Tag Archives: fruit

my little black salad: watermelon and jicama salad: arugula, cotija, and balsamic reduction

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a few things in your closet that you just know make you look like the best version of yourself, without even trying them on.

(And you’ve probably got a frightening laundry pile that you have been circuitously avoiding for at least a week now.  But let’s focus on the positive, mmmkay?)

Usually taking shape as a well cut pair of trousers, a flowy maxi dress, or a LBD (ahem, thats little black dress to the male faction of readers), and generally being in a forgiving fabric (with perhaps a bit of stretch), it’s essential to have at least a couple of those ‘sure-things’ in stock for times when you need to gussy yerself on up in a hurry.

Think of this salad as that easy dress, that tie that somehow matches everything, or that pair of heels you can stand in for hours without wanting to saw your feet off at the ankles.

Granted this salad – chock full of juicy watermelon, sweet jicama, and salty cotija cheese – is more of a Summertime wardrobe staple…but nevermind. Who really wants to wear a short dress with pale legs in the Winter anyway?!

This is the salad I made when I didn’t want to make anything last week.

{but wait! there’s more…}

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simple, fresh, friday: avocado greek yogurt salad with jalapeno + cilantro

Granted by coming to you with yet another vegetable based dish I’m taking the risk of sending you running for greener pastures; pastures that are filled with more carnivorous delights, like, oh, say, succulent barbecued ribs or juicy grill-marked burgers – you know, those things we’re all supposed to be making in high July.  But honestly, around here lately, that’s just not exactly what we’ve been eating.

It’s been more about simplicity, and ease of execution.  Much more about instant gratification and much less about intricate steps and complicated processes.  Or — let’s be honest here — much more about getting to that glass of wine on the couch, and much less about standing in the kitchen while enviously gazing over at one boy and his pug stretched out watching re-runs of Seinfeld.

(Especially if it’s the chocolate babka episode.  Or the chicken roaster.)

It’s easy to fall into a rut of simplicity, relying on dishes that you know deep down you only can take half-credit for, in that most of their deliciousness is completely dependent on the incredible quality of the ingredients you were lucky enough to stumble upon. It is Summer, after all, peak season for all but the best of mostly everything.

And on a day like today – a sunny, uncomplicated Friday with little on the agenda but a looming pit stop at the gym and a date at a new Boulder restaurant – there should be no muss and no fuss when it comes to lunch. A few quick slices here and stirs there that yields something healthy, fresh, and completely oven-free?

Where do I sign?

{but wait! there’s more…}

an impulsive spring: strawberry, rhubarb, + pear bake with lemon basil crumble

If ever there was a time that impulse shopping were permissible (and even encouraged), it is now.

After a long Winter full of hard-skinned squash and potatoes, and then an early Spring awash with hardy greens – and not much else, we’ve yet to see much color and variety livening up the shelves of the markets.

That is, color and variety that has not been on an around the world journey of sorts to make it from its undoubtedly exotic homeland and onto your plate.

(Christmastime strawberries — I’m looking at you.)

Temperatures have been soaring here, and my poor little rows of lettuce have been begging for mercy, wilting to protest the sun’s unseasonably hot rays.  It is Colorado though, and though last week it felt like we were in the midst of straight-up Summer, this past weekend threatened nighttime temps in the thirties, and rendered us too chicken to plant our spindly tomato plants into the garden.  We have reverted back to pulling in our delicate basil and baby tomatoes at night, and must remember that it still is only May – and a very young May at that.

{but wait! there’s more…}

of wednesday optimism & tackling impossibilities before 8AM: the green monster smoothie

“There is no use trying,” said Alice.  “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

— Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Wednesdays can go either way – they can make you feel energized and excited (YES! halfway done with the week! And Wednesday is almost Thursday, and well – Thursday is almost Friday!) — or they can catch you off guard and put some glum in your hump (SERIOUSLY?! It’s only WEDNESDAY?! Harumph).

Today has me feeling pretty fantastic.  Apart from a very kind mention over at Katherine’s fabulous blog yesterday, I started off my day the best way I know how.  What with all that talk about meatloaf yesterday, it’s only fair to balance it out on “hump-day” with something a bit more conducive to a clear mind and healthy body.  I’ve never been one to be very good at fueling up my body in the morning; sometimes I find that when I eat a large breakfast, it can throw the rest of my day off kilter.  I’m well aware that this is not a good habit, as breakfast is “the most important meal of the day,” and that it’s the time to “eat like a king” (with lunch and dinner following as prince and pauper).  Even still, oftentimes I’ll ignore that, and find myself staring down high-noon with little more than a coffee in my belly to keep me going.

One way I’ve found to sneak some brainfood in before breakfast time is downing a “green monster” – a mashup of superfoods blended together to make a protein and vitamin packed power smoothie.  I started my love affair with the greenies while I was still living in New York, and often found myself with a tiny spot of time for breakfast just after a harried cab ride and just before our morning trading meeting.  There was a juice cart that was located on the ideal corner of Park Avenue (that would be the ‘near right‘ corner for those of you used to NYC cab lingo) which was perfect for ducking over to on my way up to the office.  I would order a green juice, which was essentially everything green on the menu with a bit of blueberries, orange, or banana snuck in to add some sweetness.

After I posted a picture of one such ‘monster’ in a weekend post I got no less than a dozen emails inquiring just what the heck was in it.  Though there are countless (literally – countless) incarnations that a green monster can take, it’s defining characteristic, that bright green color, always comes from some type of nutrient packed greens; usually, and my favorite choice, is kale.

This is one of my favorite morning mix-ups; I keep it simple with a limited amount of ingredients, and then alter it from there to suit what’s in our fridge or what I am feeling like.  I always add kale, and to temper the grassy flavor and add in even more nutritional badasses, I toss in blueberries, a green apple, and a cup of protein packed unsweetened-vanilla almond milk.  This is the best way I can think of to kick-start my day; it has enough to power me through to lunch, and sneaks in multiple servings of leafy greens and antioxidants before I’ve begun to tackle any impossibilies my day might throw at me.

The finished product is sweet from the blueberries and green apple, has a slight vanilla undertone from the almond milk, and has a fresh and bright edge from the kale.  This will make a sweet but still ‘green’ tasting smoothie, so feel free to play around with other add ins such as frozen mango or banana for extra sweetness, greek yogurt for creaminess (I add a scoop of 2% Fage quite often), or a bit of orange juice or lemon for a citrus kick.  Do not be fooled by it’s looks – this tastes much better than appearances let on.   If you closed your eyes and took a sip, you would never know that it was the same hue as Swampthing.

Green Monster
Makes 2 servings (About 12 oz each)

I don’t usually use ice in this simple smoothie; my berries, kale, apple, and almond milk are already cold, and I think it is perfect as is. Use this as a model; feel free to add in a scoop of greek yogurt for creaminess, or add in frozen mango or a dribble of orange juice for some extra sweetness.

4 leaves black kale (also known as lacinato or dino kale), washed & roughly torn into pieces
1 granny smith apple, sliced
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or any variety you like)

optional: a few ice cubes

Combine the torn kale, sliced apple, frozen blueberries, and almond milk in a blender. Blend on high speed until the drink is smooth, with no visible lumps or chunks, about 1 minute. If you like your smoothie icy, add in a few ice cubes, and blend until they are totally crushed, about 30 seconds more.

Drink, and head off to do impossible things before breakfast!

twinkling treats: sparkly lemon cookies

On the heels of an awesome first weekend skiing at Beaver Creek, I’ve just finished unpacking then re-cramming my suitcase for a  Christmas trip back East, and know already that I will manage to forget something – it’s a real talent of mine.  (This past weekend that something was underwear; not ideal to realize the lackthereof just as you are getting suited up to hit the slopes.)  This month blazed forth in a blur of twinkling lights, peppermint bark, ugly sweaters, and eggnog, and I can hardly believe that I am literally just moments from dashing out the door, and that we are down to just ten days left this year.

As it always is, time is not exactly in abundance when we reach this juncture; our hours are frantically parceled off into holiday parties, gift shopping, and projects until we crawl out from under the pile of ribbons and wrapping paper to get some fresh air, and suddenly, TA-DA!It’s Christmas.  And if you’re anything like me you’re behind in doing, oh, a bit of everything, again.

It’s really unbelieveable how each year this happens, no matter how much we will it not to.  Thanksgiving arrives in late November as it always reliably does, and from the moment that last bite of turkey is washed down with that last sip of spiked cider, the world eagerly springs into holiday overdrive.  Bows of holly festoon every last inch of public space, catalogues and store coupons glut mailboxes, and songs of turtle doves and pear trees are tirelessly looped on end.

By no means am I looking to sound Scrooge-esque here; I absolutely adore this time of year, and must admit that even when I hear aforementioned songs and see aforementioned holly just a bit too early, I still feel that giddy rumble of excitement deep in my core.  It’s just that the five short weeks that embody our holiday season fly by so fast, it can be hard to tackle every project, craft every card, and bake every treat.  This season I managed to eek out a few rounds of one of my favorite holiday sweets, the Christmas cookie.

Ah, the Christmas cookie.  An iconic sweet denizen of the Wintertime holiday dessert table, it’s one of the very first treats that springs to mind when I think of the holidays.  For such a diminutive confection, it articulates itself in countless varieties of shapes, sizes, and flavors, giving you ample room for choice and margin for creativity.  This year, for a friend’s cookie party I tried out a favorite recipe from a favorite bakery (recipe to come), and for our holiday party decided on these twinkling little lemon guys that caught my eye while I was flipping through the December issue of Martha Stewart.  I was a bit wary as I read through the instructions, as they were very succinct and simple – and, if there is one thing I know about Martha, it’s that she has a tendency to make perfection look easy breezy, and then hooks you with a near impossible to recreate recipe.

This time thankfully Martha pulled through, and I had a recipe that was neither fussy nor too time consuming.  These darling little lemon cookies are just slightly sweet and literally bursting with fresh lemon flavor from piles of fluffy zest that are added to the batter.  They bake up into tiny little circles with gently domed tops, and the bottoms take on the loveliest light golden color.

Unadorned these cookies are good, if a bit plain, but after you swathe them in a sticky sweet lemony glaze they are taken over the top.  The glaze dries and hardens into a sweet but still soft shell, and the contrast between the more mildly flavored cookie is utter perfection.  I don’t generally think of lemon cookies when I think of Christmas, and that is what is so perfect about these; they are refreshing and light, and a perfect foil to all of the heavier, more decadent treats on the table.  A smattering of edible glitter (found here) makes these really special, and their sparkly decadence fit in perfectly with all of the other holiday treats.

Sparkly Lemon Cookies
Makes 40 small cookies
From Martha Stewart Living, December 2011

A few things to note: the dough that this creates is thick and a bit sticky.  It was not difficult to use the pastry bag, but I did find that I needed to use my finger to help break the piped cookie away from the piping bag and then to tamp down any jagged peaks that this created.  Also, my cookies baked very quickly.  These are delicate and you do not want to burn them, so be sure to keep an eye on them and pull them when the tops are just set and the bottoms are a pale golden brown.  Finally, this made a ton of glaze.  Although delicious, next time I will eyeball it and make much less, or plan to make a bundt or pound cake the same day that would benefit from it so it doesn’t go to waste.

2 cups all-purpose flour
salt
1 stick plus 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 lemons, zested and juiced (1/3 cup juice)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
star-shaped edible glitter or coarse sanding sugar, for sprinkling (optional, found here)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes. (10 minutes is longer than you think; be sure to time this step as it is crucial in creating the right texture for the cookie.  Be patient.).  Beat in eggs. Reduce speed to low, and gradually beat in flour mixture. Slowly add milk, and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes.

Transfer dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip. It will be on the thicker side.  Pipe it into  1 1/2-inch rounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets, tamping down any harsh peaks that remain with a flour dipped fingertip. Bake until bottoms are pale gold, 16 to 18 minutes (I found that mine took closer to 14-15 minutes, but I am baking at a high altitude).   Let cool completely on sheets set on wire racks.

Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth to make the glaze.  Brush the glaze onto the cookies, and sprinkle with edible glitter.

Martha says these can be stored for 3 days, but we were happily munching on them 7 days later and they were awesome.  Just keep them in a sealed tupperware container at room temperature, and they shouldn’t dry out.

fancy for a friday: grapefruit brulee

In high school,  up, I was fortunate enough to have an amazing Mother who woke up early to have breakfast in the works while I was still grumbling and battling my second snooze cycle.  As it is in most homes, in the twenty harried minutes that exist from the moment a teenager begrudgingly rolls out of bed to the moment their newly licensed selves bolt out the door, it’s a feat to get anything into their mouthslet alone a balanced breakfast.  Somehow I always had something tasty in my hand, even though I was consistently 10 minutes behind schedule and searching high and low for my swim cap, my car keys, or my powder-puff football t-shirt.

This gesture of course I can only fully appreciate now; back then, I didn’t realize just how nice it was to have buttered cinnamon raisin toast, fresh orange juice, bagels with cream cheese, yogurt and fruit, and the occasional fluffy waffle ready waiting for me to grab and go.  It was only after settling into the corporate world and trading in Mom’s simple yet sturdy breakfasts for the less nutritionally sound street-cart coffee with skim milk – twice in as many hours – that it sunk in just how good I had it.  A proper breakfast at home before heading off to the office?  Not a chance! Not when skipping it means an extra fifteen minutes of desperately needed shut-eye, my friends.

One thing that consistently graced our breakfast table on weekdays or otherwise, were juicy halves of pink grapefruit.  This in itself might not sound that special, but you see in these grapefruits, the cuts were already made between the peel and the membranes.  It takes a special person to have the patience to properly cut a grapefruit, because let’s face it – it’s a total pain in the ass.  You must first dig out that funny little crooked knife, and then have the willingness to endure squirts of acidic juice assailing your eyeballs as you carefully and painstakingly separate the flesh from the membranes, all while taking care not to puncture the slippery peel.  Serenity now!!  

I love grapefruits, but never view them in the same ‘quick and easy’ category as their other citrus counterparts for this very reason.  I realize too that grapefruits can elicit all sorts of negative reactions from people – they have that either you love’em or hate’em thing going on.   Although one of my favorite ways to enjoy them is straight up (and, ahem, preferably already cut – thanks Mom!) I’ve been making this slightly fancier version for myself, and think not only does justify the extra few minutes of prep time, but also that it could just be the thing to convert non-lovers into fanatics.

Grapefruit brulee is deceptively simple – you’ll need a chilled grapefruit, some brown sugar, and a hot broiler (or kitchen torch, if you are really well appointed in that arena).  After sprinkling said sugar and a bit of cinnamon atop the scored and prepped grapefruit halves, you place them under the broiler for 3-4 minutes, until the sugar has melted and caramelized slightly, the fruit is warm, and the edges of the grapefruit are just slightly singed.

Before you shrug this off as disgusting – and I know that hot grapefruit doesn’t exactly sound appealing – just try it first.  It’s a perfect way to turn a cool Summertime breakfast into something decidedly wintery, and, at least for me, anything warm to start a frigid single-digit morning off is a welcomed thing.  The chilled grapefruit stands up to the heat, with the top layer becoming warm, sweet, and juicy and the bottom retaining that refreshing aspect.  The sugar melts into a caramelly layer, and though you aren’t using much the heat helps it to spread and permeate into the separated fruit.  I suspect even grapefruit skeptics would give this a whirl, and I’d be shocked if they too weren’t pleasantly surprised.

It’s simplicity belies that it truly is something special, and would be perfect for a fancy brunch or even as a very light dessert, with a scoop of citrus sorbet perched atop.  Of course there is nothing to stop you from waking up just a few minutes early and making your weekday feel like something a bit more exciting; a little goes a long way in that regard, and on a chilly morning grapefruit brulee and a mug of hot chai is not to be underestimated.

Grapefruit Brulee
Serves 1, or 2 with 1/2 each

If you like, you can dot the top of each grapefruit with a bit of butter before you broil, to yield a richer result. For me, the brown sugar and cinnamon, once warmed and bubbly, are plenty enough.

For easier cleanup, slip a piece of parchment under the grapefruits before passing them under the heat. I of course did not do this, and spent a good few minutes scrubbing melted sugar out of my pan. Don’t be like me.

1 grapefruit
1 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
pinch flaky sea salt (preferably Maldon)

Preheat the broiler to high. Cut a small layer off of the bottom of each end of the grapefruit, being careful not to cut through the peel and into the fruit, so it will sit flat in a pan. Cut the grapefruit in half horizontally, and using a grapefruit knife (or regular serrated knife) cut around the edges of the grapefruit and between the membrane to loosen the segments of fruit.

Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly between the two halves, placing a half a tablespoon on each half. Spread the sugar around into an even layer, and sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon over each. Place the grapefruits in a small pan, and place underneath the broiler for 2-4 minutes, keeping a watchful eye, until the sugar is melted and light brown in spots.

Sprinkle a tiny pinch of sea salt on each grapefruit half, and serve immediately, while still warm.

and i came back for these: roasted vanilla pears

Growing up, each August my mom and I would trek over the Sagamore Bridge and up to Boston for epic all-day mall trips with the goal of outfitting my fourteen-year-old self in some snappy new duds for the impending school year.  As most teenage girls do, I lived for shopping, and for these trips where I could visit the ‘cool’ stores that didn’t exist at the dinky and outdated Cape Cod Mall.  The anticipation was palpable on that sixty-minute drive, with crucial strategizing and discussion on topics of the utmost importance:

Okay, so should I go with the oh-so-edgy neon Doc Martens, or the more practical (read: boring) and usable black pair?  (Guess which I always gunned for.)


These
are the types of things that keep an adolescent girl up at night, and inevitably I’d be torn.
***
Me: “But mom, neon yellow is the new black! Plus no one else will have them.”
Mom: “Thats fine. If you think you’ll still like wearing neon yellow in the Spring, then get the neon yellow.”
***
My mom imparted a piece of shopping advice upon me that I find myself still using today: Go home and sleep on it and buy what you are still thinking about in a week.  Not exactly an Earth shattering revelation, I know, but coercing a teenager to leave empty handed who in reality wants nothing more than to leave the mall that very instant with the coolest shoes ever is no small feat.  Without fail I would return home, and either agonize over the decision and come to a well thought out conclusion (The black pair, obviously.  Mom’s are always right.), or totally forget about the item all together – which meant, of course, that I really didn’t ‘just-have-to-have-it.’

These days, my dilemmas have thankfully moved past cringe-worthy and clunky-soled shoes;  however I still find myself cruising through boutiques and agonizing over frocks for friends weddings or impractical heels for parties.  Without fail, after going home and letting the dust settle, I can only ever really remember one or two standouts and know immediately that those are the pieces meant to live in my closet.

Recipes, though not exactly congruent with a frighteningly priced pair of this season’s boots, tend to have a similar effect on me: I’ll dog-ear cookbooks and magazines and bookmark blogs where I see things I just must make and then……totally forget about them.  Except that is, for the few standouts that cut through my recipe fog and into the clear place where they take their place in line.  These Vanilla Roasted Pears hold such a distinction, and after drooling onto my mouse whilst reading about them on Smitten Kitchen almost two years ago (!), I am still thinking about them – especially now that pears and all things roasted and vanilla sound just delightful.

It’s embarrassing to admit that it took me that long to get my act together and make these.  As Deb points out, it’s more of an approach and less of a recipe, and involves less effort than watering your plants.  (Which, I am also embarrassed to admit, I often forget to do on a weekly basis – withering basil leaves be damned!) Essentially you chuck some peeled and halved pears in a pan with a bit of lemon juice, sugar, butter and half of a fresh vanilla bean – right there how can you go wrong? – and then roast the whole mess until the pears are soft and uniform in texture.  The pear juices do this magical thing with the sugar and butter and come out on the other side of the roast having made a thick, luscious, caramelly sauce that I unabashedly and (once again embarrassingly) tried to eat with a spoon directly out of the oven, only to dribble it down my chin and burn myself.

Do not be fooled by the simplicity of these, and do not, please oh please do not overlook them even if you think you might not love pears.  In my experience, this preparation takes even the pear skeptic (ahem, le husband) and leaves them reveling in its simple deliciousness.  The fact that your house smells a zillion times better than any vanilla candle could ever hope to come close to is just an added bonus, and one that caused even the Puglet to hang around the oven, sniffing expectantly at it’s fragrant seams.  This is an ideal light dessert for a luncheon but is also special enough for the holidays or dinner parties, when paired with some good ice cream or lightly sweet custard.  The leftovers (if you’re crazy enough to have any) gussy up plain oatmeal and I also suspect would taste delicious diced up and served with some good cheese.

Roasted Vanilla Pears
Serves 3 as dessert (1 whole pear per person)
From Sally Scheider at The Atlantic, by way of Deb at Smitten Kitchen

I followed this recipe pretty much exactly, using some of Deb’s advice (coring the pears & splitting the vanilla bean into smaller pieces).  It is honestly foolproof – chuck the ingredients in the pan, and in 45 minutes or so you have a house that smells insane and pears flecked with vanilla bubbling in their own caramelized juices.  Sally Schneider at The Atlantic recommends to use slightly underripe pears, and I think thats great advice; pick some on the firmer side to avoid any that are mealy or overly sweet.

What’s not to love?

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 pounds slightly-under-ripe, medium pears (I used Bosc, and I used 3 of them, to make 6 halves total)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375F. Peel the pears, and halve them vertically through the stem (keep the stem attached to one half of the pear, just for its cute looks – we like cute).  Scoop out the seeds with a melon baller or small spoon, and remove the slightly woody core with a paring knife, if you’d like (I like this step, recommended by Deb, not Sally, and simply cut a little ‘V’ out of the center where the stem/core runs as you can see in the pictures above).

Place the sugar in a small bowl. With a thin, sharp knife, carefully split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds into the sugar until the sugar is flecked with the little black seeds.

Arrange the pears in a large baking dish, with the cut-side up. Drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the fruit, then sprinkle evenly with the vanilla sugar.  Nestle the vanilla pod among the fruit (again as Deb recommended I split the halves of the bean again into halves, thus making 4 skinny quarter strips – more vanilla goodness to go around).  Pour the water into the dish.  Dot each pear with some butter.

Roast the pears 30 minutes, brushing them occasionally with the pan juices.  Turn the pears over and continue roasting, basting once or twice, until tender and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes longer (if the pears are small, test for doneness after 35 or 40 minutes of cooking; a paring knife poked into the thickest part of one should meet with no resistance).  Be sure to keep an eye on them if the thickened caramelly juices are looking golden brown; the sugar will cause it to burn quickly, and trust me – you want all of that pear caramel to be edible and not burnt.  It’s outrageous.

Serve the pears warm, with a dollop of whipped cream, a scoop of ice cream (I had some homemade salted caramel ice cream which was *so* good), or a spoonful of mascarpone cheese.  The pears will keep, covered and refrigerated, for a couple of days.  We chopped up the leftovers and stirred them into oatmeal with a pinch of brown sugar, which was divine.