Heirloom Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

Heirloom Tomato SaladFamily Heirloom
Tomatoes are kind of a thing with my family. Every summer my mother waits with baited breath for home grown tomatoes so that she can have her favorite tomato sandwich. My husband likes to eat them sliced thick with a pinch of salt. My grandmother was also a huge fan of summer tomatoes though her favorite way to serve them has become a family joke. We call it Gammy salad.

During the summer, when her tomatoes were super tasty, Gam would frequently serve her tomato salad at Sunday dinner. The “salad” consisted of sliced tomatoes and avocados artfully arranged on a platter with a large dollop of mayonnaise in the middle. That’s it. Sometimes she would get wild and sprinkle a little Italian dressing on top but for the most part, it was tomatoes and mayo.

Now I fully admit to being a food snob and maybe it was a generational thing. But, I have always thought that the tomato/mayo combination was just, well, weird or maybe it was just her age. People of her generation ate some things that we wouldn’t think of eating today…for a number of reasons. (Heart attack prevention would be one.) My grandfather liked butter on his ham sandwich which I guess isn’t too strange when you consider my great grandfather liked bacon grease sandwiches. (Yeah. Think about that for a minute.)

So, I always put the Gammy salad in the older folks like weird stuff category but I have to admit my favorite means of eating tomatoes isn’t that much of a jump from hers.

I, too, like to slice my tomatoes thick and arrange them on a plate. But, I opt for freshly-made blue cheese dressing instead of the mayonnaise. Nothing looks prettier on a plate than some thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes with a drizzle of tangy blue cheese dressing.

Making your own dressing is pretty easy. Though, I have to say the freshly made dressing we have in our cheese department is even easier…..

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home by Ina Garten Read more…

Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Platter Salad

Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Platter Salad Life On A Platter
If you are someone who likes to cook, chances are you have a relatively extensive collection of pieces with which to cook or serve your creations. Some of us, it could be said, have way more than they need. (Guilty). Within my culinary collection though there are those few pieces that are my workhorses—the things I reach for day in and day out. One of those pieces, for me, is a white rectangular platter I bought at Target for twenty bucks.

I use this platter for everything from grilled meats, to cheese platters, to sliced fruits, or dim sum. It is perfect. It is the perfect size, the perfect color, the perfect everything. If it ever breaks I don’t know what I will do.

Lately I have been using it for one of my favorite summertime dinner options, platter salads. Platter salads can be anything from sliced heirloom tomatoes to a family style cobb salad. Platter salad is one of my go to’s when it’s hot and I am feeling lazy.

Recently I came across this recipe in the NY Times that has since become part of my platter salad rotation. It is the perfect blend of all things summer: corn, tomatoes, and avocado. Plus, it has cumin in it and in my world everything is better with cumin.

I like to serve this salad with something grilled on top whether it’s chicken, skirt steak or even some shrimp (though it is just as good on its own). Whatever your preference, the leftovers will make a great lunch for the next day.

Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Platter Salad
Read more…

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon

Shrimp and Grits with BaconThe Low Down
I can be obsessive when I find things I like. It can’t be just a close copy. I’ve got to have the real thing. This is especially true when it comes to cooking.

Anytime I find a new recipe I love that comes from a region or cuisine that I am not familiar with, I can go off the deep end a bit. For example, when I, first discovered Moroccan food, I was obsessed with finding the correct ingredients. Not just ingredients that would work but the most authentic ingredients. The ingredients they use. Same goes with the cookware. If I am going to make a paella or a French cassoulet, you better believe I am going to have the correct pan or clay pot.

It’s the same with cookbooks. I may start my adventure into something new with one cookbook but eventually, I will end up finding the most authentic resource for whatever that cuisine may be. (Think Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking or Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean cookbooks.) What I enjoy the most about finding that “reference” cookbook is that you not only get the most authentic version of whatever dish you are cooking but you also get the history of the food, the people and the region it comes from. That’s when the day dreaming stars. I picture myself in the markets of Marrakesh or biking through Provence with the day’s groceries in my basket. I am a culinary romantic.

One of my favorite cookbooks for day dreaming is a book by John Martin Taylor called Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking. If you have ever been interested in the regional cooking of the US, this would be my pick as the best reference for Lowcountry cooking.

For those who don’t know, the Lowcountry refers to the coastal plain region of South Carolina from Cat Island down to the Georgia border. Full disclosure, I have never lived there nor have I had the chance to visit. But I do love to read. And after reading books by Pat Conroy and John Berendt, I was hooked by romantic visions of crab and shrimp boils on the beach with and entertaining cast of characters.

Lowcountry cooking is the source for She Crab soup as well as Frogmore Stew and Hoppin’ John. There is so much to the cooking of the region that it is hard to pick just one recipe to love. If pressed though I would have to pick the Shrimp and Grits with Bacon. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods.

If you find yourself in need of an escape from the day-to-day and with no time or money to actually go somewhere, take a chance and pick up this (or any other cookbook) and step outside your world for a bit.

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon
Adapted from Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking

These typical shrimp and grits are served for breakfast, but they are good any time of day. We love the addition of bacon! Read more…

Vietnamese Cucumber Salad

Vietnamese Cucumber SaladSalad Crazy
I have a new salad obsession—which is a big deal because I am not a salad person. Well, I’m not a traditional salad person, in the leafy sense. I like the chunky type chopped salads like a corn salad or tomato salad…you get the idea.

Over the weekend we were up at Tahoe for my daughter’s softball tournament along with my sister and her family, who were there ‘cause, it’s Tahoe and Tahoe is awesome.
My sister is my best friend so having her along was great just in and of itself. One of the other benefits is that she likes to make dinner. So, I knew that after a long day of watching softball in the heat we were coming home to a pretty tasty meal. And, I was correct.

One of the dishes she prepared was this Vietnamese Cucumber Salad. I couldn’t stop eating it. I mean literally. I just kept going back for more. I am a fan of cucumbers so it’s not that big of a surprise that I enjoyed this salad. But, this was on a whole different level.

Cucumbers on a hot day are always a welcome addition to any meal because they are cooling, crunchy and refreshing. In this case they were also spicy and paired with peanuts. so good!

Vietnamese Cucumber Salad is one of those dishes that will become part of my normal rotation as a dinner side, as well as a great cooling lunch during hot weekdays. Bonus: it’s good for you, too.

The recipe is adapted from the book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. And I recommend the book to anyone who wants to really learn how to cook well. It’s fantastic.

Vietnamese Cucumber Salad
It is important to use the Persian or Japanese cucumbers because the skin is thin and mild-flavored. If you are using conventional cukes, peel all the skin away. Also, we couln’t find any cilantro in Taho, and the Vietnamese Cucumber Salad was still amazing without it. So, if you are not a cilantro lover, go ahead and omit it. Read more…

Avocado Toast

Avocado ToastToast of the Town
Sometimes food trends make me laugh. Recently I have been rather amused by the phenomenon known as Avocado Toast.

Why is this a thing? It’s tasty to be sure, but avocado toast is not a totally new discovery. To my knowledge, people have been spreading avocado on toast for quite some time. Is it a spoiled Californian thing? I mean we do take our immediate access to tasty avocados for granted but, really?

To be fair, what I am seeing on menus and online is not just a smear of avocado on some sourdough. There are plenty of twists and creative combinations and sprinkled with exotic herbs and spices—even some with carefully poached eggs—now that sounds super good.

No matter where you stand on the craze, avocado toast is a great option for breakfast or brunch or any time, really. So, next time you grab your favorite loaf and a ripe Haas, congratulate yourself for being a culinary visionary. And, enjoy….

Now, one might argue that you don’t need a recipe to make avocado toast, and that’s a good point! However, the basic recipe is a showcase for ingredients, so you want the best available.

Those hipster joints that sell avocado toast for $4 a slice are really selling you amazing homemade bread and great avocados. If your ambitions lie in baking your own loaf, we recommend this Hearty White Sandwich Bread or this Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread. If not, pick up a big loaf of crusty bread, perhaps from Acme Bread Company.

Avocado Toast
Here is our recipe for a basic Avocado Toast. There are countless variations, and here we  recommend a few of our favorites. Be creative! Read more…