Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer Salad Trio

Summer time at our house means less time in the kitchen, lots of time in the garden and salads for dinner. There's a couple new summer salads we've really enjoyed so far this year. All three of these are new additions to our repertoire.

The Lima Bean Artichoke Salad came from my lovely cousin Rachel. A couple years ago at Christmas the girl cousins did a recipe swap and purchased one kitchen gadget. It was loads of fun. She gave me a meat tenderizer and several great recipes. When I made this salad, I looked forward to leftovers for the next day's lunch. 

Lima Bean Artichoke Salad

3 cups frozen lima beans (calls for fava, but I used lima)
32 kalamata olives (this number made me laugh, but I did stand at the olive bar at the store and count out 32)
2 jars marinated quartered artichokes, drained
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
4 tsp parsley, finely chopped
Black pepper

Cook lima beans for 4 minutes in boiling H20. Rinse under cold water. Mix beans, olives, artichoke hearts with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Chill and enjoy!

A friend of mine, Leah, recommended this cookbook called Celebrating the Seasons at Westerbeke Ranch, and it has not disappointed. I've made this Caesar Salad (a bit modified from the cookbook) about a dozen times now in the past 2 months. Randy asks for it at least once a week.

Classic Caesar Salad

2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup good olive oil
Romaine lettuce

Place garlic, 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese, the Worchestershire sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, egg yolk, salt and pepper in a food processor. Blend until smooth, about 10 seconds. With the motor running, add oil in a thin stream until it is fully incorporated. Cut romaine lettuce, toss with dressing and remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese.

Randy's cousin, Valerie was in from Puerto Vallarta and my brother and his lovely Aussie girlfriend, Alice, were staying at our home too. Naturally, we made a feast. Had to celebrate having everyone here.

Randy picked this recipe out of the latest Food and Wine magazine. I love that he finds recipes for me to make. At first, I thought - how silly, it's TOO simple. But that's the beauty of this salad. It's incredibly simple, yet delicious.

Avocado Onion Salad

4 ripe avocados, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
Olive oil

Arrange sliced avocados on a platter topped with red onion slices, drizzle lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sand Plum Jelly Makes Friends

Prior to late last year, I'd heard of sand plum jelly, but never had the delightful experience of tasting it. Rememeber when I posted back in November about Joe Stumpe writing a story about my cooking? Well, between that article, a few emails and a couple jars of sand plum jelly - I've made a new friend named Brent Patty.

Brent sent me an email and said he wanted me to try his jelly, and give him my honest opinion. Being right around the holidays, I didn't get back to him really quickly. He thought I didn't like it - but he was definetely wrong. It's divine. Even though my GG (dad's mom) makes amazing strawberry jam, I've never tried making it myself. The greatest part of sand plum jelly is the sweet to tart ratio is just perfect to my taste buds. I normally don't eat a lot of jellies or jams because of all the sugar. Brent's sand plum jelly I make an exception for, just like with my GG's.

Brent and I exchanged several emails back in December to discuss how he got into the sand plum jelly business (it's really just a hobby, but he does it on a large scale). He lives outside of
El Dorado on the family "farm". Growing up he always looked forward to his grandmother's sand plum jelly.

Below are a couple excerpts in Brent's words about his delictable jelly:

The wild plums were getting hard to find, so I planted a few trees. I ended up planting 400 sand plum, 200 american plum and 200 beach plum trees. Last year was good and I picked a couple hundred pounds. I make jelly for friends and family and actually sold some at a local business.

My grandmother made the jelly from plums on her farm and what she picked along the road. The plums grow wild and are native to Kansas. The trees did not produce fruit every year so it was always a treat.

It had been several years (probably twenty plus) since I had eaten any sand plum jelly when my wife Sharlene started going to the local farmer's market, and purchased a jar. The memories of picking plums with my grandparents, and the great taste of the jelly made me yearn for more. The next year I put many-a-mile on the old Dodge pickup looking for wild plums. To my delight I found many. However they are hard to pick because of the thorns on the trees and their locations in overgrown ditches. I then decided I would plant my own orchard and grow them like trees instead of the thickets, which is how they are found in the wild. This work well, and by the third year I was picking plums morning and evenings without the usual hassles. In my research of the plums I discovered most of the wild plums around here are the American plum. The are not as tart as the sand plum so I decided to plant two hundred of each. The sand plums also seem to produce more fruit per tree. I also planted one hundred beach plums which grow wild on the east coast. That concluded the South orchard. The following year I planted two hundred more sand plum trees in what I call the North orchard.

The seven hundred trees take a lot of time to prune and mow around,so I am considering letting them grow into rows. We usually start picking in June and continue as they ripen into September. I use the recipe I believe my Grandmother used from the Certo insert. The fruit is frozen whole after picking. I use a steam juicer when I am ready to make the jelly. I pretty much make it to order so it is fresh and clear. I need to do more monitoring of the fruit sugar because I can make a very tart jelly from slightly less ripe fruit or a sweeter blend from the fully ripened fruit. I would like for you to try the glaze I made for ham to see what you think.

We mostly eat the jelly on toast, biscuits, french toast, pancakes and good old peanut butter sandwiches. I have also made jam, which is a lot of work, syrup and wine. As I previously mentioned I sell some locally at Hudson's Gardens. I have two freezers full of fruit so I need to either market the jelly, start a you-pick, or sell the fruit for winemaking. In any event, I should have all the sand plum jelly I want:).

The darling jar my sand plum jelly came in.

On my biscuit, ready to be eaten!

I've been hoarding my sand plum jelly, so I still have a bit left. And I've made a new friend named Brent. I really enjoy the connections my love of food make for me.

George's At the Cove

When I travel, often times, I want to go back to a place I've been before. It becomes nostalgic and I want to return. Just like restaurants. Don't get me wrong, I love trying new restaurants. But, why mess with perfection?

This past weekend, my good friends and I went to San Diego for a girls trip. Unfortunately Amy didn't feel well, so she stayed at the hotel while Megan, Heather and I went up to La Jolla. If you've never been to La Jolla, please put it on your list of places to visit. It's beyond beautiful. And make sure you eat at George's At the Cove.

Smile ladies cause this is LIVIN'!

Champagne cocktail in the afternoon - of course - it's vaca! (Sorry Megs, next trip you won't be prego!)

Shrimp scampi app.

To die for salmon on top of artichoke hearts and baby potatoes and topped with micro greens. My favorite meal of the trip.

The magnificent view from the rooftop where we ate lunch.

We got a kick out of the stylish guy with his sweater Zach Morris-style. So California.

Barefoot Contessa Baked Shrimp Scampi

Yet another Barefoot Contessa recipe that doesn't fail. I've made this for several dinner parties and for weeknight dinners. The flavor is perfect, it's an easy recipe and consistently impresses whether it's friends coming over or I'm just feeding my husband. Once you make this recipe, I'm confident it will become part of your rotation.

Barefoot Contessa Baked Shrimp Scampi
6 servings

2 lbs. (12-15/pound) shrimp in the shell
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp dry white wine
salt and pepper
1 1/2 stick butter, room temperature
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced shallots
3 tbsps minced fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsps fresh lemon juice
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup panko

Preheat oven to 425ยบ.

Peel, devein and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails intact. Place in a mixing bowl and mix lightly with the olive oil, wine, 2 tsps salt and 1 tsp pepper. Let the bowl sit at room temperature, marinating, while mixing the butter/garlic/panko mixture.
In another bowl, mix the butter, garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper until well combined.

Arrange the shrimp in a single layer in the gratin dish, cut side down with the tails pointing up. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp and evenly sprinkle the topping over the shrimp.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the shrimp are thoroughly cooked and pink.