Monthly Archives: July 2015

Sugar Spice and Everything Nice

You purchased some ripe tomatoes and cool cucumbers from the farmers’ market.  While you are enjoying summer’s bounty of vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper and perhaps some fresh basil, you may be seeking new ways to prepare these summertime treats.

If this sounds familiar, check out Sugar Spice and Everything Nice, a business out of Dover, Delaware, selling a myriad of mixes to enhance vegetables and fruits as well as fish and meats.  Visit the online shop at http://www.shopforsugarandspice.com or browse the mixes at a Delaware farmers’ market (the market schedule is listed on the website).

Owner Tina Bradbury offers dip, pickling and cocktail mixes in addition to meat rubs.  Perhaps you wish to make your own bread and butter pickles for grilled burgers…Sugar Spice has a mix for you!

I combined the guacamole mix with some fresh tomatoes and avocado and the roasted garlic and herb mix with olive oil and found both tasty.  Each mix comes with recipe suggestions and instructions, yet you can be creative.  For example, as I am generally not a fan of sour cream and mayonnaise based dips, I would consider blending some of the herb mixes into hummus or into butter to season chicken or fish.

This just scratches the surface of Sugar Spice’s products.  Discover them for yourself this summer…and happy mixing!

Garlic mix

Close Up – Real or Fairy Tale?

Contemplating over coffee…how to prepare these fairy tale eggplant to accompany tonight’s dinner?

Eggplant 2

These tiny eggplant are less bitter and have fewer seeds than their larger counterparts.  So, simple is best to showcase their flavor…perhaps the garlic will overpower.  I will slice them in half lengthwise and sauté in olive oil for just a few minutes, making sure to rotate in the nonstick pan.  After the eggplant become tender and nicely browned, while still on the heat, I will season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, add fresh oregano and toss with a splash of balsamic vinegar glaze.

In response to Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Close Up

If You Can’t Stand the Heat

…step away from the stove, close the oven door and extinguish the grill…at least while you prepare the “cool” recipes in this summer month column.  All that you will need is fresh fruit, a blender and a few other ingredients that most home chefs have on hand.

The fruit purées below make a refreshing appetizer or dessert course, and I offer two presentations for these summer sweets.  One is to spoon a portion of each purée into a shallow soup or pasta bowl – preferably, a simple, white bowl to showcase the fruits’ vibrant colors.  The purées have a rather thin consistency, so make sure that the different colors do not run together.  Drizzle heavy cream in a circular pattern over the purées, and use a knife to pull the cream out from the center in attractive rays.

Mélange of fruit purées with heavy cream.

Mélange of fruit purées with heavy cream.

Another option for serving these colorful treats is to spoon them into clear espresso glasses.  Make the most of your herb garden by garnishing each purée with a different herb.  I used basil for the kiwi, lavender for the cantaloupe and mint for the strawberry.

Flight of fruit purées.

Flight of fruit purées.

You do not need to adhere to the flavors below.  Feel free to substitute your favorite summer fruits – cherries, apricots, plums, honeydew…’tis the season.  Each of the below recipes makes approximately 2 1/2 cups of purée.  Simply combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth, and remember to stir the purées before serving.

Cantaloupe Purée

1 cantaloupe, cut into small chunks

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Pinch of sea salt

Pinch of nutmeg

Strawberry Purée

1 quart strawberries, hulled

Fresh lemon juice to taste

Sugar to taste

Kiwi Purée

12 kiwi, peeled and cut into small chunks

Fresh lemon juice to taste

Sugar to taste

White Peach Purée

6 white peaches, peeled and cut into slices (If the peaches are not quite ripe, soften them by blanching.)

Lemon juice to taste

Sugar to taste

So, stay in the kitchen and start puréeing!

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of The Journal of the Delaware State Bar Association, a publication of the Delaware State Bar Association. Copyright © Delaware State Bar Association 2015.  All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Mara de Bois: Thoughts on a Special Strawberry

I could spend days strolling through the weekly market in the French town of Vaison-la-Romaine.  The vendors at this open air marché sell food and wares from sardines to soap, from Morbier to mattresses.  Of all the treasures on display in this maze of stalls, the Mara de Bois – the strawberry that is like a large ruby – is the most precious.

This flavorful gem is smaller and rounder than other varieties, and my husband and I were lured by its sweet perfume.  The merchant offered us a taste, and the aromatic sugar cube melted on my tongue.  Of the two pints we purchased, one made it back to the house.  It took all of my will power to save the other for dessert.  (The tiny berries are so delicate that you must consume them within hours of purchase; at least, that is what I told myself as I popped the juicy candies into my mouth.)

There was no need to stop at the confiserie after our trip to the market.  The Mara de Bois is a natural confection.  And, that evening’s dessert was the simplest I have ever prepared – two petite bowls of Mara de Bois.  No honey, no whipped cream, and certainly, no sugar.

An Herb-Filled Day

From breakfast to dinner, make the most of your herb garden this Saturday or Sunday…

Breakfast: Add herbs to your scrambled eggs.  In a bowl, crack two eggs per person and whisk.  Stir in a generous splash of milk or cream and add as many roughly chopped herbs as you would enjoy.  Consider different varieties of basil, Christmas basil (with purple flowers) and sweet basil, for example, chives and hot and spicy oregano.  In a nonstick pan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and scramble the egg mixture.

Eggs and Herbs

Lunch: Slice some colorful heirloom tomatoes and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar glaze.  Season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt.  Then sprinkle with a chiffonade of basil and oregano.  Savor with some crusty bread.

IMG_1650

Dinner: Stuff a whole fish, such as sea bream, branzino or steelhead salmon, with a generous bunch of fresh herbs.  Lemon thyme, lemon verbena and rosemary are all good choices.  Grill the fish in a pocket of aluminum foil after drizzling with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon or lime.

Steelhead salmon

Strawberry Rickey

For a twist on this classic cocktail, try a Strawberry Rickey featuring one of summer’s most beloved fruits.  This recipe also includes Crème de Frais de Bois – the liqueur made from France’s sweet, wild strawberries.

Ingredients

3 strawberries

2 ounces vodka

1 ounce lime juice

1 splash Crème de Frais de Bois (I enjoy the G.E. Massenez brand.)

Seltzer water

Lime slice

Hull the strawberries and muddle in the bottom of a highball glass.  Fill the glass with ice.  Then add the other ingredients, except for the lime slice, and stir.  Garnish with the lime slice.

Strawberry Rickey

Wax Beans and Fingerlings – A Crisp Summer Side

One of my favorite vegetables is the wax bean, and I am happy to see them appearing at local farm stands and produce markets.  Last night, I prepared these lovely pale yellow string beans, along with fingerling potatoes, to accompany Provençal stuffed tomatoes.

My recipe is straightforward – simply slice off the ends and steam the beans for about three minutes (just enough for them to retain their crispness).  Then, run the beans under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Arrange the wax beans down the center of a large, flat serving dish, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Season with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt.

To prepare the potatoes, slice on a bias and boil until soft enough to put a fork through; then, drain and toss with extra virgin olive oil, fresh cracked pepper and sea salt.  Arrange the fingerlings along both sides of the wax beans.

For some color and enhanced flavor, I garnished the vegetables with herbs from my herb garden…chives on the potatoes and lemon thyme and a sprig of rosemary on the beans.

Serve at room temperature for a cool, refreshing side to meat or fish.

Wax beans

4th of July BBQ Brunch

Your menu is likely set for your 4th of July cookout or picnic…but what about a weekend brunch? Try a twist on steak and eggs – flank steak topped with eggs poached in salsa. Eggs in Salsa You will find the full recipe for this perfect summertime dish in my article entitled “East Egg, West Egg” (the link is https://cucinadipoppiti.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/june-2013-judicial-palate.pdf).  I recently prepared this dish for one of my cooking classes, and it was a hit due to its simplicity and taste.  My students and I used a combination of pineapple salsa and peach salsa to achieve the perfect balance – the pineapple had a pleasant sweetness while the peach offered a little kick. Steak and Eggs Happy 4th of July!