Summer Watermelon Salad

Summer Watermelon SaladBits and Pieces
Fun fact: I will not bite directly into fruit.

And yes, I realize how strange that sounds…but let me explain. I have always had sensitive teeth so biting into, say, an apple is not a fun experience. I always cut my apples up. Same goes for other large pieces of fruit. Peaches, nectarines, plums, and especially melons.

Next week is the 4th of July. (I know. It snuck up on me, too.) For those who have been paying attention, I am sure you have seen all of the ads both digital and in print that show the bucolic standard picnic table set up with all of the usual fixin’s—burgers, hot dogs, corn, potato salad, flag cake, and, without fail, a giant watermelon.

There is nothing that screams summer as much as a huge watermelon. There something kind of nostalgic about it. It’s not difficult to picture a Norman Rockwell-esque scene in your mind of a young kid with an American flag in one hand and a slice of watermelon in the other. And without question, cut into more manageable slices, a cold watermelon is a great way to cool off from the summer heat. For me though, I have to find other ways to cool off.

I don’t care how fun it is to spit the seeds at your siblings, the thought of biting into a thick slice of watermelon makes me cringe. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy watermelon for the 4th. I just get more creative. There are a number of ways to incorporate watermelon into your 4th of July menu. Personally, I like it in a salad as an alternative or a compliment to the usual potato or macaroni salads.

There are any number of watermelon salads out there. Some you make with feta and mint others have grilled corn and cucumbers. I like the simpler ones like the recipe below because it seems more like a salad to me and you get the best of summer produce plus it looks pretty on the platter. Not to mention you can feed a lot of people…

Summer Watermelon Salad
Yields 4 to 8 servings Read more…

Cucumber and Honeydew Salad 

Cucumber and Honeydew Salad What’s New Honeydew?
If you find yourself in our produce department this week you might notice that the honeydew melons are on sale. I love melons of all kinds but there is something about a cold slice of mint green honeydew on a hot day that is incredibly refreshing. The thing is, I tend to stick with the usual when it comes to melons. I slice em and eat em. But there are so many things you can do with melons…

One of the things I admire about my sister is her knack for finding and making interesting recipes that I would most likely skip over because I think my kids wouldn’t eat it or I’m just not too sure it would taste good. She is fearless and she made one of these recipes for dinner when we were up at Tahoe last week.

When you are feeding ten people on a nightly basis, the urge to go with the basics for the side dishes can be strong. On this particular night, we were grilling chicken. There is very little that doesn’t go with chicken. So, the side dish possibilities were endless. In this case, my sister went with a melon salad, and it was a nice change from just a bunch of slices on a platter…per the norm. The addition of chilies for heat, some pistachios for crunch, and little cheese for creaminess made this way better than ordinary.

I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe. It is not one I would have normally chosen—which makes me wonder what other flavors I have missed out on because of hesitation. One thing I will say is that I think my sister used goat cheese because that was all we had on hand. Personally, I am not a huge fan of goat cheese or feta, which was listed as an alternative in the magazine. The original recipe calls for ricotta salata which would add a nice saltiness to the sweet of the melon. I also think a queso fresco or even a creamy burrata could work really well.

Cucumber and Honeydew Salad 
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Graduation Feast

Graduation FeastMy sons are graduating from eighth grade this week and the whole concept is blowing my mind. I am not prepared, nor do I feel old enough, for two kids in high school. It feels like I was just holding them on my shoulder while they drooled and then I blinked and they were 14…

With all of the chaos that is the last week of school (never mind the graduation-specific stuff), it is safe to say that I haven’t been doing much cooking. So, in honor of two of my most favorite people, I have put together a list of their favorite dishes. These are the recipes that, if I had 10 more hours in the day and I could clone myself, I would serve to celebrate their accomplishments. These are also the recipes that I usually have to double if I want to actually get to taste them myself…unless they have friends over, then I’m out of luck.

To all of you who might have kids or relatives graduating from middle school, high school or college, I offer you a hearty congratulations not only to the graduates for their hard work and dedication to get to this milestone—but to the families that worked equally as hard to get them there!

Cherry Cola Ribs
You’ve gotta try these. They’re the bomb! They are also extremely addictive.

Feast or Famine Mac ‘n Cheese
I offer you two of my top recipes for a comfort food favorite, Mac & Cheese. True, the desperate can go the blue-box, plastic cheese route. But the real deal is easy to prepare, and you can make extra for the freezer.  Read more…

Hawaiian Tuna Poke Bowl (Raw Tuna Salad)

Hawaiian Tuna Poke BowlBeach Bum
Because the world is a wonder-full place, I am not in the office this week. So it’s time play the game of Where’s Amy? (Red and white striped shirt and round glasses optional.)

I’ll give you a hint, here there is sand…there is water….and, thankfully, there are cocktails with umbrellas and fruit.

Your second hint is what there is not. There is no school. There are no practices. No commute. No meetings. No emails. No laundry.

Finally, there is no cooking, or at least there is no cooking for me, which leads me to your last clue…the recipe below.

Happy Spring Break!

Hawaiian Tuna Poke Bowl  (Raw Tuna Salad)
Poke (pronounced poh-keh), a raw-fish salad that is ubiquitous at family gatherings, parties, tailgates, and supermarket delis across the islands. It is extremely simple to make—like tossing a salad—and uses few ingredients. Read more…

Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond Salad

Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond SaladForeign Fruit
Some fruits baffle me. Quince is one. Kumquats another. I am utterly at a loss as to what to do with either. My theory is that one’s comfort level with certain foods, without question, depends on whether you were exposed to them as a kid. I was exposed to neither…so here I am, in a perpetual state of fruity befuddlement.

I would add persimmons to that group except that I was exposed to them as a kid. Every Thanksgiving. They adorned the ritual persimmon salad that my grandmother made and nobody ate. I mean, it was a beautiful-looking salad and certainly fulfilled the “fall colors” requirement but, no. Just, no.

What I found out later was that there are two types of persimmons. There is the Hachiya persimmon which is teardrop shaped and has to be really soft and ripe to eat it. Eaten too early and you will regret it. These were the ones my grandmother used in her salad. As a kid, I thought they were gooey and gross. The other variety is the Fuyu persimmon. Now, this is a whole different experience altogether.

Fuyus can be eaten when they are still hard and they have a crunch like an apple. Strangely, given my profession, I really didn’t encounter Fuyu persimmons much until I was well into my 20s. Probably because I was scarred by previous persimmon encounters, I didn’t seek them out.

When we bought our current home we became the proud owners of a lovely 3 bedroom 2-½ bath ranch style home….and a Fuyu persimmon tree. The first year we didn’t get too many persimmons and I picked them too early ‘cause I didn’t know any better. Subsequent crops have been progressively larger. But, this year was ridiculous because we actually had rain. I think the kids pulled 300 plus persimmons off the tree. And, that doesn’t count the fruit that was sacrificed to the squirrel gods.

The hard part is knowing what to do with that many persimmons. Thankfully, I have a produce department and an open-minded manager. So, I saved some and unloaded the rest. The saved ones are destined for this Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond Salad below which, in my opinion, is a much less traumatizing version of the salad of my childhood.

Persimmon, Asian Pear, and Toasted Almond Salad
Adapted from My Recipes
Yields 4 Servings Read more…