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Friday April 18th 2014

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Summa Down Now

Summer is here again, and has been since it unapologetically dethroned spring in early March. If you’re like me, you’re just now adjusting your eating habits—and not for “bikini season.” No, for reasons of physical comfort. After all, is anything more miserable than eating a big bowl of Mac and Cheese and then trudging off through the battlefield that is Pensacola in summertime? I look at my wintertime favorites like bisque and chicken potpie with startling indifference now—even mild disgust. Like an ex you were once madly in love with and then see on the street and think “meh”—wintertime foods, I’m over you!

The new hotness is summertime appropriate food options. Forget about tank tops and sandals—food is the secret to keeping you comfortable in this sweltering summer.

Glass

Summer Beer (aka Beer Margaritas aka encourage people to take cabs to your party)

Sometimes unlikely things go together sublimely. Maple syrup and sausage. French fries and vanilla shakes. Cheap beer and cheap vodka. Yes, ‘tis true. Discerning taste buds and class step aside—this proletariat cocktail can make even the most skeptical of drinkers raise their glass for another.

Ingredients:
(And really—don’t try to class it up with top-shelf booze and micro-brews. The delicate, majestic nature of this concoction is rooted in the fact that three mediocre ingredients can combine to make one helluva drink.)

1 6 ounce can of frozen lemonade concentrate
1 12 ounce can of beer
12 ounces of vodka

Mix these three ingredients together. Add ice. Be careful.

Plate

With warm weather comes the farmer’s markets, blueberry picking, and avocado and watermelon season—reasons alone to celebrate. After all, it’s nice being able to incorporate fresh vegetables again into your diet without having to forego something else to afford them. Behold! The glory of a refrigerator beaming with colors! Keep the oven off and the kitchen cool by making one of the following dishes with your newly acquired produce cornucopia.

Make: Summer Salad
A certain very popular chain makes a summer salad with blueberries, strawberries, pecans, and chicken. I love this salad, but because it’s so easy to make I feel foolish ordering it. After all, in the summertime you probably have most of its ingredients in your house already. And let’s be honest: this is as simple as cooking gets so why pay someone 200 percent more to make it for you? Buy a rotisserie chicken and use that so you can keep the stove/oven off. If you want to do the old “buy a store-bought dressing and pour it into a canning jar and claim you ‘made it yourself’” trick, we won’t tell anyone.

Ingredients (for two salads):
6 cups of greens (I like spinach or spring mix)
1 cup of sliced strawberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup chopped pineapple (I’ve used watermelon before instead of pineapple: so good!)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 chicken breasts, cooked (or whatever your preference)

Dressing
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put all the dressing ingredients into a mason jar and give it a good shake. Assemble salad with all ingredients. Pour dressing over the top. Use the money you saved making it yourself on a bottle of white wine.

Buy: Global Grill
Sometimes, the most simplistic of dishes are the most delicious. The Heirloom Tomato Salad from Global Grill being a pristine example. The fact that it’s served in a mason jar only adds to its appeal. Fresh, seasonal ingredients like red and yellow peppers, green beans, peppers and heirloom tomatoes are nestled into their serving glass before being accented with house made mozzarella and lightly marinated in their famous red wine vinaigrette dressing.

Bowl
Move over nachos—summertime is all about covering chips in a variety of salsas and convincing oneself that eating fried cornmeal is “healthy” if it features a vegetable.

Buy: Sabor
If you just want to have a smorgasbord of flavors in your mouth and you don’t feel like cooking, or shopping, then head to Sabor and get an assortment of their salads to go. All are $5.49 and come in 12 ounce cups (except the fresh guacamole which is 8 oz.). Their current selections are Beet Salad (with cilantro and lime juice), the Pebre Salad (fresh tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice) and the Aztec Salad (corn, black beans, cilantro & green onion). Order a tamale too while you’re there—just don’t pull a President Ford and try to eat it with the husk still on.

Make: Watermelon Jalapeno Salsa
Those wanting to shake up the tried and true salsa varieties: look no further! While at first look this may seem odd, the resulting mélange of flavors are anything but dull and 100 percent delicious. Serve simply with tortilla chips, or embrace your inner Bravo Chef and serve with fried plantains or atop grilled swordfish.

Ingredients:
3 cups chopped watermelon (if you don’t like your salsa very watery, you may want to place chopped watermelon in a colander to drain the excess water)
1/2 cup diced green pepper
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. The longer it sits the stronger the blended flavors will become. It’s best not to make it too far in advance though, as the watermelon will break down in the salt and become too soft.

Bowl
Buy: Ever’Deli, Dolce, The Leisure Club:

Perhaps no other treat embodies the taste of summertime better than smoothies or ice cream. The Leisure Club has always been a favorite for health conscience people who adore their smoothies made with fresh fruit and yogurt, but recently their addition of High Road Craft Ice Cream based out of Atlanta, in favors such Bourbon Burnt Sugar and Brown Butter Praline, could satisfy even the most wicked of sweet tooth. Every High Road order is specially crafted for the retailer—think of it as bespoke ice cream.

The Ever’Deli has options available for those who the dairy fairy just doesn’t like back. Their Orange Julio Soy Shake tastes remarkably like an Orange Julius (orange juice, soy milk, banana and vanilla protein). Creative types can build their own with any base (apple juice, pineapple juice, coconut milk) and two fruits (like blueberries, mango, peach, raspberries or strawberries).

While nothing breaks the heat of summer better than ice cream, it’s true nothing refreshes quite like sorbet. After all, sorbet was made for fresh fruit season and it would be shame to let the summer go by without trying some of the delicious results. Try Dolce’s Watermelon Basil or Pink Grapefruit sorbet and enjoy them with a glass of white wine on their lovely porch.

Make: Homemade Fro-Yo

You know that ice cream maker your aunt gave you that’s been sitting in the garage forgotten about for almost two years now—well today’s the day it has a purpose! Stick the ice cream maker base in the freezer before you go to bed tonight and tomorrow go shopping for two things: Plain nonfat yogurt and sugar.

Ingredients:
32 ounces of plain nonfat yogurt
5/6 cups of sugar (if your mind just exploded like mine did the first time converting that, it’s 1/2 cup + 1/3 cup)

Whisk together yogurt and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Pour into ice cream maker after the base has been in the freezer overnight. If the base isn’t cold enough, your yogurt will be less thick and icier. Churn for 30 minutes. Keep in freezer in airtight container.

Taking your inspiration from nights spent wandering into Canal Street’s Pink Berry, use this standard recipe as a base for whatever your dessert spirit guide inspires you to add: mochi, granola, honey, fresh berries and pretzels being my favorite.

Make: Coconut Avocado Ice Cream
Sounds strange I know, but when you think about it, avocado’s texture inherently lends itself to a creamy dessert. Rich in good fats, it creates a sublimely smooth, decadent ice cream. Serve it at your next grill party as an unexpected, yet fitting dessert.

Ingredients:
3 cups milk
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 pound avocado pulp (about two Hass avocados)
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice

Freeze the base of your ice cream maker overnight. Blend all ingredients in a blender. Add more lime juice or sugar, if needed. Refrigerate until mixture is cold. Pour in ice cream maker and churn—about 40 minutes—or according to manufacturer’s directions.

 


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Become a Foodie
For those wanting to broaden their culinary horizons, adding a few of these to your summer book rotation couldn’t hurt. If you need a bit of instant inspiration, be sure to check out a few of my favorite food blogs.

Books
“Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream.” From $13.22 on Amazon. Co-Written by the owner and Chef of this popular ice cream parlor chain in Seattle, the ice cream recipes contained in this book will keep you busy all summer. Childhood favorites like Neapolitan are in here, but it’s the unorthodox flavors that have garnered a zealous fan base: Cucumber Mint Sorbet, Blackberry Sage and Pumpkin Clove are some of the highlights. They even recommend putting a scoop of their Maple Bacon ice cream atop warm oatmeal for a winter treat—that is the moment I was sold. Booking my ticket for Seattle now.

“The Great Salsa Book.” From $11.72 on Amazon. Did you know salsa has replaced ketchup as America’s number one condiment? I had no idea and I must say, it’s about damn time. This book runs the gamut of salsa recipes, so if you only know salsa as the red stuff from Chili’s, you may be a bit surprised. The recipes here feature over 100 “salsas” which range from chile, tropical, fruit, bean, corn-based to salsas that are made with nuts and seeds and even, oceanic ingredients. Let this book become your salsa spirit guide and soon you’ll be thinking of the word salsa like you do salad.

“The Joy of Cooking.” From $19.70 on Amazon. If you’re going to buy one book on cooking in your lifetime: make it this one. Want to learn how to braid bread? Dress a turkey? Make steak tartare? Flambé a tart? Its all in here—the veritable, and highly respected, “bible” of the kitchen. Ask any Chef if they own a copy and they’ll probably show you a flour speckled monstrosity that’s been stained from sauces and pocked over with burn marks from pans—and soon yours will too.

“Momofuko.” $21.74 on Amazon. Momofuko is the name of one of David Chang’s restaurants. A man that inspires patrons to embark on vast pilgrimages to pray at the altar that is his restaurant empire: Milk Bar, Ko, Ssäm Bar and, of course, Momofuko Noodle Bar. The book is an interesting weave of recipes, as well as the stories behind the dishes, that impacted the culinary scene in a way no one chef had ever done before. With plenty of pictures and in-depth tutorials, the book could easily make a beautiful coffee table accessory—but that would be shameful given the usefulness and creativity put into this man’s culinary oeuvre. Buy it and get in the kitchen!

Blogs
davidlebovitz.com
David Lebovitz is a world-renowned pastry chef who made his name working at Chez Panisse with Alice Walters. The guy now lives in Paris full-time and drives me crazy with pictures of perfect macaroons, mille-feuille and recipes for Rochoux’s Hazelnut Praline Paste. A dessert blogger who actually earned the right to write about whatever damn dessert he wants—thank you very much—prepare to be jealous. However, if you have to live the food scene of Paris through the eyes of one man: this is the one you’d want to tell the story.

lookimadethat.com
Sometimes food blogs can wax poetic about a recipe for too long. I hate scrolling through five pages of “thoughts” before I hit the actual recipe. This food blog hits a nice balance of the two. Updated often with great pictures and plenty of variety you’ll definitely find something here to “pin.”

veganmenu.blogspot.com
If you’ve ever thought “I could so be vegan forever” after eating at Sluggos for lunch—who hasn’t thought that—but then find yourself wondering how to actually cook vegan food, this blog is you. You’ll never get bored with all the variety this blog inspires: linguini with porcini mushrooms, tandoori tofu, chocolate marble cheesecake and baklava were just a few of this week’s recipes.