Three Tomato Three Pepper Salad

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IMHO, three of the best things about summer are these:

1. fresh, local, tiny, sugary, fragrant strawberries

2. fresh, local, plump, fragrant peaches and nectarines

3. fresh, local (like my garden!), tender, fragrant tomatoes.

Yes, you can get strawberries, peaches and tomatoes all year, but they don't taste like strawberries, peaches and tomatoes.

So feast now, while the feast lasts. This fruit is perfect, as-is, without anything. Not one of them needs sugar or salt or dressing or whipped cream. On the other hand -- if you have a hankering for more, try these:

1. chocolate dipped strawberries

2. Roasted Nectarines with Oat Crumbles

3. This salad:

 

THREE TOMATO THREE PEPPER SALAD

  • 4 cups halved mixed cherry or grape tomatoes, or cut up regular tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 2 finely chopped scallions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut up the tomatoes and place them in a bowl. Place the Sichuan peppercorns in an unoiled pan and cook over medium heat, shaking the pan often, for about 2 minutes, or until they are fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat and crush the peppercorns on a flat surface with a rolling pan or with the bottom of a glass or mug. Sprinkle the crushed Sichuan peppercorns over the tomatoes. Add the Aleppo pepper, scallions, mint and garlic and toss the ingredients. Whisk together the olive oil, wine vinegar and mustard and pour over the tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Toss ingredients. Let rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

Roasted Nectarines or Peaches with Oat-Almond Crumbles

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Mistakes happen. Sometimes it works out well.

Take this dessert, for example. I wanted to grill peach halves and serve them with whipped cream and some sort of crunchy topping. But I couldn't find good peaches, so I bought nectarines. But they weren't freestone, and when I tried to cut the fruit in half the flesh clung to the pit.

No halves.

I had to cut the nectarines into pieces.

That meant no grilling. So I roasted the pieces instead.

All I can say is I wish I had more of this dessert. It was so good that a recipe that is supposed enough servings to feed 8 people only served 4.

But maybe you will all be more abstemious.

 

Roasted Nectarines with Oat-Almond Crumbles

Oat-Almond Crumbles:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix the flour, almonds, oats, brown sugar, salt and melted butter. Spoon the mixture onto a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Roasted Nectarines and Cream:

  • 8 firm, but ripe nectarines or peaches
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the nectarines into chunks and discard the pits. Place the chunks in a bowl. Add the melted butter and all but one teaspoon of the sugar. Place the fruit on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes to caramelize the fruit. Place equal quantities of the baked fruit on serving dishes. Whip the cream with the remaining teaspoon sugar and the vanilla extract until it is thick. Top the fruit with equal amounts of whipped cream. Scatter the crumbles equally on top.

Makes 8 servings (unless you can't control yourself, in which case, maybe 4-6)

Blueberry Yogurt Pie

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When life gives you blueberries you make pie. Also crisp, cake, muffins, jam, soup, tea bread.

The possibilities are awesome.

So recently, when I had lots of extra blueberries hanging around I decided to make cream pie. Sort of. There's no cream in it. This dessert actually began with an old recipe of my Mom's. Her version was made with dairy sour cream. I used plain (non-fat) yogurt. Hers had raspberries, mine was to be blueberries, which are sweeter than raspberries so I cut down on the sugar.

It is still mighty sweet! Enough to satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth. But also cool, creamy and refreshing and nice for anytime you want a rich dairy dessert.

Blueberry Yogurt Pie

Crust:

  • 1-1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons chilled shortening
  • milk (about 3 tablespoons) orange juice, or water

Mix the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Work the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until the ingredients resemble crumbs (use your hands, a pastry blender or the pulse feature of a food processor). Add the liquid and gather the pastry into a soft ball of dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it stand at least 30 minutes. Roll the dough on a floured pastry board and fit into a 9-inch pie pan. 

Filling:

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Beat the eggs and sugar in a mixer set at medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until thick, well blended and pale yellow. Add the cooled melted butter and yogurt and mix briefly to blend them into the batter. Add the flour, orange peel and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Place the blueberries inside the unbaked pie crust. Pour the batter over the berries. Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and the filling set.

 Makes 8 servings

 

 

 

Eggplant, Mashed Potato and Portobello Gratin

Whenever I need a meatless or dairy meal -- for a meatless Monday (or any other day of the week when I am not in the mood for meat), or for during the Nine Days, or a Yom Kippur Break-the-Fast, or during Passover -- this is one of the recipes I turn to. It's filling enough for dinner (served with a salad) yet not heavy.

Another benefit? Set it up ahead and bake just before you need it.

I change the recipe occasionally, because -- why not! This dish is versatile. Sometimes I use zucchini instead of or together with eggplant. Sometimes I add feta cheese or a layer of cooked kale or spinach or some cooked carrots. But basically this is it.

 

Eggplant, Mashed Potato and Portobello gratin

  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes
  • 3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 medium eggplant (or 2 medium zucchini)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large Portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven broiler or outdoor grill. Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks and cook them in simmering water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and mash them in the pot. Stir in 1/2 cup of Swiss cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and the eggs. Season lightly with salt and pepper. While the potatoes are cooking, trim the ends from the eggplant. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Brush both sides with the olive oil. Broil or grill the eggplant for 2-3 minutes per side or until softened and lightly browned. Place half the eggplant slices in a rectangular baking dish. Cover with the mashed potatoes. Layer the remaining eggplant on top. Slice the mushroom caps about 1/4-inch thick and place them on top of the eggplant. Slice the tomatoes and place them over the mushrooms. Scatter the basil and parsley on top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook for 45 minutes or until crispy and lightly browned on top.

Makes 8-10 servings

 

Two Cabbage Cole Slaw

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We're now in the dog days of summer.

Cole slaw weather.

I remember my grandmother making the stuff by hand. She used one of those old grater/shredders and by the time she was done preparing the cabbage and carrots, her hands were rough and red.

This recipe was much easier. It's basically hers, except I use two kinds of cabbage, which I think makes the dish prettier.

And of course, I use a food processor (slicing disc). Better on the hands! Much less time. Much less mess. Tastes the same as I remember.

TWO CABBAGE COLE SLAW

  • 6 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 3 medium carrots, shredded
  • 2 scallions, shredded
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the cabbages, carrots and scallions in a large bowl and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, sugar and celery seed together and pour over the vegetables. Toss the ingredients, sprinkle with salt pepper to taste. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings

 

Grilled Asparagus Salad

When the weather is hot and sticky I find myself yearning for fruits and vegetables, not meat. I want salads, cold rice or noodles. Easy food, easy to prepare, easy to digest.

I recently had some grilled asparagus left over and used them for salad the next day. This dish was the perfect accompaniment to a rice salad that had other leftover vegetables in it!

 

Grilled Asparagus Salad

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups mixed cut up salad greens
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue or feta cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat an outdoor grill (or turn oven to 450 degrees). Trim the asparagus and place them in a shallow dish. Pour about 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over the asparagus and roll the spears to coat them evenly. Grill the spears, turning them once or twice, for 5-8 minutes, depending on thickness. Cut the spears into bite size pieces and place in a salad bowl. Add the salad greens, tomatoes and cheese and toss the ingredients. Mix the remaining olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and mustard and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss and taste. Add more vinegar to taste. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings

Grilled Baby Vidalias

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During the summer my family likes grilled everything. 

Like these gorgeous baby Vidalia onions. I bought some recently. They are a perfect side dish for whatever else I make for dinner (also on the grill). 

They are among the easiest side dishes I have ever prepared.

Just a few simple ingredients. You can do this with spring garlic, thick scallions too.

Whatever you're grilling for the 4th of July -- this goes with it.

Grilled Baby Vidalia Onions

  • 1 bunch of baby Vidalia onions (5-6), or use baby leeks or thick scallions
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • sea salt

Preheat and outdoor grill or grill pan to medium-high. Trim the onions but leave enough of the root intact so the leaves don't come apart. Rub the olive oil over the surface of the onions. Place the onions on the grill and cook for about 8 minutes, turning them occasionally to cook all sides. After the first turn, sprinkle the onions with the lemon juice and Aleppo pepper. When the onions are browned and tender, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Bat Mitzvah Chocolate Cake

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Today is the anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah. It took place a LONG time ago! In the 1950s to tell you the truth.

Back in the day Bat Mitzvahs were not such a thing. In fact, I was the first girl from our newly established synagogue to reach this momentous occasion.

I have to confess, our rabbi mentioned the notion when we first joined the synagogue and I told my parents I wanted to learn some Hebrew and prayers and do whatever I had to, not so much because I had any particular religious feelings, nor was it because I wanted a big party -- the big themed events we see today didn't exist back then -- but because my two older brothers had Bar Mitzvahs and I couldn't understand why a girl wouldn't be treated equally.

My mother always said that when I was born I came out a feminist.

Still am. (So was she.)

Girls are equal to boys, women to men. Let's not even contest that one.

Still, my brothers did have a Saturday Shabbat service Bar Mitzvah and I was only allowed to have one on Friday night. I was content with that, it was a start.

We had a small party at home. I was allowed to invite one friend, and of course my family was there -- aunts, uncles, cousins, including my cousin Leslie, who, to this day, is like a sister.

I remember my dress: white with red and black lines. 

I don't remember what my Mother made for food.

But I do remember dessert. Because I made it: a dark chocolate cake with fudge frosting.

I didn't keep the recipe. I don't actually know whose recipe I used. I just remember what it looked like and that it tasted fabulous and that I made the cake for my own Bat Mitzvah.

So today I celebrate with Chocolate Cake. This one is a riff on the famous Hershey Black Cake with a few changes to make it dairy-free, less sweet and more to my tastes (you can change the frosting to dairy using 12 tablespoons of butter in place of the coconut milk and coconut oil). 

This is a good cake for a festive occasion, even one's own Bat Mitzvah.

Black Chocolate Cake

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • water
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup strong, cooled coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 3 9-inch cake pans. Pour the lemon juice into a liquid (pitcher) measuring cup and add enough water to measure one cup. Set aside. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix at low speed to combine the ingredients. Add the eggs, the lemon-water, coffee, vegetable oil and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, or until well combined and smooth. Pour equal amounts of the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes. Invert the layers onto a cake rack to cool completely. Frost and serve.

Makes 8-10 servings

Frosting

  • 1-1/2 cups dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • pinch of salt

Place the chocolate chips, coconut milk and coconut oil in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until the chips have melted and the mixture is smooth and uniform. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Let cool, whisking the ingredients occasionally. Refrigerate until firm enough to be spreadable.

 

Roasted Lemony Brussels Sprouts

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My husband once told me that if I ever made Brussels Sprouts for dinner he would want a divorce.

So, none of that particular vegetable for at least 10-12 years into the marriage.

Then I got an assignment from a food editor at the paper I wrote for, to do an article on --- Brussels Sprouts. I made several recipes.

We hate food waste at our house, so Ed tried them all.

Surprise! He loved them all.

It's been a Brussels Sprouts bonanza ever since. Turns out this is one of his favorite vegetables.

So I am making this for Father's Day.

 

Roasted Lemony Brussels Sprouts

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon peel
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half (or smaller, depending on size) and wash under cold water. Drain and place the Brussels sprouts on the parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and lemon peel and pour over the vegetable. Toss the Brussels sprouts to coat all of them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 15-18 minutes, turning the sprouts once or twice during roasting, or until tender and lightly golden brown.

Make 4-6 servings

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

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A few weeks ago I took a quickie trip to Berlin with my daughter. We took a stroll through the Turkish outdoor market, where I saw someone selling a gorgeous hunk of feta cheese, scattered with sundried tomatoes and olives, seasoned with herbs and sprinkled with a drizzle of olive oil.

I noted the ingredients and took a photo. 

It looked so delicious that the moment I saw this cheese thing I knew I had to make it at home.

I did.

It is as good as I thought it would be. I served it to guests last weekend.

They raved.

Here's the recipe. 

Herbed Feta Cheese with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

  • 1/2 pound feta cheese
  • 3 sundried tomatoes in oil
  • 8-10 imported black pitted olives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cut the feta cheese into thick slices and place on a serving dish. Chop the sundried tomatoes and scatter them over the cheese. Scatter the olives around the cheese and dish. Scatter the parsley over the ingredients and sprinkle with the oregano and some Aleppo pepper to taste. Drizzle the olive oil on top.

Makes 8-10 servings