Monday, July 30, 2012

Grilled Potatoes with Lavender

If you know me at all — or have read this blog for any length of time —you probably realize I'm a wee bit obsessed with purple things. Among the few purple foods, purple potatoes may be my favorite: They are so unabashedly vibrant! I haven't yet made purple potato pizza, but I'm still playing with potatoes and lavender.

This vegetarian side dish is perfect for a party. You can steam the potatoes early in the day, and then they take only about 10 minutes to finish up on the grill. The result is much like oven-roasted potatoes. This technique is especially nice on steamy hot days when you can't bear to turn on the oven.

I love this combination of lavender, lemon thyme, and red wine vinegar, but you can freely make substitutions to suit your taste — or what's in your garden.

Grilled Potatoes with Lavender

Be sure to use lavender that's free of pesticides. Feel free to substitute other herbs if you don't care for — or have access to — lavender or lemon thyme.

2 pounds small purple potatoes, or other new potatoes (I used a mix here)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive, grapeseed, or safflower oil, divided
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
6 teaspoons fresh culinary lavender, chopped, or 3 teaspoons dried
2 teaspoons fresh lemon thyme, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried

Steam potatoes for about 10 minutes, until just tender. (If you have a pressure cooker, this takes just 3 minutes.) You can do this earlier in the day and store the potatoes in the refrigerator until you're ready for grilling.

Cut steamed potatoes in half and toss with 2 tablespoons oil. Spread on a grilling pan and grill over medium heat for 5 minutes, then turn and grill another 5 minutes or so until crisp.

Meanwhile, make the dressing: whisk together 1/4 cup of oil, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper, 4 teaspoons of lavender, and lemon thyme. When potatoes are done, remove from grill and toss with dressing. Serve warm.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Three Berries Lemon Fool

It was a very unusual scene inside my fridge: some leftover heavy cream and lots of very ripe fresh berries, ready to go. Normally berries disappear fast, and cream ... well, it just visits our kitchen for special occasions.

It was the day before our trip, so I really had to come up with something to feel better and less anxious.  Outside, in the backyard,  the old-fashioned  thermometer was indicating something close to 100 F, kids were running around the living room, and we were counting the hours to start our long flight from here to Israel and then to France. I was very stressed with the never-ending to-do list before our departure, with clothes and presents everywhere in the house.

But as I once mentioned here before, sometimes chaos is inspiring, and the kitchen can be a sacred hiding place for me. So there I went and prepared this refreshing treat. It might become for the kids one more sweet memory to remember summer and a day before our trip!

Three Berries Lemon Fool

Prep the macerated fruits  about 5 hours before  serving. The acidity of the citrus will do the work to "cook" the fruit while you go to the beach. Juices will form in the bottom of the bowl: Use this "coulis" to cover the cream.

1 cup fresh small strawberres
1 cup blackberries,
1 cup blueberries
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons natural lemon extract
4 tablespoons sugar

Cut strawberries and blackberries in half and combine with whole blueberries in a bowl. Sprinkle fruits with sugar and lemon juice. Mix together and refrigerate for about 4 to 5 hours. In another bowl, whip cream together with sugar and lemon extract. Serve in a tall cup, alternating layers of fruit and cream, finishing with berries on top, and drizzle juice from the macerated fruit.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

5 soups for summer

For light summer fare, few things beat soup made with freshly picked treats straight from the garden (or a neighbor's garden or local farm). Savor summer with these soups: a fun twist on classic gazpacho, a few packed with chunky vegetables, and a brightly flavored sweet soup that tastes like a tropical breeze.

Sunshine-colored tomatoes and bell peppers star in this brightly flavored cold soup.

Purple onion + purple cabbage = purple soup! Tomatoes, zucchini, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese round out the supporting cast.

Take whatever's growing in your garden, add some beans and pasta, and magic — you can make minestrone. This is a terrific soup for using up odds and ends ... or hiding some of those veggies you wouldn't mind bidding adieu until next summer. (I'm looking at you, zucchini.)

Look, kids! More zucchini! This soup makes the best of it by immersing garden bounty in a savory broth studded with turkey meatballs.

Tropical Cold Sweet Soup

This incredible soup is, of course, more of a sweet: orange juice, peaches, coconut, and yogurt come together in a creamy, tropical treat. (We enjoyed it with equally delightful Orange Paprika Chicken.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Doughnut Peach and Summer Fruits Tarte

We all love fresh summer fruits here, but sometimes it's nice to give them a special treatment. With the lovely peaches, plums, and berries around, I ended up putting them together in a treat that was easy and delicious to be served any time.

This year a variety of peaches is coming from California orchards, but the one I fell in love with are the Saturn (or doughnut) peaches. They are the sweetest I ever tasted and add a different kind of flavor to the pie.

One note here: If the thought of turning on the oven seems too hot for the season, good news. This takes around 20 minutes to get ready, and can also use the help of frozen pie crust. Enjoy!

Summer Peaches and Berries Pie

Use your pie crust recipe, or buy one ready from your favorite grocery store.

One recipe from Darienne's Pâte Brisée (click here for link) , if not using butter you can try Earth's Balance original, my favorite alternative spread for pastry.

Very Ripe Fruit Top
1 strawberry
2 plums
1 nectarine (or yellow peach)
2 doughnut peaches
2 teaspoons sugar, divided
Honey or maple syrup, to drizzle
Some basil leaves,  cut in fine ribbons

Preheat oven to 400F (or temperature suggested by the pie crust package, if using frozen crust). To prepare the dough, put flour on a working surface and cut in the butter with the help of a pastry cutter or scraper. Keep integrating the butter with the help of the tool or use Darienne's method with the food processor.

Roll out the dough and place in pie pan, and then bake for 10 minutes. Take it from oven, sprinkle some brown sugar over the surface and arrange the slices of fruit around it,  making circles of each fruit so that each slice of pie will have them all. Sprinkle some sugar on the top and drizzle honey or maple syrup around the first ring of fruits.

Broil in oven on low for about 5 to 7 minutes, checking not to burn the fruit. Enjoy with a dollop of Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

5 summer sippers

Summer time, and the living is easy... but hot. Really hot. When the mercury climbs, we reach for these delightful cool-down drinks. Some are for grownups (like cold-brewed iced coffee) and others are kid favorites (coconut frappé), and still others can be enjoyed as virgin or alcoholic drinks (strawberries and grapes cocktail).

This is one of our popular posts, and it may be the simplest. This cold-brewing method makes a wonderfully smooth-tasting cup of coffee. It tastes great iced or hot, and the concentrate lasts at least a week or two in the fridge.

This frosty tropical drink works just as well with soy or almond milk as it does with cow's milk, making it a versatile option for those with special diets.

Floral-infused syrup adds an intriguing note to classic lemonade. If lavender isn't your thing, you can substitute basil or mint.

A blend of ripe berries with milk — regular or almond — make an irresistible drink rich in healthy antioxidants.

This refreshing drink, dressed up with juniper berries and mint, is the perfect kid-friendly cocktail for a barbecue. For a grownup version, add some limoncello or gin.


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