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Heirloom Tomato, Cheddar and Bacon Pie

 

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Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck, 2013

Southern Living Magazine raised the ante on classic tomato pie with a sour cream crust studded with bacon, layers of colorful tomatoes, and plenty of cheese and herbs to tie it all together. Nobody wants a soggy tomato pie, so for best results, seed the tomatoes and drain the slices before baking.This recipe is a bit time consuming and may take up to three hours to prepare,  but it is sure worth the effort!

RECIPE BY SOUTHERN LIVING
June 2013

Serves 6 to 8 

Ingredients:
For the Crust:
2 1/4 cups self-rising soft-wheat flour , such as White Lily®
1 cup cold butter, cut up
8 cooked bacon slices, chopped
3/4 cup sour cream

For Filling :
2 3/4 pounds assorted large heirloom tomatoes, divided (*See Cook’s Notes)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) freshly shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons fresh dill sprigs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 scallion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons plain yellow cornmeal

Directions:
Prepare Crust: Place flour in bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer; cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles small peas. Chill 10 minutes.

Add bacon to flour mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Gradually add sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Spoon mixture onto a heavily floured surface; sprinkle lightly with flour, and knead 3 or 4 times, adding more flour as needed. Roll to a 13-inch round. Gently place dough in a 9-inch fluted tart pan with 2-inch sides and a removable bottom. Press dough into pan; trim off excess dough along edges. Chill 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare Filling: Cut 2 pounds of tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and remove seeds. Place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Stir together Cheddar cheese, next 10 ingredients, and remaining 1 tsp. salt in a large bowl until combined.

Pat tomato slices dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle cornmeal over bottom of crust. Lightly spread 1/2 cup cheese mixture onto crust; layer with half of tomato slices in slightly overlapping rows. Spread with 1/2 cup cheese mixture. Repeat layers, using remaining tomato slices and cheese mixture. Cut remaining 3/4 lb. tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and arrange on top of pie.

Bake at 425° for 40 to 45 minutes, shielding edges with foil during last 20 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Let stand 1 to 2 hours before serving.

 

*Cook’s Notes:
To learn more about how to seed and drain tomatoes, please see Tori Avey’s tutorial at the following link: How to Seed Tomatoes

And a method is briefly outlined below:

  1. Place your tomato on a cutting board, stem side facing up.
  2. Roll the tomato sideways so the stem faces to the right, and cut the tomato down the center “equator” line into two halves.
  3. Use a small spoon or a quarter spoon melon baller to scoop the tomato seeds and any tough white core out of the four seed cavities. Discard the seeds.

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Blueberry Turnovers with Lemon Glaze

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Blueberries… there’s really nothing that tastes more like summer!  We went to work in the kitchen this weekend and decided to cook up some yummy blueberry turnovers.

Making flaky turnovers is about as easy as it sounds, and it’s even more fun to do so with family Simply just lay out squares of puff pastry, spoons the blueberry filling into the centers, and fold over one corner to create a pudgy, tightly sealed, triangular pastries.  Brush the tops with egg wash to help them turn deliciously golden when baked, and drizzle with a lemony powdered sugar glaze to create just the right balance of sweet and tart.

These turnovers with summertime flavors are great for desserts or for a nice casual Saturday morning brunch. We hope you will  enjoy these delectable treats!

Serves 8

Ingredients:
Filling:
Vegetable cooking spray
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2 sheets puff pastry (*See Cook’s Notes)

Egg wash:
1 egg yolk + 1 Tablespoons of water
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Glaze:
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey

 

 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450º F.

Lin two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly coat with vegetable spray. Set aside.

In a bowl mix blueberries, lemon zest, sugars, and cornstarch until the blueberries are well coated. Set aside.

Roll out the puff pastry on a flour coated cutting board and cut each sheet into 4 even squares. Spoon out 1 to tablespoons of the blueberry mixture into the center of each square and fold each over to create 4 triangles. Seal the edges of the pastry with a fork and prick 2 to 3 air vents in each.

Brush turnovers with egg wash and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Place turnovers on parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake for 22-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl mix together confectioner’s sugar , lemon juice and honey to make the  glaze. When turnovers are slightly cool, drizzle glaze over the top with a spoon or rubber spatula. Serve warm.

*Cook’s Notes:
Making puff pastry from scratch is a time consuming process and many home cooks, like the option of using commercially prepared puff pastry sheets that are found in the frozen dessert section of the local supermarkets.

However, if you are adventurous and want to make you puff pastry from scratch, here is a quick and easy recipe from  Gemma Stafford,  a professional chef.  Her recipe is easy and fast to make without all the folding in making traditional puff pastry. The secret to this great recipe is the use of frozen grated butter. Follow the link  to Chef Stafford’s website, BiggerBolderBaking.com , for the recipe.


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Hello Friends!

All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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Hello, July!

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Yes, Summer is in full swing and so are the many colorful fruits and vegetables that you will be able to find at your local farmers markets and grocery stores. And there is enough different types of produce for every palette, with many that can be eaten raw. So you don’t always have to turn on the stove. Peaches, Nectarines, Avocados, Tomatoes, and Corn are abound and the perfect produce for backyard barbecues as the vibrant tantalizing offerings make excellent desserts and side dishes. It is also the perfect time for canning tomatoes and peppers so that you can savor the taste of the Summer season during the coming Winter months. So, check out the list below for a quick guide to the top in-season fruits and vegetables for the month of July, while they last.

July Fruits and Vegetables

Apricots
Avocados
Beets
Blueberries
Cabbage
Cantaloupes
Cherries
Corn
Crenshaw Melons
Cucumbers
Figs
Eggplant
Green Beans
Greens
Herbs
Kale
Lemons
Limes
Mango
Nectarines
Oranges
Peppers
Plums
Potatoes
Radishes
Raspberries
Spinach
Strawberries
Squash
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Yellow Squash
Zucchini

This Month’s Featured Produce: Heirloom Tomatoes!

The tomato is the edible, often red, fruit/berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant. The plant belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The species originated in western South America.

Aztecs and other peoples in Mesoamerica used the fruit in their cooking. The exact date of domestication is unknown; by 500 BC, it was already being cultivated in southern Mexico and probably other areas.

The Nahuatl (Aztec language) word tomatl gave rise to the Spanish word “tomate”, from which the English word tomato derived. Its use as a cultivated food may have originated with the indigenous peoples of Mexico.The Spanish discovered the tomato from their contact with the Aztec peoples during the Spanish colonization of the Americas, then brought it to Europe, and, from there, to other parts of the European colonized world during the 16th century.

And then there are the Heirloom tomatoes which are also called heritage tomato in the UK, are open-pollinated (non-hybrid) heirloom cultivar of tomatoes. According to tomato experts, heirloom tomatoes can be classified into four categories: family heirlooms, commercial heirlooms, mystery heirlooms, and created heirlooms. They usually have a shorter shelf life and less disease resistance than hybrids bred to resist against specific diseases. They are grown for a variety of reasons, such as for food, historical interest and having access to wider varieties.

For the most past, heirloom tomatoes have been around for a hundred years or more . However, he definition of an heirloom tomato is vague, but unlike commercial hybrids, all are self-fertile varieties that have bred true for 40 years or more and have passed on the saved seeds from one generation to another, by people who wish to save seeds from year to year, as well as for their taste.

Heirloom tomatoes are absolutely beautiful and are always stunning when served. With so many different colors and subtle flavor differences, heirloom tomatoes are perfect for dishes that feature tomato flavor. Numerous varieties of heirloom tomato are widely grown in temperate climates across the world, with greenhouses allowing its production throughout the year.

While tomatoes are botanically berry-type fruits, they are considered culinary vegetables as an ingredient or side dish for savory meals. Because of their versatility, heirloom tomatoes can be consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes, sauces, salads, and drinks. Heirlooms are such a staple in global cuisine where they can be used as tomato sauce for pasta or pizza, as a base for salsa, or in a curry; there is nothing better than dunking a grilled cheese sandwich into a creamy bowl of tomato soup or slicing them and eating them fresh on a sandwich.

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Photo Credit: Half Baked Harvest , 2016

Varieties

Heirloom tomato cultivars can be found in a wide variety of colors, shapes, flavors and sizes. They can be brown, purple, green, pink, yellow, orange, striped, and of course, red. They come in different shapes and sizes as well: round, oval, ribbed, and squat. Each tomato will develop in its own way to become naturally unique! Some heirloom cultivars can be prone to cracking or lack of disease resistance. As with most garden plants, cultivars can be acclimated over several gardening seasons to thrive in a geographical location through careful selection and seed saving.

Some of the most famous examples include San Marzano, Brandywine, Green Zebra, Gardener’s Delight, Marglobe, Lollypop, Yellow Pear, Silvery Fir Tree, Hillbilly, Paul Robeson, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Neville Tomatos, Mr. Stripey, Costoluto Genovese, Pruden’s Purple, Black Krim, Amish Paste, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Garden Peach, Hawaiian Pineapple, Big Rainbow, Chocolate Cherry, Red Currant, Matt’s Wild Cherry, and Three Sisters.

What Goes Well With Heirloom Tomatoes?

Tomatoes go well with almost anything! Of course, tomatoes are especially delicious when paired with Italian flavors like oregano, balsamic vinegar, capers, olive oil, garlic, bocconcini or fresh mozzarella cheese. Also enjoy with Parmesan cheese, basil, bacon, rice, mushrooms, pasta, onion, avocado, crusty breads, strawberries, chickpeas, eggs, fennel, parsley, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce.

Enjoy ripe tomatoes by eating them fresh in salads and sandwiches or kick it up a notch and try halving them and grilling them on the BBQ, or stuffing them with rice, cheese and herbs and roasting them!

Enjoy fresh tomatoes topped with salt and pepper along side your eggs and bacon in the morning.

Make your own fresh salsa to serve along tortillas or on baked potatoes.

Chop tomatoes and add fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and red onion to make a perfect bruschetta topping for a baguette.

How To Select and Store Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomatoes that are brightly hued, plump and without bruises or blemishes are best. They should be firm, but not rock hard and have a nice, earthy tomato-y smell. They should be heavy for their size, as ripe tomatoes will have more water content.

Store them at room temperature in an open basket if they’re ready to eat for up to a week, but if you want them to ripen faster, place them in a paper bag with an apple or an onion. Avoid storing tomatoes in a plastic bag or in the fridge as the cold causes them to turn mealy and they lose their delicious tomato flavor!

 

How To Prepare Tomatoes

Heirloom tomatoes are extremely versatile since they can be eaten fresh, in sauces, soup, salad, or even stir-fry. Wash tomatoes in cold water and remove any stickers from the grocery store.

To prepare tomato slices for sandwiches, slice them horizontally with a very sharp knife. Dull knives may squish tomatoes instead of cleanly slicing through the skin.

For soups or sauces, you may want to remove the tomato skin by first scoring the bottom of the tomato with an “X”, then blanching in boiling water quickly for about 30 seconds. Remove and place immediately in an ice bath. Once blanched, the tomato skins loosen and are easily peeled off; now they’re ready for use in sauces or soup!

For salad (or even stir fry), slice the tomatoes in half vertically and cut the stem out by slicing a V around the hard part of the stem. Continue to slice in wedges, perfect for eating on their own, in salad, or tossing in the last couple minutes of cooking a stir-fry.

Showcase different heirloom tomato color, size, and flavor in different applications. Fresh is great to show off those beautiful striped tomatoes, but heirloom tomato sauces can showcase different shades and colors of the heirloom tomatoes so well.

Heirloom Tomatoes Tips

Balance the natural acidity of tomato in recipes with either a pinch of salt or sugar or even a bit of baking soda, especially in soup. If you’re making tomato soup, it’s always a fun chemical reaction to share with the kids: let them sprinkle in baking soda and stir it in to see it bubble and foam!

Be sure to watch for bruises or holes in your tomatoes as they will decay quickly. Avoid these ones at the grocery store.

If you have an abundance of tomatoes in the summer, preserve them by canning. Check out this site for safe canning techniques to make sure your preserved tomatoes are safe and delicious after the season.

Tomatoes carry a lot of juice, which can cause a soggy sandwich – especially if you don’t eat it right away. To prevent this, bring tomatoes in a separate container and put them on your sandwich right before eating. For salads, add them at the end to prevent them from diluting the dressing.

You can never go wrong with a classic like blueberry muffins. Perfect for on-the-go breakfasts and late-afternoon snacks, keeping a stash on hand will satisfy all your hunger cravings.

Sources:

Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2015). “English definition of ‘tomato’ “. Cambridge University Press. 2015. Date Accessed June 5 2018. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/tomato?a=british

Lockhart, James (2001). Nahuatl as Written: Lessons in Older Written Nahuatl, with Copious Examples and Texts. Stanford, CA, US: Stanford University Press.

Produce Made Simple: Heirloom Tomatoes. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed June 24, 2018. https://producemadesimple.ca/heirloom-tomatoes/

Smith, A. F. (1994). The Tomato in America: Early History, Culture, and Cookery. Columbia SC, US: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-000-6.

Solanaceae Source (2011). “Phylogeny“. Date Accessed May 15, 2018.
http://solanaceaesource.org/content/phylogeny-0

Roasted Shrimp Salad

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Summer cooking is all about keeping cool, and you can do just that with this herbaceous shrimp salad that can be served as an appetizer or as a main course. Feel free to add you own special twist with different herbs and citrus flavors.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 large seedless cucumber
2 pounds of 16-20 count raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 firm avocado
1 lime, juiced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh chives, snipped
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450 ° F.

Chop the cucumber into 3/4 inch quarter chunks. Place the chunks in a colander and toss them with a pinch of salt or two. Place the colander over a bowl and allow the cumbers to stand for 20 minutes. After salting, remove the cucumbers from the colander and pat dry with clean paper towels, add to a salad bowl and set aside.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the shrimp onto the baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss the shrimp in the oil and spread them out on the baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Roast the shrimp in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until pink. Cool the shrimp on the baking sheet.

Meanwhile, chop the avocado in 3/4 inch chunks. Add the avocado, minced garlic, chopped mint leaves, cilantro and chives into the salad bowl with the cucumber chunks. Pour the lime juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil over the salad and toss well to coat. Taste, and adjust with alt and pepper as needed.

Cover and place in the refrigerator and chill until ready to serve. Garnish with avocado slices and cilantro sprigs, if desired.

Cook’s Notes:
Cucumbers, with their delicate flavor and translucent flesh by nature are very watery. For the most part, it you are planning to combine them with any other ingredients, use the best variety of seedless cucumbers available to you.

Then, you must salt them to draw out as much liquid as possible. If you skip this step, a puddle of near-flavorless liquid will form quickly at the bottom of your salad bowl, your dip or soup will separate like curdled mayonnaise.

But if you can only find the kind with seeds, make sure, you must eviscerate them, cut them open length wise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Why, you may ask? Well, cucumber seeds, tend to springy, and evasive, will ruin the texture of any salad, soup, or dip.

To salt cucumbers, begin by lining a colander with paper towels, add the cut up cucumbers to the colander and light salt them. Allow them to stand for 20 to 25 minutes, then remove from the colander and pat dry with paper towels and you are good to go to use them as you please in your recipes.

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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

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Squid Ink Tonnarelli with Clams

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Squid ink or cuttlefish ink, is that one special ingredient that gives homemade pasta a mild briny taste of sea without being too “fishy”.  Squid ink tonnarelli paired with fresh clams and the sweetness of the skillet fried shishito  chili peppers dressed in a light cream, makes for a tantalizing dish with a dramatic presentation that will surely impress your dinner guest.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
10 to 15 fresh shishito peppers
1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
A squeeze of lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 dozen little neck clams, scrubbed
1 pound squid ink tonnarelli (click here for the recipe)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

For the Peppers:
Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large cast iron skillet until oil is shimmering. Add the peppers and cook them, tossing and turning them frequently until they blister, 10 to 15 minutes. When done, remove them from the skillet toss them with sea salt and add a squeeze of fresh lemon. Slice and set aside to cool.

For the Sauce:
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic, parsley and crushed red pepper and cook until the garlic is golden, 1 minute. Add the wine, cream, salt, white pepper and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the clams, cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes; as the clams open, transfer them to a covered bowl and set aside. Continue to simmer until the sauce is reduced to a thin consistency, 8 to 10 minutes.

For the Pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the Dutch oven. Stir in the cooking water over low heat, tossing until the pasta is al dente, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the clams and shishito peppers to the pasta, garnish with parsley and serve.

Cook’s Notes:
Squid ink can be purchased on-line at various gourmet specialty shops such as La Tienda.

If time is of the essence or it making your own pasta is just too intimidating, you can also use store bought squid ink pasta that can be found in most local grocery stores and supermarkets. Several handmade dried varieties of squid ink pasta can also be purchasedfrom on-line stores to make for a quick and easy meal in no time.

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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

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Pan-Seared Lamb Chops

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Looking for a quick yet elegant entree for a dinner party? Well, these easy lamb chops are just the ticket. Pair them up with a few sides likes mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans to complete the dish. And for the finishing touch, pour a full-bodied Merlot or Pinot Noir.

Enjoy!

Serves 4
Ingredients:
For the Lamb Chops:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, minc
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 lamb rib chops

For the Mini Fried Blooming Onions:
20 pearl onions
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons water
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, taste
Vegetable oil, enough to fill skillet to 1-inch depth; more for a deep fryer

For the Caramelized  Pearl Onions:
10-12 whole pearl white onions, skins removed
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, cumin and herbs. Season the lamb chops lightly with salt and pepper. Add  the chops to the olive oil mixture. Using tongs to  turning  each chop to coat completely.  Cover and  set aside to marinate, for 15-30 minutes.

To make the Blooming onions, preheat the oven to 170°F.

Cut tops of pearl onions, then slice top down (being careful not to cut all the way through) 3 times to form six sections of the onion. Using your fingers, gentley separate onion sections.

Place the onions in cold water to allow the petals to further separate. Soak for about 10 minutes and remove and drain on paper towels.

In a shallow bowl, mix eggs with water. In a separate shallow bowl, mix flour with garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Stir together until combined.

Dredge onions first in egg and then in flour mixture. S

In a large, high-sided skillet or a deep fat fryer, heat oil to about 350°F. Fry onions in batches, until they are golden. Place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain.Season with salt and set aside in the oven until ready to serve.

Cook the Pearl onions. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften and turn golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, and continue cooking, covered, for another 5-10 minutes until the onions are a deep, rich golden color, but still hold their shapes.

Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add the chops to the skillet and cook to desired doneness, about 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Serve warm alongside the onions.

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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

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Hello, June

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The warm weather is here!

Fruits  and vegetables abound with all  the brillance of the sunny warmth all around beginning in June. Summer produce begins to sprout and before you know it, all types of berries are showing up in your local farmers markets,  reaching their peak in flavor and with the season comes blueberries, strawberries, black berries and stone fruits like cherries.

So , I am sure that you are wondering what  you can  expect to find in your local supermarkets and  grocery store shelves and what can you make with it? Well, here is a list I have put together that can help you break out of your cooking rut using  fresh fruits and vegetables in their peak season!

Also note that buying locally sourced produce is easier on your wallet and it  helps the local economy as well.

June Fruits and Vegetables

Apricots
Avocados
Beets
Blackberries
Blueberries
Cabbage
Carrots
Cherries
Corn
Cucumber
Fava Beans
Green Beans
Greens
Herbs
Kale
Kiwi
Leeks
Mangoes
Nectarines
Peaches
Peas
Radishes
Raspberries
Rhubarb
Spinach
Strawberries
Sorrel
Watermelon
Yellow Squash
Zucchini
 

This Month’s Featured Fruit: Blueberries

Blueberries are here! Those plump little berries are packed full of antioxidants and they are  delicious, nutritious and oh so  versatile. They’re naturally fat-free, high in vitamin C and a powerful antioxidant. We love them in cereals, salads, sauces, as toppings and by the handful.Blueberries pair marvelously with lemon flavor (juice and zest). Think of a refreshing blueberry lavender lemonade for sipping in the hammock. As with all berries, buy organic if possible to avoid pesticide exposure. 

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Photo Credit: Fitness Republic , 2017

Blueberry Varieties

Throughout the year, we typically see the beautiful, plump cultivated blueberries we’re most familiar with. However, in the summer it’s easy to spot smaller wild blueberries popping up in the market.

The main difference between wild and cultivated blueberries is found in their size: cultivated blueberries are typically larger than wild blueberries. Which means, since most of a blueberry’s antioxidants and other health benefits are found in the skin, per cup there will be more skin of wild blueberries than cultivated ones, due to their size.

However, it’s important to note that both varieties of blueberries are delicious, healthy and a nutritional powerhouse that belongs in everyone’s diet.

While we love to take advantage of the short season of wild blueberries and enthusiastically devour them in the summer, we also are happy to enjoy the cultivated ones year round.

What Goes Well With Blueberries?

Produce: bananas, lemon, peaches, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, mango, spinach, lemon, lime, watermelon, beets, orange, kiwi, and coconut

Herbs, Spices & Sweets: cinnamon, ginger, honey, maple syrup, nutmeg, vanilla, mint, and basil

Savory: oatmeal, granola, almonds, walnuts, pork, cornmeal, and chicken

Dairy: cream cheese, sour cream, crème fraîche, cream, yogurt, mascarpone, goat cheese, ricotta, and buttermilk

How To Select and Store Blueberries

Choose blueberries that are firm and have a lively, uniform blue colour. Avoid berries that are dull in color or soft and watery in texture (as the presence of moisture will cause them to decay).

Give the container a shake to see whether the berries move freely. If they don’t, this may be a sign that they are soft and damaged, or worse, moldy.

Store ripe blueberries in a covered container in the refrigerator. Here, they will keep for up to three days. If kept out at room temperature for more than a day, the berries may spoil.

Blueberries are extremely easy to freeze and store for future use. To do so, buy them in abundance in the summer and freeze them for a batch of Sunday blueberry pancakes or to stuff into muffins throughout the year. To freeze, wash blueberries and remove any stems and spoiled blueberries. Arrange on a clean tea towel to gently blot dry. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and flash freeze the cleaned and dried blueberries until frozen. Transfer to an airtight container and use within 8 months.

How To Prepare Blueberries

Your berries should not be washed until you are ready to eat them, as washing will remove the bloom that protects the berries’ skin from spoiling. Fresh berries are very fragile. They should be washed briefly and carefully and then gently pat them dry.  You can also spin them dry in salad spinner.

Blueberry Tips

  • Before storing, remove any crushed or moldy berries to prevent the rest from spoiling.
  • Like other tender fruit, blueberries have a natural bloom or slight white coating. The plant produces this in order to protect the fruit, so wait to wash your berries until you are ready to enjoy them.
  • Freeze blueberries on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Once frozen, transfer them to a re-sealable bag or container. This keeps them from sticking together.
  • Add frozen blueberries to a smoothie, yogurt, oatmeal, muffins, pancakes etc.
  • When shopping in the store, give the container of fresh berries a shake to see whether they move freely. If they don’t, this may be a sign that they are soft and damaged or moldy.
  • Wash your blueberries in a salad spinner to keep them intact while drying them at the same time.

Serving Ideas

Everybody knows that blueberry muffins are a perfect morning food, but don’t forget that blueberry pancakes or blueberry sauce on waffles can bring breakfast to a whole new level. This vegan blueberry lemon loaf is also a great treat in the morning if you need a pick-me-up!

Blueberries are also classic in pies and cobblers. Blueberries and lemons are a match made in heaven beneath a blanket of oat streusel or biscuits. Top with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream for a decadent spin on this dish.

Add blueberries to your favorite greens like kale or spinach and pair with some salty cheese like feta to have a delicious and complex textured saladGrilled peaches and blueberries tossed in vinaigrette are also delicious, while this simple yet tasty blueberry, walnut, and Manchego cheese salad is great for a quick side dish.

For a spin on your traditional bruschetta, try this gorgeous blueberry and beet bruschetta at your next gathering. It will be sure to wow your guests with its striking color and flavor.

After a long week, wind down with some blueberry mojitos. Muddle blueberries with mint to get extra flavor and a beautiful hue to your drink.

A Caprese salad is typically prepared using a few high quality ingredients like fresh mozzarella, tasty tomatoes and fresh basil. Seasoned only with good quality olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste, it’s as delicious as it is simple. Try giving it a little extra boost of flavor and color  with fresh blueberries .

You can never go wrong with a classic like blueberry muffins. Perfect for on-the-go breakfasts and late-afternoon snacks, keeping a stash on hand will satisfy all your hunger cravings.

Source:

Produce Made Simple: Blueberries. (2018) The Ontario Produce Marketing Association. Date Accessed May 15, 2018.  https://producemadesimple.ca/blueberries/ 

Asparagi e Porri al Limone

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Photo Credit: Lidia’s Italian Kitchen, 2017

Asparagi e Porri al Limone
(ASPARAGUS AND LEEKS IN LEMON VINAIGRETTE)

From
Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian
by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali
2017

I am really trying to eat light this Spring and given that I love asparagus, I found this delightful salad while perusing Lidia Bastianich’s most recent cookbook, “Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian” .

Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian

The best thing about this salad is that you can serve it while the vegetables are still warm, or you can serve it chilled, especially if you are hosting a buffet or a picnic. The important thing is to dress it just before serving, since the lemon juice will change the color of the vegetables.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
2 pounds medium thick asparagus spears, trimmed and peeled
1 bunch medium leeks, white and light green parts, washed and halved lengthwise
Juice of 1 large lemon
¼  Cup extra-virign olive oil
4  Hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered

Directions:
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cut the peeled asparagus into thirds, crosswise. Cut the leeks in thirds crosswise as well. Add the asparagus and leeks to the boiling water, and cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes, depending on their thickness. Drain, and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking and set the color. Drain and pat very dry.

Put the asparagus and leeks in a serving bowl. Drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil, and season with the salt. Toss well. Mound the asparagus and leeks on a serving platter, and scatter the hard-boiled eggs over the top and serve.

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Indian Butter Chicken

 

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Butter chicken – two simple words to describe one of the richest of Indian and most popular dishes where succulent pieces of chicken are cooked and then simmered in a sauce that is utterly a buttery combination of cream, tomatoes and aromatic spices. Known as murgh makhani in Hindi,this dish is a culinary star that tickles palates across the world. While this iconic dish remains a much-loved favorite on menus across the country, few people know about the humble and practical origins of the butter chicken.

The genesis of the original butter chicken is inextricably tied to the evolution of another gastronomical hero, the tandoori chicken. The origins of the latter lie in Gora Bazaar in Peshawar, British India, where nearly 100 years ago, a man named Mokha Singh Lamba started a small restaurant called Moti Sweets.

In the 1920s, in Peshawar in undivided India, a  young boy aged 12, named Kundan Lal Gujral,  started working as a kitchen helper in at  Moti Sweets. Having lost his father at a very young age, he had to start earning early in life. When the eatery’s owner died a few years later, the boy took over the chain, as the owner was very fond of him. He renamed the place Moti Mahal.

Moti Mahal was the first resturant to dig up a tandoor right in the middle of the eatery. and as a young chef, Kundan Lal Gujral decided to experiment by skewering yogurt marinated pieces of chicken and sticking them into the tandoor oven, which was previously used only for breads. Thus, Peshawar cuisine was introduced to the culinary art of tandoori chicken and the incredibly popular, ubiquitous tandoori chicken was born.

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 A view of the tandoor at the earliest Moti Mahal restaurant in 1948 where a cook is seen putting bread inside the tandoor to cook it . Photo Credit:Monish Gujral

Cooked in the radiant heat of the clay tandoor, fragrant and flavored by the smoke rising from the hot coals, the version Gujral made—with crispy skin and a recognizably bright red exterior—became an enormous success until Gujral was forced to flee Pakistan during the 1947 Partition of India.

flash5 (1)    Photo Credit: http://www.motimahalindia.com

The tragedy of partition forced Gujral to flee to Delhi with nothing but his skills as an innovation and creative user of Tandoor, an oven used by the people of North India.

Moti Mahal had already established itself among the British elite in Peshawar but the challenge came with Partition, when Gujral had to move to India and start a new life as a refugee.

Because he came from a more privileged background than most other refugees,  starting afresh was less of a struggle. Gujral  was among the few rich people who flew to India rather than taking the train. He stayed in a refugee camp initially and thought of setting up a dhaba (roadside eatery) to introduce Delhiites to the tandoori chicken.

In his new home in Delhi, Gujral co-founded a new restaurant and also called it, Moti Mahal, in Daryaganj, with Kundan Lal Jaggi and Thakur Dass.  It was one of the first restaurants to introduce the Punjabi cuisine to the rest of the world and many famous dishes include tandoori chicken, butter chicken and dal makhani.The place quickly proved popular and within a year Gujral turned Moti Mahal into  into a 400-seat restaurant.  Gujral also tried to make Moti Mahal a different experience by introducing live “qawwali” (a form of sufi devotional music) and a see-through kitchen.

Because of the lack of refrigeration facilities during this era, necessity led Gujral to having to innovate once again to avoid wastage, especially that of the unsold tandoori tikkas. He cleverly reasoned that a tomato gravy, lushly made with butter and cream, would soften his leftover chicken. He took the leftover pieces of tandoori chicken and cooked them over a low flame and served it as such. The combination proved to be a masterstroke and thus, by an act of genius, the butter chicken was born, a dish that is now a staple of Indian restaurants around the world. And by the same token, the very same gravy recipe was then used to make dal makhani.

709457284Kundal Lal Gujral (Center) with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (Left)
                    Photo Credit:Moti Mahal Delux Resturant

Moti Mahal enjoyed the patronage of India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who used to get catering done from here. So fond was he of the Peshawari cuisine that the owners had even set up a tandoor at Teen Murti House to serve piping hot naans and rotis to state guests at this august venue. In a rare gesture, the then Prime Minister had allotted an adjacent area to the owners — Kundan Lal Gujral, Kundan Lal Jaggi and Thakur Dass — to expand their business. The restaurant menu at the time as well as the placard outside used to make it clear that it had no branches anywhere and it was the sole restaurant to ensure that no one would misuse the name to start business elsewhere.

In its 1950s heyday, Gujral’s Moti Mahal resturant was extremely popular with celebrities and world leaders, including former Indian President Dr. Zakir Hussain, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy and actors Raj Kapur and Nargis were among the famous patrons.

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Dr. Zakir Hussain (Left) and K.L. Gujral (first from the Right).

Photo Credit: Moti Mahal Delux

In its 1950s heyday, Gujral’s Moti Mahal resturant was extremely popular with celebrities and world leaders, including former Indian President Dr. Zakir Hussain, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy and actors Raj Kapur and Nargis were among the famous patrons.

It  was also the favorite restaurant of former Soviet and Pakistan Prime Ministers Nikita Khrushchev and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, respectively. So impressed was Bhutto with the culinary skills of the chefs during an earlier visit that Indira Gandhi decided to get food served from here during the famous Simla pact meeting. Khrushchev would get handpicked dishes on the menu flown to Moscow for his official banquets.

Freedom fighter and independent India’s first education minister, Maulana Azad reportedly even told the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, that while in India he must make two visits – to the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Moti Mahal in Delhi. And the Shah followed his advice, adding his name to some of the most renowned patrons of Moti Mahal.

In its more recent times,the resturant now called Moti Mahal Delux with its global chain of restaurants with over 120 franchises in India and around the world, the Dehli location was visited by master chef Gordon Ramsay, who even went behind the counter in the kitchen of this iconic restaurant.

With time, Moti Mahal changed, too. While it retained the signature dishes of dal makhani, butter chicken, tandoori chicken, chicken pakora (fritters), the restaurant reinvented itself to suit the changing palate of the Indian customer. They introduced tandoori dishes made with broccoli, trout and lobster.

In this version of the famous dish, I found that marinating the chicken in yogurt and a seasoned tikka masala curry paste makes the chicken extra tender before finishing it in the oven and adding it to a creamy, rich, fragrant, mildly spiced tomato sauce. Served on the side, there’s ginger-spiced sautéed spinach, rice, and of course, plenty of warm, toasted naan for scooping up the extra sauce.

Definitely a favorite dish that is perfect for adding to your meal rotation.

Enjoy!

Serves 6 to 9

Ingredients:
For the Chicken:
½ cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon tikki marsala curry paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

For the Sauce:
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 serrano chile, split lengthwise and seeded
Kosher salt, to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes

For the Spinach:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
10 ounces, baby spinach
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Fresh coriander chopped, for garnish
Thinly sliced serrano peppers, for garnish
Fresh cream, for garnish

Directions:
For the Chicken:
Preheat oven to 475°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, curry paste, lemon juice, salt and pepper to combine. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, cut into 1-inch pieces, and add to bowl with marinade. Turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate in the refigerator for 1 to 3 hours.

For the Sauce:
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add cinnamon atick and clove, stirring, until slightly darker and fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Add onion and chile season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden and beginning to caramelize, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until very fragrant and ginger starts to turn golden, 2–3 minutes. Add garam masala, fenugreek, paprika, and turmeric and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, breaking up into pieces with a spoon, and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until sauce is the consistency of a thick ragù, 40–50 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the sauce to to cool. Discard cinnamon stick and the bay leaf, but allow the whole clove to remain.

Transfer the sauce to a blender and purée until smooth. Cut remaining the 4 tablespoons of butter into pieces. Add butter and cream to blender and purée until creamy; season with salt. Return sauce to the pot and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, prepare a wire rack set inside a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.

After marinating, remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange the chicken in a single layer on the baking sheet. Broil until chicken starts to brown in spots , 7–8 minutes per side. Add chicken to simmering sauce, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, 8–10 minutes.

For the Spinach:
Heat  1 tablespoon butter in a large pan over medium heat. When butter is just melted, add shallot and ginger and cook until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes more. Season with  salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, transfer the chicken and sautéed spinach to serving bowls, spooning over remaining sauce and garnish with cilantro. Tear naan into pieces and serve alongside with rice.

Cook’s Note:
Butter chicken can be made three days ahead of time.

Sources:
Gujral, Monish. (2013).  The Moti Mahal Cookbook. India: Penguin Books , Publisher.

Pal, Sanchari (2016). “The Better India (TBI) Food Secrets: The Humble Origins of the Hugely Popular Butter Chicken”. Retrieved 21 April 2018. https://www.thebetterindia.com/75100/butter-chicken-history-kundan-lal-gujral/

Retrieved 21 April 2018. https://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/12/22/moti-mahal-delhis-gastronomic-pearl/

Vohra, Pankaj (2015).”Partition brought Moti Mahal, a landmark in India’s culinary history, to central Delhi”. The Sunday Guardian.New Dehli. Retrieved 21 April 2018.http://www.sunday-guardian.com/investigation/partition-brought-moti-mahal-a-landmark-in-indias-culinary-history-to-central-delhi

All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

Thank you so much!

 

 

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