining 1 Tbsp. honey in the microwave for 15 seconds to loosen it, pour over the berries along with the last 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice and toss to coat. Pile a hefty spoonful of berries on top of the creamy mixture. Serve at room temperature.
* Garnish with fresh lemon zest and a sprinkle of powdered sugar if you please.
It's a big job to be a Dad. I mean to be a good one, you certainly have your work cut out for you. Especially with daughters (and yes, I say this in the midst of wedding planning because he has been such a voice of reason and support). My dad has given in to being the only male in our family; he likes his sports, but is equally a fan of late night frozen yogurt and the occasional pedicure. He has a sarcastic sense of humor and a knack for giving people a hard time, but on the contrary there is a very thoughtful and selfless man. I praised my mom around mother's day, and my dad got swept over as I was out of town for father's day. I'm able to thank my dad for the little things like sushi dinners, family vacations or the Starbucks gift card for no reason, but it's the bigger picture that I'm not sure one can accurately express gratitude for. Those kinds of sentiments don't fit in greeting cards or blog posts, emotions and words aren't always an exact translation. But I am thankful, for the little and the big things. It's not every dad who can say they braided their little girls curly hair every night before bed so it wouldn't get tangled up in her sleep. It's both a little and big thing.
I know for most of you, the thought of turning on the oven and stove in July does not sound appealing, but it's the season for corn! My dad likes soup, so it is even more appropriate. This would make a great starter for an outdoor dinner, as everything can be done in advance and the soup warmed when you need it. Enjoy the weekend!
SUMMER CORN SOUP WITH SHRIMP // Serves 4
I strongly suggest making this with fresh corn. I can't really imagine the fresh flavor being duplicated with frozen or canned. My soup has tint of orange because I used a yam, I wrote the recipe with a yukon gold because I think it would yield a more appealing color. If you don't eat shrimp, you could use rotissere chicken, black beans or omit a protein all together.
4 Ears Corn
3 1/2 Cups Vegetable Stock (good quality)
1 Tbsp. Butter
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Sliced Thin
1 Large Yukon Gold Potato
1 Tsp. Fresh Ground Nutmeg
Cayenne or Red Pepper Flakes to taste
1-2 tsp. Oregano to taste
Salt/Pepper to taste
Light Sour Cream to taste
1 lb. Shrimp
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Large Avocado
1 Poblano or Pasilla Chile
Juice of One Lime
1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Cilantro/Basil, either or a mix
Oven to 425'
1. Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and saute to coat. Cook until the onions just start to turn light brown. Peel the potato and cut into cubes, add it to the onion. Cut the kernels of corn off the cob with a sharp knife, add them to the soup pot. Add the broth, spices and a few grinds of fresh pepper and allow everything to simmer to cook the corn and potatoes through.
2. If using raw shrimp, toss them in the olive oil and a grind of fresh pepper, and put on a baking pan. Cut the poblano or pasilla chile in half length wise, and place it skin side up on the pan as well. Bake on the upper rack for about 5 minutes for shrimp to cook through. Remove the shrimp and set aside, put the pepper back in until the skin blisters (about 5 more minutes). While waiting, peel the skin and tails from the shrimp and cut into 1'' pieces. Remove the pepper and put it in a ziploc bag to cool, this will make the skin easy to peel off.
3. Check on the soup to make sure potato and corn are cooked through. Using an immersion blender or a regular blender, blend the soup to create a puree. I like to leave it a bit chunky, this is up to you.
4. In a seperate bowl, combine the shrimp pieces, lime juice, chopped herbs and scallions if using them. Peel and cut the avocado into small cubes, add to the bowl. Rub the skin off the roasted chile, cut into chunks. Toss gently together.
5. Taste the soup for seasonings and adjust as you prefer. Allow people to stir in their sour cream as desired. Serve each portion of soup with a big scoop of the shrimp and avocado mix on top.
It's summer. There was a whirlwind of engagement excitement, a trip to Scotland and now it's July. What the heck. The traffic down the coast is congested, there are ripe nectarines at the market and I can smell that glorious charcoal bbq scent when I take an evening stroll. I like it very much. The season of eating dinner outside, beach days after church and the best fruit, I welcome you.
As much as I love a good meal, I'm more often a grazer. I peek through my fridge a number of times during the day, hoping maybe something new or more exciting will look back at me. There are always string cheeses and carrot sticks; often some flavor of hummus and various dipping agents, but those have been on my snack menu for a good twenty years or so, I need some new goods. The first thing I do when I go to my parents house is take note of what is in their fridge, as you never know when hunger will strike and I may NEED something from there. I am not much of a baker for this very reason, grazing on baked goods is not the greatest habit. If you bake and have self control, cheers to you. I'm better off with these leftover quinoa falafels in the fridge.
QUINOA FALAFELS WITH TAHINI SAUCE / Serves 4
I made my own version, but was influenced by the lovely Nicole at Cooking after Five. I used smoked salt, because I had some on hand and it worked great, but any type of salt is fine. The falafels themselves are very low in fat, so the sauce, or any sauce of choice is necessary. You can use fresh cooked garbanzo beans, or canned if you are short on time.
1/2 Cup Quinoa
1 Cup Chopped Carrot
1/2 Cup Sliced Green Onions (about 3)
3 Tbsp. Chopped Parsley
15 oz. Garbanzo Beans
2 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tsp. Cumin
2 tsp. Coriander
2 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Seeds
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Cup Plain Yogurt
1/4 Cup Tahini
1 Tbsp. Lemon Zest
Fresh Chives to taste
1 English Cucumber, cut in matchsticks
1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, about 12ish minutes. Set aside to cool for now.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the yogurt, tahini, lemon zest, a pinch of salt and pepper and chives if you have them. Cover and put in the fridge.
3. In a blender or food processor, pulse carrots and parsley. Add green onion, garbanzos,sesame seeds, lemon juice, eggs, garlic clove, coriander and cumin. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Pulse until roughly combined, add quinoa, and another few pulses. I prefer it chunky. Taste for seasonings. Allow to set in fridge for an hour. It will be fine resting overnight if you really like to plan ahead.
4. Heat a nonstick pan* over medium high heat with 1 Tbsp. of the oil. Scoop the mixture out in about 2 Tbsp. size portions, roll and flatten into patties. Sear them in the saucepan for about 3 minutes on each side, with a slight press of the spatula between to thin the patty a bit. Use the remaining oil when the pan becomes dry about the third batch.
5. I ate mine at room temperature over some matchstick cucumbers, with a drizzle of the yogurt tahini sauce on top. You could put them in mini pitas and they could be a neat veg appetizer. I love mini things.
* Nonstick will allow you to use less oil to keep them from sticking. You need some oil to create a crust, but you are not 'frying' them.