Monday, July 26, 2010

Tuna steaks, heirloom tomato salad, and herbed green beans & potatoes

I have a love/hate relationship with food magazines. I get so excited when I see a new one on the newsstand or in my mailbox, with its glossy cover photos of delectable and artfully arranged dishes, and promises of “easy, fresh meals in under 20 minutes” or “10 spinach dishes you are guaranteed to love.” But inevitably I end up dog-earing maybe one recipe out of 100, and never get around to making that recipe anyway.

That changed when I picked up the August issue of Food & Wine magazine last week. About 90% of the recipes look amazing to me, and while they’re a little fancier than what I might whip up on a typical weeknight, they all use easy-to-find ingredients and simple cooking techniques. The recipes contain a lot of fresh summer produce, and the dishes seem light without being “lite” (ie: healthy, but bland and unsatisfying). I don’t know whether Food & Wine is always this good, or I just happened across a particularly great issue, but I plan on subscribing to find out.

I decided to use three of the recipes in a belated birthday dinner I made for my sis-in-law, Lauren, this past weekend. Usually I hesitate to make untested recipes for a special occasion dinner, but I just had a hunch that these would all turn out great.

Here’s what was on the menu:

Mustard-Seared Tuna with Shallot Cream

Potato Salad with Green Beans and Salsa Verde

Tomato Salad with Bacon, Blue Cheese and Basil

I pretty much followed the recipes exactly, and everything was delicious. For the tomato salad I used heirloom tomatoes from a local farmer’s market, just to give it a little more exciting color. I was always scared of heirloom tomatoes until I realized they’re not really any different from regular tomatoes with the exception of their color.

Making all three of these dishes was fairly labor intensive, and it was only possible because I had four people to entertain my wild children while I chopped, pureed, roasted, and sautéed. But each dish on its own would not be overwhelming at all.

So if you come across the August issue of Food & Wine, I highly recommend picking it up. Or just poke around on their website – I think they post almost all of their recipes online.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Farmer's market potato salad

My daughters and I are spending our third consecutive July in Pennsylvania, enjoying visits with grandparents and friends, and indulging in local treats (fresh-from-the-factory Hershey chocolate and Yuengling Lager, just to name a few).

Growing up, I took for granted the abundant fresh summer produce, roadside stands, berry-picking farms, and endless green corn fields in PA. Now, after several years in the land of tumblweeds and cacti, I have renewed appreciation for the lush greenery and farmscapes here.

The other day we went to Roots market, an enormous farmer's market where you can find local baked goods, every type of produce imaginable, local delicacies and meats, and kitchy crafts. Since the girls were with us, I couldn't spend as much time as I wanted scoping everything out, but I did come home with a fair amount of goodies (including some of those ruby red radishes - how could I not buy those?)

I didn't have a plan while I was shopping, but when I got home and sorted everything out, I realized I had the fixins for a nice homemade potato salad. Here's what I used:

Small red-skinned potatoes
fresh dill
green onion
hardboiled egg(s)
dijon mustard (I usually use Grey Poupon, but any dijon will do)
olive oil
salt and pepper

I usually boil the potatoes when making potato salad, but this time I decided to roast them. I chopped up the potatoes into bite sized pieces (leaving the skin on), drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and baked them in a baking dish at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until they were easily poked with a fork. After they cooled, I put them in a bowl with some chopped green onion, celery, dill, and hardboiled egg. Then I stirred together some mayo and dijon, and added a few squeezes of lemon juice. Depending on how much you salted the potatoes, you might want to add some salt too. Stir together and enjoy! You can add as much or as little dressing as you like - I probably put a little too much would have tasted just as good with less.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Popsicles re-invented

Until a few days ago, I thought of popsicles merely as a kids' summertime treat - basically just colored sugar water that tastes really good when it's hot outside.

Then I came across two popsicle recipes that will forever change the way I look at popsicles. One is basically a cocktail on a stick; the other is an innovative way to get your kids (or yourself) to eat a healthy breakfast or snack.

Considering that it's going to be 110 degrees for the foreseeable future in Arizona, I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time experimenting with new recipes for popsicles. In the meantime, here are the two I was inspired by:

1)Watermelon vodka popsicles with fresh mint

When I saw Giada DeLaurentis make *these* watermelon vodka popsicles on her show, I just had to try them. Unfortunately I decided to make them for a BBQ we were attending later that day, failing to notice the part of the recipe where it says they need to freeze at least 10 hours or overnight. Oops.

So we didn't have watermelon vodka popsicles that day, but we did have watermelon vodka slush, which was probably just as good. And when I stirred some of the slush into the lemonade/citrus vodka drink my friend had made...heaven! My husband wasn't a fan of the mint, but it probably can be eliminated or maybe replaced with a tamer herb - like basil?? I'm thinking some cucumber could even be thrown in to cut the sweetness.

2) Breakfast popsicles

A few days ago, I stumbled across *this* blog post about serving popsicles for breakfast. After my recent breakfast cookie experiment, I was excited to find another fun way to serve healthy foods for breakfast.

I haven't had a chance to make these yet, but my mind has been swimming with possibilities - especially since I recently discovered an amazing non-dairy beverage that tastes like drinkable strawberry yogurt and would probably be perfect in this recipe.

To further my excitement about popsicles, I saw *this* awesome popsicle mold on the front of the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Basically you keep it in the freezer, and it will freeze a popsicle in 7 minutes. So that would eliminate the whole "oops - I forgot to wait 10 hours" thing. It's a little pricey at $50, but if my popsicle obsession becomes full-blown, I may just have to spring for one.