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…

Moroccan Caramelized Carrots

Moroccan Caramelized CarrotsSpring Break
This week is spring break. So, I have kind of taken the week off. The plans we had to go out of town fell through for a number of reasons so now we are enjoying a stay-cation at home. The problem with that is there is no lounging poolside in the sun while some wonderful individual continuously brings you beverages with umbrellas in them. Alas, what really happens is you catch up on the laundry you’ve been ignoring for weeks and you find little projects around the house to keep you busy.

One such project for me was reorganizing my cookbook library. I have to do this every few years for two main reasons. First, I am not always great about putting the books back in the same spot when I am finished with them. And, second, and most importantly, because I am constantly adding and subtracting from my collection. Eventually, I need to reorganize to make room. After I had pulled the 250+ books out of the shelves I took a picture of my collection and posted it on Facebook just to see what the reaction would be.

The people who know me well weren’t surprised at all by the giant piles but what I found most interesting were the friends who suggested I just use the internet to find recipes and other inspiration. While I do use websites to look for ideas as well as ingredients, there is no way that the internet would ever be a decent replacement for my cookbooks because it’s not just about convenience and millions of options at my fingertips. My cookbooks are more than just the recipes they contain. There are masterpieces from the giants of culinary tradition like Escoffier, Child, Rombauer, and Beard. Some of them are family heirlooms that hold the family’s history and traditions on dog-eared pages. Still, others tell the story of a new skill or technique learned between food stained chapters. And then there are the books that recount the journeys and exotic foods of far off lands and encourage the dreams of flavors yet to be experienced firsthand.

Nope. You will never convince me to get rid of my cookbooks. And, if the price I pay for that is the need to do a little spring cleaning from time to time, so be it. It also means I revisit some of my old favorites that haven’t been in my dinner circulation recently like this recipe for Caramelized Carrots.

I haven’t pulled my Moroccan cookbooks off the shelf in a while but my project gave me a craving. I made grilled halibut with fresh chermoula and these carrots on the side. Everyone cleared their plate…

Moroccan Caramelized Carrots
Adapted from Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse
Yields 4 Servings Read more…

Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata

Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata It’s Not Easy Being Green
Whenever you hear people raving about their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, usually it is the stuffing. or the sweet potatoes, or even the homemade cranberry sauce. Rarely is it about the vegetables that are served as sides—or at least that has been my experience. Not going to lie, if there are some greens on my plate at Thanksgiving they are there solely out of guilt for the obscene amount of carbs and gravy that I have piled up on my grandmother’s Wedgewood plates.

Since I am hosting the big event this year I have been compelled to come up with a vegetable side. And, I am finding it challenging to locate a recipe that I am willing to make and would work well with the rest of the meal. True, I could do my favorite Spinach Gratin. But, I am concerned that the cream and cheese would be too rich with all of the other caloric goodness on the table.

Yes, I could do some Brussels sprouts but the truth is, I hate them. I have tried so hard to like them and occasionally will order them if offered when I am out enjoying a nice dinner just to see if a different recipe will do the trick but, alas, they are still gross. Even with bacon.

A kale salad is a possibility. But it seems too trendy and obvious in this time of kale obsession, though it looks like the obsession might be waning. Plus, in my family, salads hardly ever get eaten. Case in point, the salad my grandmother used to make every Thanksgiving (that no one ate, but had to be made because it was tradition). This Endive & Fuyu Persimmon Salad with Pecans is a good substitute and might actually be eaten…

So, I think I will end up going with tried and true green beans as a vegetable side this year. Most people like them and they are fairly easy to prepare in large quantities. I could steam and toss the beans in a little garlic butter. But, I may lose my mind and go a tiny bit fancier and make something like these Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata. When in doubt, I always reference Ina..

Green Beans with Hazelnut Gremolata
Yields 8 servings  Read more…

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter

For The Times, They Are A-Changin’
Halloween was different this year. There were no parades. No morning rush to get the costume make-up done. No concerns about wearing a costume all day. In fact, the excitement about Halloween has been replaced, for some in my family, by high school soccer try-outs.

Sigh. Yep. We have reached the stage where the kids were handing out candy to trick-or-treaters instead of filling their own pillowcases.

We have one holdout, though. My twelve-year-old did go out trick or treating with her friends. She was dressed as a wedge of cheese that she constructed and painted all by herself complete with cheezy duct tape. This kid beats to her own—and I love it. I have no doubt that next year she will come up with an equally random costume idea and hit the streets to collect her chocolate.

This change means that dinner plans are different too. In fact, I actually put a little more work into it and made this recipe for Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter. It’s a great representation of the flavors of the season. And, the pumpkin is an obvious nod to Halloween. If you do not have a pasta machine it is just as easy to roll it out with a rolling pin.

To those of you who still headed out with your little ones, I hope you had fun and enjoyed these nights roaming the streets of your neighborhood with your kids. Because it’s true what they say…it all goes by so quickly!

Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Butter
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Autumn Pumpkin Recipes

Autumn Pumpkin RecipesSquashes, Pumpkins, and Gourds Oh My!
One of the things I love most about the Fall, and October in general, is all of the displays with various pumpkins and gourds. They are so pretty and interesting. True, not all of them are edible like gorgeous Goose Neck Gourds but the better majority are.

Granted most of the larger pumpkins and squashes purchased around this time end up on your front doorstep with fangs carved out of them. Not much you can do with them after they have been out there for a while. At least nothing edible…

My question is what do you do with the ones that have been inside and are still good? If we’re talking about a cute little Sugar Pie pumpkin the answer is obvious. Bring on the pies and breads baby!

But there is more to pumpkins than pie…

Acorn and Delicata squash are fantastic to eat and easy to prepare. A giant Cinderella pumpkin is perfect for stuffing with cheese, cream, and other decadent goodness. Pretty green Kabocha squash is used in all sorts of cuisines from Mexican to Moroccan. Of course, Spaghetti squash can be a nice change from your usual pasta. Butternut squash is by far the most well known and eaten of all of the squashes and is great as a soup, in a casserole or on its own.

To help you figure out what to do with your squashes, pumpkins, and gourds, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite dishes for you to try. Read more…