Archive for May, 2010

Memorial Day weekend is the big picnic kick off for Americans. Everybody runs to the store for burgers and dogs, corn on the cob and WATERMELON!

A picnic is not a picnic without watermelon. Our local grocery has huge bins of melons waiting to be thumped and pressed before being hefted into the cart. The problem is that watermelons don’t arrive at their prime until mid summer. What you get at the store now is mediocre tasting. But purchase you must because it’s the big picnic weekend and the family will run you out on a rail if you do not produce the goods.

So here’s a cure for a melon with a subprime taste crisis:

Mojito Melon Salad

1 quart melon balls
1 cup mint leaves, lightly chopped
juice of 1 LARGE lime (don’t cheat and use bottled–you’ll only be cheating yourself)
1/4 cup simple syrup (recipe follows)
1/2 tsp. rum (or extract) *optional

Cut your watermelon in half. Scoop melon balls out of half the melon and place in large bowl. Set aside.

Place remaining ingredients in blender, process until liquified. Pour over melon balls and toss to coat. Garnish with sprigs of mint. Serve cold.

Simple Syrup

2 parts granulated sugar
1 part water

Place in saucepan. Bring to boil. Boil for 5 minutes to ensure sugar is dissolved thoroughly. Cool and place in airtight container in refrigerator.

I use simple syrup all summer for a variety of things. It’s good to keep some handy.

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Jersey Tomato: Two Ways

I’ve read a bunch of cooking publications recently and several times I’ve noticed the word terroir has been used. Typically used by wine makers, the term terroir means “of a place.”  Many different things contribute to the taste of produce that is grown in a particular area. This is why grapes grown in the Burgundy region of France can have many different appellations–even down to a specific valley.  Terroir appears to be the latest trend in locally grown produce.

Soil and climate also gives fruits and vegetables their own unique taste.  If you are from Idaho, it’s their famous potatoes. Where I grew up, if you are lucky enough to be around the end of August, you can buy the most delicious Green River watermelons. Here in New Jersey, it’s the tomato.

I recently made a trip to the Trenton Farmer’s Market and stopped by the Russo’s Orchard Lane Farm stand. Nikki Russo was busily packing the most gorgeous strawberries and tomatoes for display. She recommended the strawberries (thanks, they were delish) and I also picked out a box of tomatoes as I was jonesing for a healthy snack.

June is upon us and that means the venerable tomato will soon be aplenty.  Sharpen your knife and get chopping with these two fresh menu staples.

Pico de gallo

6 small tomatoes
1/3 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of one lime
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped fine
1 large jalapeno, minced (can add more or less depending on your personal heat index)
1 tsp. kosher salt

Seed 5 of the 6 tomatoes. Reserve seeds and juice in a blender and process with 6th tomato until pureed. Finely dice seeded tomatoes. Add remaining ingredients. Add puree from blender. Stir and serve with favorite brand of tortilla chips.

Guisippina’s Bruschetta

2 Cups Roma tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 Tablespoons diced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, snipped chiffonade style
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Teaspoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all in bowl and refrigerate several hours before serving. Stir occasionally. Serve with toasted baguette slices. My daughter spreads cream cheese on sliced baguette and tops with a spoonful of bruschetta.  Mangia Bene!

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This one’s for you Dad

It’s not a good thing when you start a new adventure only to have to drop everything and leave. That is what happened in early March as I had to rush to Utah and be with my father during his final weeks.  This explains why I have not posted anything in a long while.

Daddy was larger than life–literally. Athletics has always been a central theme in his life. A former athlete, Dad played a supporting role as an athletic trainer and physical therapist in a career spanning more than 50 years. He worked for Brigham Young University and had a rather distinguished career as an international lecturer.  Whether treating professional athletes or paper boys, Daddy always gave each his best effort and concern. He will be missed by many.

After five weeks in the intensive care, it became apparent that the technology that was being used to bring Daddy back to life was failing him. All the heroic treatments seemed to prolong the inevitable. It was time to make some hard decisions.

The family went to lunch at a local restaurant close to the hospital. Over colossal chocolate cake and buttermilk pie, we began to ask each other the hard questions and gauged whether it was indeed time to let nature take its course. We must have been a sight to the other restaurant patrons who had to wonder what all the quiet sobbing in the corner was about. After several minutes of intense discussion interlaced with stifled crying, one amongst us threw a fork down in frustration on a now empty dessert plate and exclaimed, “This was really good.”

The desserts were so good they were able to distract us from the pain and emotion of the day. Now that’s what I call comfort food!  I tried to recreate a little slice of heaven here…

Here’s a slice for you Daddy.

Buttermilk Pie

1 unbaked 9″ pie crust
1 1/4 C.  sugar
3 T. flour
4 eggs
1 C. buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. butter, melted
1 T. lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/8 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg

Preheat over to 425-degrees. In bowl of mixer, combine sugar and flour. Stir in eggs and buttermilk. Stir in cooled butter, vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Add nutmeg.

Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake in 425-degree oven for 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 and bake an additional 40 minutes.  You will likely need to cover the crust with a rim of foil to minimize over-browning. Cool before serving.

The restaurant serves this pie with raspberry sauce and a generous dollop of whipped cream. The raspberry sauce recipe from my previous crepe cake post works well with this pie.

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