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Posts Tagged ‘Summer Salads’

When did fruit salads fall out of favor? Exactly when did they universally become a bowl of underripe cantaloupe, watermelon chunks, tasteless strawberries, hard pineapple and red grapes? What happened to those intricately carved watermelons that looked like baskets or whales filled with fresh, flavorful fruit and the judicious use of a melon baller? Remember when you could order a fruit salad on a restaurant menu and it was good? As a kid I used to make really elaborate fruit salads, prettily fanned out on a plate in mosaic patterns with a bowl of berry yogurt in the center for dipping. I haven’t done that in years. I think it’s time to reclaim the damn fruit salad.

I have an abundance of peaches at the moment, the result of my brilliant idea to get a summer subscription of Georgia peaches. They are wonderful, truly wonderful, but I can’t seem to get through a shipment before the next one arrives and that’s created a bit of a backlog. First world problems, yes, I know. I’ve made ice cream and sorbets, a pie or two and last night a really wonderful salad with salty cheese and a mint vinaigrette. A delight. The best fruit salad I’ve had in a long, long while.

The peaches are not my only abundance problem right now. The mint in my garden plot is rather plentiful. No, that doesn’t quite adequately describe what is happening. My mint is a beast that requires an aggressive trim at least twice a week to beat it into submission. I’m constantly looking for things to do with it as one cannot live on mojitos alone (news flash). I love mint + peaches so I dug up a vinaigrette recipe I haven’t made in far too long. A bunch of mint, bright lime, a bit of honey; it is lovely and exceptionally good with summer stone fruits. 

Anyway, I was thinking some salty feta would be a nice addition but a trip to the farmers market had me throwing a favorite cheese into my bag from a WI vendor called Brunkow. I just call it “Brunkow Cheese” but technically it’s a ‘juustoleipa” – a mild, salty, firm, sort of bouncy cheese from Finland that holds up to heat. It reminds me a lot of halloumi or the Greek kasseri. You grill or pan fry to get a toasty crust and a melty center. If you can find this type of cheese in your store, by all means use it, otherwise look for the more readily available halloumi or kasseri as it essentially works the same. Toasty melty salty cheese, mint and peaches are a wonderful combination, especially on these hot days when you really don’t feel much like eating anything.

STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: COOL RUNNINGS. I’m not even entirely sure what I mean by that but I’ve watched 1,764 hours of Olympic coverage in the fist six days and the Jamaican bobsled team is on my mind tonight. Weird, I know. But really, I think the gist is it’s hot and I don’t feel like eating a damn thing and yet, this salad went down really well. Fresh, bright, easy and refreshing; it’s all that summer food should be.

additional peach recipes: Roasted Peach Sour Cream Ice CreamPeach Buttermilk Ice CreamPeach SorbettoPeach Frozen CustardPeach Blackberry CobblerGinger Peach Hand PiesPeach PandowdyPeach CrostadaBourbon Peach Rugelah

twelve years ago: Tart Tips & Tart DoughSour Cherry Sorbet

eleven years agoBetty’s Pies exploring Minnesota

ten years agoLife in Southwest France

nine years agoBastille Day Bomb PopsSour Cherry Slab Pie

eight years agoSpicy Pineapple PaletasHungarian Cherry Soup

seven years agoGuinness Crème Anglaise

six years agoBlender Gazpacho  

five years agoBlueberries & Cream PopsiclesBeef Bulgogi & Rice Cake SkewersThai Grilled Coconut Rice & Banana

four years agoSalmon Rilettes

three years agoGreek Salad Piadini Sandwiches

two years agoStrawberry Mascarpone Galette

last yearPico de Gallo White Bean SaladSimple Summer Fruit Tarts

PEACHES, HALLOUMI & MINT VINAGRETTE

Serves 2-3

Ripe, juicy peaches are pretty important for this one. This would also work well with nectarines, plums and probably even apricots. I might even consider plump, sweet cherries. I sometimes also like a sprinkle of Tajin on the peaches, that lime-chili-salt stuff that is weirdly addictive (I use Rancho Gordo’s version.)

for the mint vinaigrette:

¼ cup roughly chopped fresh mint (10g)

3 Tablespoons lime juice

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar 

1 Tablespoon honey

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 tsp coarse ground pepper

⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil

for the salad:

2 ripe peaches, pitted and thinly sliced

½ pound halloumi or kasseri (or juustoleipa cheese if you can find it)

Optional additions: arugula, Tajin (or cayenne)

  1. For the vinaigrette: add mint, lime juice, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a blender and process until smooth-ish.
  2. With the blender on low, drizzle in the olive oil and run until emulsified. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. It will be on the thin side. Set aside until needed. Vinaigrette is best within a few hours but will keep refrigerated for a few days though the freshness of the mint tends to fade a bit over time.
  3. For the salad: Leave the cheese in big pieces so it’s easier to handle, one or two pieces.
  4. Preheat a grill or or a dry non-stick pan over medium to medium high then cook the cheese until lightly browned and crusty on the outside and warm and melty on the inside. If in doubt, go with the lower temperature as the cheese will brown very quickly on a higher heat before it gets soft and melty on the inside.
  5. Cut the warm cheese into pieces.
  6. Divide the peaches and warm halloumi between two plates and drizzle a spoonful or two of the vinaigrette on top. 
  7. If desired, top with a sprinkle or two of tajin (or a pinch of cayenne) and a sprig of fresh mint. For more of a salad, placed the peaches and cheese on a bed of arugula.
  8. Serve immediately while the cheese is warm.

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Even before this pandemic began, I was a bean hoarder. You see, I’ve got a real thing for Rancho Gordo, those utterly delicious heirloom beans. They are fantastic and live up to all the hype. I’ve bought them in stores, I’ve ordered them online, I’ve received them as gifts. I even went to the home base in Napa, CA … and bought more beans. Back in October, I received an email that their Bean Club was open to new subscribers. This rarely happens. There’s a 5,000 person waiting list and somehow, I had the golden ticket. I’d passed on it once, years ago, and wasn’t going to let it happen again. On a whim, I quickly joined and a month later, a box with 6lbs of beautiful beans arrived in the mail. It was glorious. A few months later in the midst of a nationwide lockdown when everyone was clamoring for beans, and these beans in particular, my little whim seemed pretty damn smart.

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It’s hot. I was in France last week and it was hot. I came back to Chicago, and it was hot. So damn hot. In this kind of weather I don’t have much of an appetite, not that it slowed me down much in France (copious amounts of cold rosé certainly helped) but back home, my dinners have been a bit lackluster. Truth be told, I decided the other day I wasn’t going to eat much else besides fresh sweet corn and cold watermelon for rest of the month.

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“Street Food” has been a big, hot food trend for the last few years with everyone and their brother doing some sort of riff. In the right circumstances, it can be a wondrous thing. On a late night in Bangkok, I had the best fried chicken of my life made in a wok perched on the back of a bicycle. The scenery was gorgeous, the cooking set-up was unbelievable and stunningly resourceful and the chicken is something I still dream about. If it hadn’t been 3am when I got back to my hotel, I would have gone back for more. I’ve eaten freshly fried samosas wrapped in newspaper from an Indian doorway, bite size water buffalo dumplings from a giant steamer set up in a Nepalese courtyard and countless tacos from beach peddlers. They were all spectacular. My best travel memories often involve food.

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During the summer when it’s hot and I’m lazy, I don’t do a lot of involved, complicated cooking. Well, not as often as in the cooler months. I’m still prone to wacky things, like making French onion soup in July when the craving hits because what are you going to do? But most of the time I just sort of throw things together with stuff from my garden or farmers market purchases. Simple, fresh ingredients that taste best served really cold lead the list.

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Three things signal the height of summer produce like nothing else: sweet corn, tomatoes and peaches. Three of my very favorite things. That they all show up about the same time around here is an opportunity for rejoicing. This is when the summer BBQ season really peaks, when pie crusts get rolling and a regular dinner around here is nothing more than 2 or 3 ears of corn with butter, salt and pepper. I eat an ungodly amount of corn in these few short weeks.

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Earlier this summer I went to a rather fabulous farm dinner event at Rustic Road Farm in Elburn, IL.  Yes, Elburn.  Head east of downtown Chicago during rush hour and it’ll take you two hours.  The farther you go, the more the landscape changes from highways and subdivisions to fields and fields of corn and soybeans, dotted with the occasional red barn. Eventually, you hang a right and end up at Chef Marc Bernard’s farm, Rustic Road.  I was in heaven and it took all I had to get back in my car and drive back into chaos.

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