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Peach Salsa

27 Aug
Peach Salsa

Peachy Keen and Spicy, too

We’ve had what felt like an epic heat wave in Los Angeles recently, so recipes that don’t involve actual cooking are more than welcome in my kitchen.  This is a great salsa recipe to have in your back pocket – it is so ridiculously easy and delicious!  It puts juicy summer peaches in the forefront, giving them some tang and some spice to complement the sweetness.  This salsa goes incredibly well with chicken soft tacos (which is how we had it), but you could just have it with chips if you want!  Or eat it with a spoon, I won’t tell.

Peaches are a great source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber.  They offer antioxidants to ward off inflammation and aging.  What’s not to love?  And of course, they are in season right now.

Peach Salsa

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large peach, pitted and diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, finely minced
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • pinch of salt

METHOD:

  1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and toss together.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes, preferably no longer than 2 hours, before serving.

Cantaloupe Cooler

23 Aug

I could eat you with a spoon

Since I missed out the entire month of July and a good chunk of August, I decided to pay tribute to the summer that is rapidly passing us by with a super refreshing drink.  And it’s not just refreshing, it is also incredibly nutritious.  When you make a blended beverage with melon, you don’t need to add any water.  Melons are mostly water, after all.  And this means every sip is loaded with vitamins.

You could make a similar beverage with any melon you like.  I find the combination of cantaloupe, lime, and mint to be magically harmonious.  Honeydew would be excellent too.  And don’t get me started on watermelon, my favorite melon of all.  (Though if you use watermelon, eliminate the agave nectar from the recipe).

The cantaloupe in particular is bursting at the seams with vitamins A and C, and it is good for your vision (carrots aren’t the only beta carotene provider) and lungs.  Combine it with tangy lime juice and refreshing mint, and this is a perfect drink for one of those late summer afternoons by the pool.  If you’re in the mood to make it a cocktail, a little splash of vodka could send this over the top.

Cantaloupe Cooler (serves 2)

If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake...er, cooler...

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups of coarsely chopped cantaloupe (remove rind and seeds)
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • handful of mint leaves (about eight)
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar (more if you want it sweeter)
  • ice cubes and mint sprigs for serving

METHOD:

1.  Place the chopped cantaloupe pieces, lime juice, and mint in a food processor or blender.  Process until completely blended and no chunks of melon remain, about a minute.

2.  Taste the mixture and decide how much sweetener you need to add.  It will be quite tangy at this point, so start with a tablespoon of agave.  Blend again, taste again.  Adjust sweetness to your personal taste.

3.  Pour into two glasses and add some ice cubes.  Garnish with mint sprigs and serve.

Shaved Asparagus and Couscous Tangle

26 May

lounging around

Guess what?  Asparagus is still in season.  In our house we’ve had it roasted, steamed, sauteed, every which way.  How about raw, you ask?  Yes, we do that too.  Now I fully admit that picking up an asparagus spear and sinking your teeth into it might not sound like the most enticing thing.  That’s why we shave it.

Shaving asparagus is kind of therapeutic.  You take each spear, one by one, and run your vegetable peeler along it to create super thin asparagus noodles.  It’s fun.  You should try it.  They will have just as much folate and potassium, in fact maybe even more nutritional value because you’re not cooking any of it out.  In the end you have a pile of asparagus ribbons that are just begging to tangle with some other vegetables, fruits, and grains.  Let’s indulge them.

Corn - check!

There’s that sweet corn again.  Also excellent raw, with its sweet pop-in-your-mouth kernels.  You can easily cut the kernels off the cob by placing a small bowl upside down inside a larger bowl.  Stand the corn cob on top of the bottom of the smaller bowl, and run your knife down the cob, all around it, to remove every last kernel.   They will fall into the larger bowl and you’ll save yourself a mess.

Next?

Tomato - check!

If tomatoes are available in your neck of the woods, please grab one and add it to this tangle.  (And no, tangle is not a technical term, it is what I decided to call this dish for reasons that will become obvious when you see the finished product below).  Let’s power up the antioxidant value of this dish, yes?  Chop up a tomato and throw it in.

After we add some citrus and herb action, we can serve this cool veggie-fruit conglomerate over warm Israeli couscous.  Sounds good, right?  It really is.  It’s a refreshing blend of flavors, textures, and temperatures.  It makes a fabulous light dinner.

Shaved Asparagus and Couscous Tangle (serves 2)

the tangled web we wove

INGREDIENTS:

  • small bunch asparagus, about 10 spears
  • kernels from 1 corn cob (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt, plus a pinch later on
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup (uncooked) whole grain Israeli couscous
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

METHOD:

1.  Shave the asparagus into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler.  Place the asparagus ribbons, corn kernels, and tomato in a medium bowl.  Drizzle with the lime juice, salt, and parsley.  Toss everything to combine.  Set aside.

2.  Let the asparagus et. al. mingle together while you cook the couscous.  Bring a scant 3/4 cup water to a boil, then add the couscous and a pinch of salt.  Reduce heat to simmer and cover the pot.  Let simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the couscous is tender.

3.  Divide the couscous between two shallow bowls and top with a heaping pile of the asparagus, corn, and tomato mixture.  Serve while the couscous is still warm, drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil on top.

Chunky Guacamole Pitas

24 May

my pretties

Somehow all seems right with the world when tomatoes are ripe and in season.  In most parts of the world, I’m sorry but it is not that time yet.  In southern California, it is just starting, amazingly enough.  Not a lot of farmers have them yet, but this one guy at my market has beautiful ripe on-the-vine tomatoes already and they are out of this world.   Gloriously red, plump and juicy.

Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods, in part because they are magnificent raw or cooked.  They are packed with lycopene and thought to help prevent various cancers.  This salad pairs them up with another nutritional powerhouse, one that happens to also taste incredible, the avocado.

ready for destiny

When I buy avocados, I can’t help it.  I have to make guacamole.  It’s just ingrained in every fiber of my being.  I also happen to make pretty incredible guacamole, if I do say so myself.  This time, though, I wanted to change things up a bit.  It’s guacamole without being guacamole.  More like a guacamole salad, if you will.  The tomato and avocado are chunked, and nobody gets brutally mashed.  There’s a whole different texture here, but with the lovely familiar flavors of guacamole.

And what should we do with this chunky guacamole, you ask?  Why, put it in a pita.  No need to add cheese or meat – this is a sandwich that does perfectly fine as is.  It’s spicy, tangy, creamy, and crunchy all at once.  It is, in a word, lunch.

Chunky Guacamole Pitas (serves 2)

we've got chunky guacamole up in here

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, and diced
  • 1 medium-large vine-ripened tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • juice of 1 lime (about 2 tbsp)
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cayenne OR 1 jalapeno, seeded & diced
  • one whole wheat pita, cut in half

METHOD:

1.  Gently toss the avocado, tomato, and cilantro with the lime juice, salt, and cayenne (or jalapeno).  Be careful not to mash the avocado.  Coat everything evenly.

2.  Divide the chunky guacamole between the two pitas, putting it inside to make pita sandwiches.  Serve immediately.

Grilled Corn with Lime Butter

19 May

Corn, sweet corn.

I don’t want to get overly political here.  If you do any reading about big agriculture you know that corn is kind of the villain of the produce world.  And while I am not a proponent of mass-produced, inedible corn that is used as fuel and as that ubiquitous sweetener that keeps getting a change of name…I am a big fan of the real deal.  True corn that comes by the ear, that tastes sweet and juicy and crunchy.  The stuff that isn’t developed to force-feed cows on a feedlot, but is grown by a real live farmer for good eatin’.  That kind of corn.

And while summer isn’t here yet, I miraculously got sweet corn in my CSA bag this week.  What better way to showcase corn than to grill it on the cob, then baste it with seasoned melted butter?  Are you drooling?  I hope so.

This is a quick, simple side dish that will help give you a sneak preview of the summer months ahead.  The days are getting longer – why not fire up the grill (or put the grill pan on your stovetop) and reach for those beautiful ears of white corn?

Corn is not just a politically polarizing vegetable either.  It actually has some fantastic properties.  It’s high in B vitamins, folate, and fiber.  It supposedly aids your memory, in addition to boosting heart and lung health.  Even though corn may be higher in calories than some vegetables, those are not empty calories my friends.  So give corn a break.  And eat it.

Grilled Corn with Lime Butter (serves 2)

seasoned, buttered, and ready for dinner

INGREDIENTS:

  • cooking spray
  • 2 ears corn, husks & silks removed
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley

METHOD:

1.  Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Spray with cooking spray.  Place the corn cobs directly on the pan and reduce heat to medium.  Cook, turning every minute or two, until there is some charring on all sides and the kernels are getting tender, about 8 minutes total.  Remove from the pan.

2.  While the corn is cooking, melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds on high.  Use a fork to stir in the lime zest, cayenne pepper, and salt.   When the corn is done cooking, use a basting brush or pastry brush to generously brush the butter on the corn cobs.  Flip the corn cobs over to brush the underside too.

3.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Cucumber Lime Spa Water

10 May

small but mighty

I filled out one of those silly survey things on facebook years ago, and one of the questions asked what my favorite fruits were.  Some of my answers were predictable – strawberries, mangoes, cherries.  But I also included limes.  A few people commented on my unusual choice.   The fact is we often forget about citrus fruits when we talk about our favorites.  Limes and lemons in particular, which most of us don’t simply eat out of hand.  They are incredibly useful in cooking, and occasionally it’s nice to highlight their flavors.

Limes, like their yellow sisters, are packed with vitamin C and believed to fight off diseases such as cancer and cholera.  They have an interesting tart flavor that is quite unlike anything else in nature.  That’s why they work so well to enhance other produce, like avocados, mangoes, and cucumber.

it's me again.

Like I mentioned on this blog before, cucumbers are famed for their complexion-enhancing powers, which is why they are often used in spa water.  Spa water sounds like a hoity-toity beverage, I know, but it’s nothing more than filtered water flavored with fruit and herbs.  It’s a virtually calorie-free drink that is super refreshing and feels almost like a cocktail.  Only it’s way better for you than a cocktail.

At spas you’ll see all kinds of fruits floating in spa water – strawberries, oranges, you name it.  But the classic seems to be cucumber, so I decided to enhance its mild flavor with fresh mint and lime.  It’s incredibly easy to make and will impress your guests.  I can say this from experience, people.  Get out your pitcher, fill it with ice, and make a batch of this spa water.

Cucumber Lime Spa Water (serves 4-6)

refresh!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups of ice
  • 1 persian cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 limes, cut into quarters
  • generous handful of fresh mint leaves
  • cold filtered water

METHOD:

1.  Place ice in a pitcher.  Add the cucumber slices, lime wedges, and mint leaves.

2.  Fill the pitcher with cold water and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.   You can top up the water to add more servings as you use up the water.  It will keep in the refrigerator for one day – after that it will get slightly bitter.