Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hot, Hot, Hot

Here's my July column from the Petaluma Post:

Hot, hot ,hot…or at least we hope so!  As I sit here in June to write my July article we have actually had two days of sunshine in a row.  By the time you read this I am hoping that summer is here and we are all enjoying the warmth.  So often with hot weather we don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen cooking.  Hopefully you are out beside the BBQ enjoying time with your friends and family.  I thought it would be a great time to share some of my summer time favorites.

Fruit salad is so often just a stand by, however with some new twists you came make it pop.  One of my favorites is fresh peaches with melon, mint and lime.  Peaches can be a bit tricky to work with, they will turn brown if you do not toss them with a bit of lime juice.

Peach, Mint & Melon Salad
8 peaches, sliced
1 small Honeydew, sliced to match
2 sprigs mint
1 lime, Juice of

Julienne the mint, toss all ingredients together and serve chilled.  For a great seated salad serve up in a martini glass- Wow!

Another great fruit to work with is Watermelon.  With its hearty texture it can stand up well to big flavors.  Would you think of watermelon and feta?  It is incredible.

Watermelon & Feta Salad
1 small seedless watermelon, large dice
½ c crumbled feta
1 c wild arugula
¼ c balsamic
½ c olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Make a vinaigrette out of the balsamic and olive oil.  Toss the watermelon with arugula and feta together, then dress to taste with balsamic, and season with salt and pepper.  Serve Chilled.  Try this one with half red and half yellow watermelon.

My favorite summer fruit is apricots.  I remember growing up; my grandparents in Sacramento had an ancient apricot tree.  Mid summer, usually 4th of July we would go over and climb the tree to pick them.  I could eat them still warm from the sun till I had a stomach ache. One of my favorite simple summer time Hors d’oeuvres is



Blue Cheese Stuffed Apricots
10 fresh ripe apricots. ½ or ¼ depending on size
4-6 oz Point Reyes blue cheese
1 T honey

Split the apricots open and cut to bite size pieces.  Place a small chunk of the blue cheese in the spot where the seed should be, then drizzle with honey.  Simple, fresh and delicious.

Fresh corn is just coming into season and we always have it at a cook out, however what to do with the left over ears?  You have it, it is cooked (boiled or grilled are both great for this recipe) why not think of it in a salad.

Corn & Arugula Salad
2 c cooked corn kernels
1 c wild baby arugula leaves (my favorite but any would work)
1 large red onion, wilted & sliced (sautéed or grilled will work)
¼ c grated or shaved parmesan
¼ c sherry vinegar
½ c olive oil
2 t honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the sherry, olive oil and honey with the salt and pepper for your vinaigrette.  Then combine all the other ingredients, toss and dress.  This salad would be great with the addition of some of my favorites, such as blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes, and extra grilled veggies.  Some grilled chicken would be a great touch too.  Maybe you already have some of these left over from the same barbeque as the corn.

This is an excellent use for Sherry Vinegar.  You might recall last month I wrote briefly about vinegars and promised to elaborate in my blog.  Sherry Vinegar was the first entry in my “Vinegar Chronicles”; see my June 6th blog for this one.  Blog.sonomcaterers.com

Tri tip is a classic to grill here in northern California, but you know you usually have an extra one after everyone has eaten.  If it is not made into sandwiches it is perfect for a classic steak salad with a twist.

Steak Panzanella Salad
1 c tri tip julienne
½ c cherry tomatoes
1 head romaine, shredded
2 oz blue cheese crumbles
4 slices hearty bread

 Vinaigrette
¼ c balsamic
½ olive oil
1 T honey
Salt and pepper to taste

The twist to this salad is making it a panzanella. Panzanella is a classic Italian bread salad.  However many restaurants dry their bread too much and it comes out crunchy like a crouton.  What you want to do is brush with olive oil and grill the bread till just marked on both sides.  It should be just crisp and firm to the bite.  Dice in to large chunks.

Combine all ingredients and dress with vinaigrette.  This salad is best prepped and eaten immediately; you don’t want the bread to get either stale or soggy.

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