Mint Chocolate Sorbet #frozenfridays

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For the month of August, it’s #frozenfridays here on the blog. Every Friday I’ll be posting about a frozen treat. So far, I’ve featured Thai iced tea popsicleslime popsicles, and passion fruit-pineapple popsicles. This week: mint chocolate sorbet!

I have a confession to make. I’m not really into the whole mint and chocolate combination. I’ve never disliked it, exactly, but it’s never been one of those things I crave. Mint chocolate chip has always been my father’s favorite flavor of ice cream, but ever since I was a kid, I could take it or leave it. I’m lukewarm on York Peppermint Patties, too. And while, I, like just about everyone else I know can inhale a sleeve of Thin Mints, I was always more likely to break into a box of Tagalongs or Samoas or even the less popular but addictively salty Do-Si-Dos.

I feel like that makes me sound incredibly unfun.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But wait! Don’t give up on me yet.

I’ve found a place where I don’t just tolerate the combination, but where I actively seek it out. In fact, it’s one of my favorite sorbets ever.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I used to think sorbets should stick to fruit flavors and that flavors like chocolate were merely pale imitations of ice cream intended to appease the low-fat crowd. But this mint chocolate sorbet, which is my spin on David Lebovitz’s chocolate sorbet from his excellent ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop, feels every bit as satisfying as a chocolate ice cream. In fact, it feels deeper and more intensely chocolatey, because there’s no dairy to blunt the chocolate flavor.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It gets its intensity from both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate and, I think this is key, it gets its mint flavor from real fresh mint leaves. There’s no artificial mint extract to be found here. The flavor is natural and light and refreshing.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

The mint leaves go into a pot with some water and sugar and glucose syrup (optional, but helps the texture) which is brought to a boil to dissolve the sugar and then covered and removed from the heat to steep for 20 minutes.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Then the mint gets strained out, the cocoa powder gets whisked in, and it goes back to a boil to bloom the cocoa powder to bring out it’s flavor. Then that all gets poured over chopped bittersweet chocolate, which gets all melty and then gets stirred in.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Then the whole thing goes into the refrigerator to chill down overnight. The next day it gets processed in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you could pour the chilled mixture over ice for a fantastic cold chocolate drink (like hot chocolate, but for the summertime).

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netMint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

After it’s processed, the sorbet gets packed into containers and goes into the freezer. And then, well, then, it gets eaten.

Mint Chocolate Sorbet. An intensely rich and chocolatey sorbet with a refreshing hint of garden mint. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netmintchocolatesorbet20

Mint Chocolate Sorbet

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop (one of my all-time favorite ice cream books)

This mint chocolate sorbet made me come around on the mint chocolate flavor pairing. It’s dark and intensely chocolatey. The fresh mint keeps the flavor natural. You can use either semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. I usually use bittersweet, which is the darker of the two. If you like things on the sweeter side, go with semisweet chocolate here. I like to use glucose syrup in my sorbets to help keep them a bit softer and more scoopable. You can substitute corn syrup (I don’t think it’s evil when used in moderation in the occasional homemade dessert) or you can replace it with the same amount of sugar. Be sure to chill the mixture down until it’s very cold (it won’t freeze properly in the ice cream maker if it isn’t at or below 40ºF). If you don’t want to wait till the next day to have your sorbet, you can speed up the chilling process by pouring the mixture into a zip top bag and submerging it in an ice bath. It should be cold enough to process after about 30 minutes.

2 1/4 cups (555 ml) water
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1/4 cup (80 g) glucose syrup or corn syrup
1 cup packed mint leaves (approximate)
3/4 cup (75 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process), sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (170 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped in small pieces
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan add the sugar and the mint leaves. Gently press the mint leaves into the sugar to help extract the oils. Add 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) of the water and all of the glucose or corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for about 20 minutes. Strain out the mint leaves and discard.

Return the mint syrup mixture to the saucepan, add the cocoa powder, and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once it reaches a boil, keep it boiling for about 1 minute, stirring all the while. Remove from heat.

Place the chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl. Pour the mint and cocoa mixture over the chocolate and let sit for a few minutes to melt the chocolate, then whisk until the chocolate is thoroughly melted and mixed in.

Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup (180 ml) water and the vanilla extract. Chill the mixture overnight (or pour the mixture into a zip top bag and submerge in an ice bath for 30 minutes), until it reaches 40°F or below. Sometimes the mixture develops a thick layer on the top as it chills overnight–just whisk it in before you add it to the ice cream maker. Process in an ice cream maker.

Eat.

Yield: About 1 quart

Bacon Cheddar Scones

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Bacon. Cheddar. Scones. Those three little words tell you all you really need to know about this savory breakfast pastry.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

During my many years as a vegetarian, I heard many many meat-eaters wax on about the wonders of bacon and claim that they could never endure life without it. To be honest, it was one of those refrains that was so common it became tedious.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But, there’s a reason that sentiment is so oft repeated. Bacon is delicious. I could endure (and indeed have endured) plenty of years without it, but now that it’s back in my life I realize it brings just the right hit of salt, smoke, fat, and umami to certain dishes that nothing else can quite replace.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

In these scones, bacon, along with cheddar cheese and chives, get added to a rich buttery batter that’s tenderized with buttermilk.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

They get patted into a square, wrapped up tightly, and go into the refrigerator for a rest for a couple of hours. Then they get cut into rectangles, placed on a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet, rewrapped, and go into the freezer for an overnight slumber.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

These resting periods allow the flour to hydrate and the flavors to develop. They also make the scones much easier to shape. If you’ve ever fought with a soft sticky scone batter and ended up with more of it on your hands than in the pan (ahem) the chilling and freezing technique is revelatory. Yes, it takes some planning ahead, but it’s not actually extra work and it saves plenty of frustration.

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

They come from Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery cookbook, which is a book that often reads more like a pastry instruction manual than a book for home bakers, which is probably a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. It has precise, detailed instructions along with tips for professionals sprinkled throughout. It’s a great book for home bakers looking to further develop their technique, but may not be the best book for someone who’s just starting out.

I’d had my eye on these for a few months, but I didn’t want to make them because I suspected that having a dozen of them around would be dangerous (I was right). So I brought them with me to a brunch at my friend Kelly’s place where I got to hang out with her adorable still-very-new son, Stuart, and a bunch of fun ladies.

I recommend making these when you can share them, unless you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like bacon… or cheese… or fun…

Bacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netBacon Cheddar Scones! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Bacon Cheddar Scones

Adapted from Thomas Keller and Sebastian Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery

These scones make a great savory addition to the breakfast or brunch table. They’d be great along side (or sandwiched around) some eggs. Keller and Rouxel say this is the most popular scone at Bouchon, and I’m not surprised. I like to use Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, which I’ve found at Urban Orchard and Gene’s Sausage Shop in Chicago, but I’m pretty sure any bacon you like will be just fine. These do need to be started a day ahead of time, but the great thing is that in the morning the only work you need to do is pull these out of the freezer and put them into the oven, which makes them perfect for brunch with company.

300 g (2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
27 g (2 tablespoons pluse 3/4 teaspoon) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
132 g (4.7 ounces, about 1 stick plus a generous tablespoon) cold, unsalted butter cut into 1/4 inch cubes
71 g (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) heavy cream, plus extra for brushing the tops
89 g (1/3 cup) buttermilk
340 g (12 ounces) applewood-smoked bacon, cooked, drained and cut into 1/8-1/4 inch pieces (the weight is for the bacon before it’s cooked)
180 g (2 1/2 cups) grated white cheddar cheese, divided
10 g (1/4 cup) chives, minced
Freshly ground black pepper

The day before you want to have the scones, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on very low speed until combined, about 30 seconds (if your mixer doesn’t handle low speeds well and tends to send dry flour flying, you can whisk these together by hand, then add to the mixer). Add the butter and mix on the lowest speed to begin incorporating the butter into the flour mixture, about 30 seconds. Bump the speed up to low and mix for about 3 minutes, or until the butter is in large-crumb to small-pea sized bits and is just incorporated into the flour mixture.

With the mixer running on low speed, pour in the cream and buttermilk, and mix until the dry ingredients look moistened and the mixture starts to form a ball. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the bacon, 144 grams (2 cups) of the grated cheddar, and the chives and mix on low speed until well distributed, about 1 minute.

Line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper and place the dough in the center. Cover it with plastic wrap and, using your hands or a dough scraper, press it into a 7 x 9 inch square.  Wrap the baking sheet in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Remove from the refrigerator, unwrap the pan, and peel the dough away from the Silpat or parchment and place on a cutting board (return the Silpat/parchment to the baking sheet). Cut the block of dough in half lengthwise, and then cut each half into 6 rectangles. Place each rectangle on the baking sheet, leaving about an inch between them. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the scones from the freezer and remove the plastic wrap. Brush the tops of the dough with heavy cream and sprinkle on the remaining 36 grams (1/2 cup) of cheese. Crack some black pepper over the tops. Bake until the scones are golden and the cheese on top is melted and browned, about 35 minutes.

They’re best the day they are made.

Yield: 12 scones

Passion Fruit-Pineapple Popsicles #frozenfridays

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For the month of August, it’s #frozenfridays here on the blog. Every Friday I’ll be posting about a frozen treat. So far, I’ve featured Thai iced tea popsicles and lime popsicles. This week: Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles.

For a long time, I didn’t know what passion fruit tasted like. I associated it vaguely with tropical juice blends and  artificial fragrances in things like air fresheners and girly shampoos.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For some reason, I assumed it was syrupy sweet and generally unappealing.

Man was I wrong.

Real passion fruit is tart and fragrant, almost lemony, but somehow fuller and rounder, hitting more complex notes.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

There’s a reason it’s a perennial favorite of pastry chefs.

Its potent acidity makes it a great ingredient for balancing sweeter ingredients. It plays beautifully with things like white chocolate and caramel that can be tooth achingly sweet on their own.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

It’s become one of my favorite flavors to play around with. Especially when I discovered that I could buy high quality frozen puree on the cheap at my neighborhood Latin grocery store. It’s a shortcut that means I don’t have to track down fresh passion fruit and pulp them to get that intoxicating flavor.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

When I saw a recipe for passion fruit-pineapple sorbet in Claudia Fleming’s excellent (and distressingly out-of-print) dessert cookbook The Last Course, I knew that the flavor combination would be a winner.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I love pineapple, but it can cross the line to too sweet pretty easily. Passion fruit’s tartness works here to keep that sweetness in check, while the pineapple rounds out passion fruit’s pucker.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

These are some of the best popsicles I’ve made. They are so tropical and bright and refreshing.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I’m sure I’ll be returning to this flavor combination again.

Pineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netPineapple Passion Fruit Popsicles. Bright, tropical, delightful! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Passion Fruit-Pineapple Popsicles

Adapted from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course (out of print)

These popsicles are tropical with a great balance of sweetness and tartness. Look for unsweetened frozen passion fruit puree in Latin grocery stores. You can use pre-cut pineapple if you want to make this even easier. If you have an ice cream maker, you can chill this mixture and spin it into a sorbet like Fleming does. I went the easier route and made them into popsicles in these moldsIf your mold doesn’t have a lid to hold the popsicle stick in place, wait for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the popsicles are partially frozen to add the sticks.

1 cup (about 210 g) pineapple, peeled and cut into cubes
1 1/3 cups (about 200 g) frozen passion fruit puree
1 cup sugar, divided
1 cup water

Add the pineapple and 1/4 cup of sugar into the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Let rest for one hour.

While the pineapple mixture is resting, add the remaining sugar, water, and frozen passion fruit puree to a small heavy bottomed sauce pan and heat over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, and stir until the passion fruit puree is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

Strain the pineapple mixture through a strainer (really pressing on the solids to get as much smooth puree as possible) and whisk it together with the cooled passion fruit syrup in a mixing bowl (ideally one with a spout).

Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until solid, about 4-5 hours depending on your molds.

Yield: varies depending on your molds, but I get 6 with these molds.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

When I see baskets of squash blossoms at the farmers market I am instantly entranced. They are so lovely and delicate. I want to make a bouquet of them and use it as a centerpiece for some elegant but relaxed outdoor summer dinner party.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Except I’ve never actually hosted a dinner party like that. And I don’t have much need for vegetables that are strictly decorative.

And when I think about what to actually cook with squash blossoms I tend to run out of ideas quickly. Most preparations I’ve seen involve stuffing them and dipping them in batter and deep frying them.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

And as much as I love taking on insane cooking projects, I have my limits. I’m just not going to deep fry anything for a weeknight meal.

Usually when I bring home a basket of squash blossoms, I have good intentions about figuring out some other way of using them, and a week later, I find them shriveled and sad and toss them out.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But this time I had a plan. I had seen these quesadillas from Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food featured on Leite’s Culinaria and I had a squash blossom epiphany.

Here was a way to get a squash blossom with all the wonderful melty gooey cheese wrapped in a crisp outer layer without needing a vat of hot oil or hours of assembly.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Half of a petite corn tortilla gets sprinkled with some shredded cheese and bits of jalapeño and a pair of squash blossoms are placed on top. Then the whole thing goes into a hot skillet with a little oil, the unadorned half of tortilla gets folded over and pressed against the melty cheese while the tortilla gets wonderfully crisp and browned in spots. Topped with a bit of salsa and avocado, these are an incredibly easy little dish with a great balance of textures and flavors, and some pretty squash blossoms peaking out of the top.

I’m pretty sure squash blossoms were born to be in quesadillas. Or at least that’s what’s happening with them in my kitchen.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netSquash Blossom Quesadillas. Looking for something to do with squash blossoms? No stuffing or frying necessary. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Squash Blossom Quesadillas

Adapted from Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food (via Leite’s Culinaria)

For anyone asking for an easy way to use squash blossoms, here’s your answer. I usually make quesadillas with flour tortillas, but the small corn tortillas are just great here. The corn flavor pairs well with the delicate squash blossoms and the diameter is perfect for encasing the blossoms without swallowing them whole. I wouldn’t make these with large tortillas. Hasselbrink uses pepper jack cheese in these, but I used a blend of pre-shredded jack, cheddar, queso quesadilla and queso asadero because I had a bag of that on hand and added my own jalapeño pepper for little pops of heat. You can use any mild melting cheese you like and as much jalapeño as you like. I think these need salsa for some acid and I like them with avocado or guacamole, but I’d view that as an optional topping.

12 squash blossoms
6 small corn tortillas (6-inch is ideal)
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese (or your preferred Mexican melting cheese)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced

For topping: salsa
avocado or guacamole (optional)

Carefully examine your squash blossoms and brush away any dirt or insects, but don’t rinse them (they’re delicate!).

Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Warm the tortillas in the dry skillet for about 30 seconds or until they are a bit pliable. Remove from skillet.

Sprinkle half of each tortilla with a few tablespoons of shredded cheese and divide the jalapeño pepper between the tortillas and sprinkle it over the cheese. Arrange two squash blossoms over the cheese so that the edge of the flower is peaking out over the edge of the tortilla.

Add about a tablespoon of neutral oil to the skillet. Carefully transfer one of the prepared tortillas to the skillet, fold the tortilla in half and press with a spatula so that the cheese can hold the whole thing together. Cook for about a minute on each side, until crisp. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Top with salsa and avocado (if using). Eat while warm.

Yield: 6 quesadillas, which serve 2-3 depending on what else you’re having.

Lime Popsicles #frozenfridays

Lime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

For the month of August, it’s #frozenfridays here on the blog. Every Friday I’ll be posting about a frozen treat. Last week, I featured Thai iced tea popsicles. This week: lime popsicles.

I have this theory that people tend to dress for yesterday’s weather. The day after a 90°F day, I see so many people in tank tops and shorts and sandals and sun dresses, even if it’s a high of 70°F  and raining. The day after a cold snap, I see so many people carrying around jackets and sweaters even when temperatures have rebounded and the extra clothing is no longer necessary.

Lime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netLime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

In Chicago, where the temperatures tend to bounce around from one day to the next, that can leave us woefully under or over dressed when we get it wrong. Especially for any of us who live or work or have reason to visit a building with overly exuberant climate control.

Ah, hindsight is a powerful corrective.

Lime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netLime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Which is why I recommend dressing in layers. Even if I don’t always follow my own advice.

Lime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netLime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

All of which is an incredibly circuitous way of saying, I kinda did the cooking equivalent of dressing for yesterday when I made these popsicles. They’re pretty much the food equivalent of a tank top or a sun dress. The absolute perfect thing on a hot summer day. But on any other day, you can’t fully appreciate them.

Lime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netLime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I made these intensely puckery, refreshing, limey popsicles on a 90+°F day.

And I didn’t get around to eating one until the next day, which had a high of, maybe, 72°F. And all I could think while eating them was just how much I wanted one of these yesterday. How I couldn’t think of anything I’d want more on a really hot sticky day.

Lime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netLime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But eating them on a mild summer day, even though they were good, felt a little bit wrong, like I was wasting their refreshing super powers.

These popsicles, which come from Fany Gerson’s Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas are not joking around. They are so tart that they almost have tingly heat. They are ice pops for true lime fiends.

Lime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netLime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

They seem ripe for cocktail popsicle adaptations. Throw in a splash of gin for a gimlet popsicle, rum for a daquiri popsicle, tequila and salt for a margarita popsicle.

But whatever you do with them, keep them in the freezer until a really hot summer day comes along. Then, enjoy.

Lime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netLime popsicles. Perfect for the hottest summer days. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Lime Popsicles

Adapted (barely) from Fany Gerson’s Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas

These popsicles are very tart and replete with lime flavor. For these to taste right, the lime juice should be freshly squeezed. In my experience, limes vary quite a bit in the amount of juice they produce. (They’re also the peskiest citrus to juice. If you want to make the task easier, I recommend using something like this.)  I got 3/4 of a cup of juice from just 3 large limes, which were what I could find at the local Latin grocery store, but I think that’s an unusually large yield per fruit. Gerson recommends using smaller limes and says it will take 10 limes to yield the desired amount of juice. If you have medium sized limes, I’m guessing you’d need 5-6 limes. I’d recommend buying an extra couple of limes beyond what you think you’ll need just to be on the safe side (now that the lime shortage is over it shouldn’t be too much of a burden). I’ve been using these molds, but you can use any molds (including household items like tall shot glasses or little paper cups) you have around. If your mold doesn’t have a lid to hold the popsicle stick in place, wait for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the popsicles are partially frozen to add the sticks.

2 cups water
2/3 cup sugar
4 (1-inch) strips of lime zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from anywhere from 3 large limes to 10 small ones)

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and lime zest, and heat over medium, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer and discard the zest. Stir in the lime juice. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until solid 4-5 hours, depending on the size of the mold.

Yield: varies depending on the size of the molds used, but I got 6 and a little extra using these molds.

Tomato Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This has become my salad of the summer. More specifically, this basil vinaigrette has become my salad dressing of the summer.

I love basil. When it’s in season at the farmers market I come home with a big bunch of it every week. I, like most people, usually use it to make pesto or sprinkle shreds of it over panzanella or caprese or a simple pasta with olive oil and tomatoes or pizza Margherita.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netTomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

But I had never before blitzed it with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar into a light and verdant vinaigrette.

I was missing out.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netTomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

This basil vinaigrette comes from the Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook by way of Jeannette’s charming blog. Unburdened by nuts and cheese, it’s lighter and brighter than pesto with an acidic zing.

I’ve been drizzling it over everything.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netTomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

In addition to the basil, some of my other late summer favorites have come into season. Tomatoes are finally here along with some incredible varieties of cucumbers. I especially like the long green Japanese cucumbers, the muted orange oblong poona kheera cucumbers, and the pale yellow orb-like lemon cucumbers. These varieties are all sweeter, crisper, and juicier than the cucumbers I tend to find at the supermarket. Though they look quite different, you can treat them like you would any cucumber–just peel and slice.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netTomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I love the way the crunch of the cucumbers plays off the juicy tomatoes and the vibrant vinaigrette and the creaminess and tang of the crumbled feta.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netTomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

I’ve already made this four times in the last two weeks, which might be a record for anything other than pizza. And I have another bunch of basil waiting on the counter just tempting me to make more.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.netTomato and Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. My salad of the summer! From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net

Tomato Cucumber Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Vinaigrette adapted from Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook (via Everybody Likes Sandwiches)

The basil vinaigrette is the star of the show here. This recipe makes more than you’ll need for this salad, but not so much that it will go bad before you can reasonably consume it (in my experience it keeps for about 4-5 days). I’ve used it to dress a shaved zucchini salad and a simple green salad. It would also be great on panzanella or as a spread on a tomato sandwich. I’ve used a mix of cherry tomatoes (including my favorite sun golds) here, but obviously, large tomatoes would work just as well if they’re cut into bite-sized pieces. If you can get your hands on local seasonal cucumbers, that’s probably your best bet, but use any cucumbers you like. It will be fine with any variety. The feta is optional, but it adds a nice creamy richness to the light salad. The quantities here are all approximate. I tend to eyeball ingredients when I’m making salads rather than measuring out specific amounts, so that’s reflected in the recipe. 

 For the basil vinaigrette:

1 big handful basil leaves (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the salad:

2 medium cucumbers, peeled, halved, and sliced
about 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered (or halved if extra small)
about 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
a generous pinch of your favorite salt

Make the vinaigrette. In the bowl of a food processor (or in a blender) add the garlic, Dijon mustard, honey, red wine vinegar and salt. Pulse until the garlic is finely minced and everything is well blended. Add the basil and pulse until combined. (If the basil isn’t cooperating, add some of the extra virgin olive oil to help things along.) With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil, and blend until the mixture is emulsified. (If you’ve overdone it with the basil and the mixture looks too thick to dress a salad, add a little more olive oil to thin it out.) Set aside (can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days).

Make the salad. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Season with a pinch of salt. Add a few tablespoons of vinaigrette and toss until the tomatoes and cucumbers are well coated. Add more vinaigrette, a little at a time, until it’s dressed to your liking. Add the crumbled feta, and stir until well distributed. Taste to see if it needs more salt (this will depend on your feta). Serve immediately.

Yield: A big bowl of salad that makes a nice lunch for two or a starter or side for probably 4-8 depending on appetites and what else is on the menu.

Thai Iced Tea Popsicles #frozenfridays

Thai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridays

For the month of August it’s going to be #frozenfridays around here. Every Friday, I’ll be posting a new recipe for a frozen treat. Today I’m kicking things off with Thai Iced Tea Popsicles.

If you like Thai iced tea and you like ice cream pops, you should make these right now. I don’t always get cooking experiments right on the first try, but this time, I’m proud to say I nailed it.

Thai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridaysThai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridays

I had plenty of extra Thai black tea leftover from that Thai tea parfait tart I made a while back, and I also had some extra sweetened condensed milk in the refrigerator that I didn’t have a plan for but didn’t want to go to waste.

Thai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridaysThai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridays

I also have these popsicle molds that make frozen treats incredibly easy to make.

All of which meant that Thai iced tea popsicles were an easy leap to make.

Thai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridays

Popsicle making isn’t rocket science. It doesn’t require precision and complicated math to work. You can freeze plain old fruit juice and get something refreshing. I had plenty of orange juice popsicles in my youth that were just that.

Thai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridaysThai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridays

But there are a few principles to keep in mind when approaching popsicle experiments. The first is that cold suppresses flavor. That’s why we don’t chill good red wine, and why some people argue that we shouldn’t be drinking our white wine straight from the fridge either. When we freeze things, we need to dial up the intensity of the flavors to combat that dullness. If something tastes perfect at room temperature, it’s probably going to be a little flat when it’s frozen. Ideally, the mixture you plan to freeze should taste a little bit sweeter and a little bit stronger than where you want it to end up.

Thai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridaysThai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridays

The second thing to keep in mind is that certain things, including sugar and alcohol, inhibit freezing. You want some of that in frozen treats, even in a solid popsicle, because otherwise you’d end up with something as hard as an ice cube, but if you go too far and add too much, you end up with a slushy. That’s not the end of the world, but it’s not a popsicle.

thaiteapopsicles12Thai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridays

These popsicles find good balance in both the flavor and texture fronts. They have an incredible creaminess from the sweetened condensed milk, which also, unsurprisingly, lends them their sweetness. They have a tannic edge and some vanilla notes from the Thai tea leaves, and the vanilla gets dialed up with a splash of extract and the whole thing gets rounded out with a sprinkle of spices.

Thai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridaysThai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridays

When we tried these, Dan said, so this isn’t ice cream? They’re creamier and slightly softer than many popsicles, but they’re sturdy enough to be eaten on a stick. And they don’t require any churning or special equipment beyond some kind of mold (which can be shot glasses or disposable cups or even ice cube trays) and some popsicle sticks.

These are treats I can’t wait to have again.

Thai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridaysThai Iced Tea Popsicles! Creamy black tea ice pops with a hint of vanilla and spice. From Blossom to Stem | Because Delicious www.blossomtostem.net #frozenfridays

Thai Iced Tea Popsicles

These, like most popsicles, are quite simple to make. The most complicated part is probably tracking down the Thai tea. I found mine at Golden Pacific, a local Thai grocery store. If you have trouble finding it locally, you can, of course, order it online. You could also substitute any plain black tea and double the vanilla extract. You wouldn’t get the brilliant orange color, and the flavor would be a little different, but it would still be good. If you freeze these in non-traditional popsicle molds such as shot glasses or dixie cups, make sure to let them partially freeze, about 1-2 hours (depending on the size of the molds and your freezer) before adding the sticks. You want the mixture to be frozen enough to keep the sticks in place.

1/3 cup (25 g) Thai tea leaves
2 1/2 cups water
2 star anise pods
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup (250 g) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

 In a small saucepan, add the tea leaves and spices to the water and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth (you could also use a coffee filter) and discard the solids. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract. Refrigerate mixture until no longer warm to the touch, about 1 hour (up to a day is fine). Pour into popsicle molds, add lids and popsicle sticks (see above if using unconventional molds on when to add sticks) and freeze until solid, 4-5 hours depending on the size of the mold.

If you have extra, freeze it in an airtight container and blitz it in the blender for a little Thai iced tea milk shake.

Yield: 6 popsicles, plus a little extra, depending on the size of your molds.

 

My Go-To Peanut Sauce

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I am an inveterate procrastinator. In school, I was one of the kids who stayed up into the wee hours of the night the day before the project or paper was due, frantically trying to get the thing done. From elementary school onward, it only got worse. In college, I felt pretty good if I had formulated a thesis by midnight. It meant I might get an hour or two of sleep in before I had to go to class. (It was, I now realize, a classic strategic deployment of what Julie Norem calls defensive pessimism, but that’s more than enough about my armchair psychological self-diagnosis.)

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In keeping with that procrastinatory mode, I have resisted making things ahead of time, meal prep included. When I hear people say they make all of their meals for the upcoming week on Sunday and put them in the freezer to reheat later, I wonder what planet they come from and why on earth they think that sounds easier than making dinner on the same day they’re going to eat it?

But I have begun to relent here and there. I now make extras of some things to stash for later. I have homemade chicken stock in the freezer and jars of jam stacked high on top of the refrigerator. I have a big container of granola in the refrigerator, and usually, somewhere close by, I have a pint-sized jar of this peanut sauce.

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This peanut sauce has saved me more times than I can count. It’s become my go-to back up dinner plan.

If I have some kind of long noodles–spaghetti, soba, rice noodles–in the pantry and some vegetables with crunch–cucumbers, snow peas, carrots, red peppers–knocking around the crisper drawer, I can have peanut noodles ready in about 15 minutes, give or take the amount of time it takes the pot of water to boil and the particular noodles to cook to al dente.

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I no longer remember exactly where the recipe came from. It was something I scratched down on a piece of paper years ago. I’ve fiddled with the proportions and probably made a few dozen different versions of it over the years. This particular version is, I think, easy to like. It’s a well balanced sauce that’s rich from the peanut butter and the sesame oil, salty from the soy sauce, sweet from the honey, sour from the rice vinegar, and hot from the sriracha, with added flavor from the garlic and ginger.

It isn’t particularly aggressive on any front, it’s smooth and thin enough to coat noodles without feeling like spackle. It keeps easily for a few weeks in the refrigerator, and it would make a nice dipping sauce for satay or spring rolls or fresh vegetables. It doesn’t take long to come together, and when I have it around, I know we have a good option for a dinner when we’re hungry and want to eat now. We have yet to get tired of this one. It’s worth making ahead of time, but if you, like me, tend toward procrastination, it’s even doable on a weeknight at the last minute.

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My Go-To Peanut Sauce

This is a simple sauce with a big payoff. I’ve made many different variations on it over the years. Sometimes I use sugar instead of honey (which would make it vegan) or limes instead of rice vinegar or sambal oelek instead of sriracha. Sometimes I up the hot sauce for extra heat. I’ve skipped the ginger if I don’t have any around. It’s a flexible sauce that you can adapt to your tastes. I used to make it with natural peanut butter, and philosophically I still think I should use the natural stuff, but I just think it tastes better with Skippy, and for now I’m okay with that. I like to make it in a wide-mouth pint jar and blend it in the jar with a stick blender, which means I don’t need to transfer it to another container for storage and makes for easy clean up, but you could also use a blender, food processor, or even just stir until it comes together. This is great on any long skinny noodles you like. I often use it on soba noodles, good old fashioned thick spaghetti, or rice noodles (lately I’ve been loving this on Tinkyada brown rice spaghetti, which happen to be gluten free). I’ve used it as a dressing on a cabbage and carrot slaw and drizzled it over a bowl of blanched sugar snap peas. It would also make a good dipping sauce for satay, tofu, fresh vegetables, or spring rolls. It’s also pretty good right from the spoon.

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (natural works, but I usually opt for Skippy for this)
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 inch piece of ginger, grated on a microplane
or finely minced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sriracha
1/4-1/3 cup water (start with the smaller amount and add more to thin the sauce to your liking)

Combine all of the ingredients in a wide-mouth pint jar and zizz with a stick blender until smooth (alternately, blend in a blender or food processor or stir in a bowl until thoroughly combined). Add a little more water if you’d like your sauce thinner. I usually go with about 1/3 cup total, but depending on the thickness of your peanut butter, you might want an extra tablespoon or two to thin it to your preferred consistency.

Store in an airtight container (if you blended it a jar, just screw on the lid) in the refrigerator. Keeps for at least two weeks (probably safe for longer).

Yield: About 1 1/2 cups

 

Spicy Summer Bean and Chickpea Salad

spicysummerbeansalad

Summer calls out for salads like this one. It’s bold and colorful and crunchy and spicy and refreshing.

I’ll admit I don’t think about green beans all that often. It’s not that I don’t like them. It’s just that I forget about them amid the bounty of summer vegetables that are crowding the farmers markets by the time they come into season. I’m distracted by the bins of tasseled sweet corn and the spiraling fractals on the romanesco cauliflower and the rainbow colored bunches of carrots and the fragrant mounds of fresh herbs.

And that’s before I get to the fruit.

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But when I saw these green and yellow and purple beans at the market last week, they caught my eye. I sampled one and they were crisp and juicy and sweet enough to eat raw. I couldn’t leave without bringing some home.

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I thought of this salad. It comes from a book, Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast, which was one of my favorites for a stretch during my mid-twenties. I still love the book, and if you’re looking for a way to up your vegetable game, it’s a good one to add to your collection. I don’t turn to it nearly as much as I used to because of all the new books on my shelves competing for attention, but it has some great gems in its pages, including this one.

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The beans get blanched in boiling water for a few minutes, just until they get tender while retaining their crisp snap and then run under cold water to stop the cooking. A bit of onion gets sliced paper thin and sits in lemon juice to get ever so slightly pickled. A bold blend of spices gets toasted and crushed, a clove of garlic gets grated, olive oil gets drizzled in, and then the beans and chickpeas get tossed in with the whole delightful mess.

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It’s a brash, big flavored salad with a generous dose of heat from the cayenne. It’s a substantial salad that makes for a great summer meal, and it makes a good case for me to think about green beans the next time I’m at the market.

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Spicy Summer Bean and Chickpea Salad

Adapted from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast

This salad gets visual interest from the different colored beans, but it can be made with all green or all yellow beans if that’s what you have. I should note that purple beans (like purple asparagus) turn a dark green when they’re cooked, so they don’t add any purple to the finished dish. This packs some real heat. The spice averse may want to dial back the cayenne to a 1/2 teaspoon. I used a small red spring onion here, but I’ve made it before with a regular old red onion, which is just fine. I like to turn the garlic to a pulp by grating it on a microplane but you could use a garlic press or mince it finely with a chefs knife if you prefer. I find it easiest to get the onion sliced paper thin on a mandoline, but I’ve also done it many times with a chefs knife. I like this salad at room temperature or cold from the refrigerator. It holds up well for several hours, so you can make it ahead of time and keep it chilled and covered until you’re ready to serve it.

1 pound assorted green, yellow, or purple beans, ends trimmed
1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon caraway or fennel seeds (I used caraway)
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
juice of one lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

 Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous sprinkle of salt. Add the beans and cook for about 2 minutes, or until crisp tender. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

Add the sliced onion to a large mixing bowl and add the lemon juice. Toast the cumin, caraway (or fennel), and coriander seed in a small skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and crush with a pestle.

Grate the garlic with a microplane zester (or press with a garlic press) to form a paste. Add the garlic, toasted spices, cayenne and salt to the bowl with the onion and lemon juice and stir to combine. Whisk in the olive oil.

Add the beans and chickpeas to the bowl and toss to combine. Serve immediately or cover and chill for a few hours.

Yield: 4 servings as a main or more as a side

Lazy Summer

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It’s been one of those weeks where I haven’t wanted to cook.

It happens. Even to me.

Instead, I’ve wanted to luxuriate in summer, put my feet up, watch the Tour de France, eat ice cream treats and raspberries and cherries and peaches and plumcots from the market.

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I spent last week on vacation in Michigan at my aunt and uncle’s cottage on Turk Lake with Dan and my sisters and my brother and his wife.

We ate well, but it was throw-something-on-the-grill sort of cooking along with Emily’s blondies, Erin’s blueberry bars, Ann’s rhubarb sorbet and cherry molasses ice cream, and my chocolate chip cookies. It was a week for beers and dark and stormies and gin and tonics.

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We spent most of our days outside. I barely put on my shoes. I did a little paddle boating, a little kayaking, a little swimming.

I laid in the hammock and read Wolf Hall, which was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

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And in the evenings, I looked out over the serene, glassy lake and felt lucky to have a place like this in my life.

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No recipe today.