Summer eats

There are two ways to approach keeping cool (and keeping the electric bill down) while cooking in the summertime: Outdoor cooking and not “cooking” at all.

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By far, my favorite of these two methods is taking it outdoors. We bought a Weber Q gas grill a couple of years ago and it’s served us very well. We don’t have the opportunity to do real barbecue on it, but for quick grilling, it can’t be beat. Over the weekend, I grilled our leftovers from the Ringwood Farmers’ Market a couple of weeks ago: Grass-fed bone-in ribeyes (or cowboy steaks, from Walnut Grove Farms) and garlic scapes. To keep things simple, I made a quick topping of rosemary, thyme, pepper, and olive oil for the steak. I didn’t have to stay outside for long and the flavors were fresh and delicious.

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For a quick dessert, I stuffed a few fresh figs with blue cheese and wrapped them with prosciutto. A few minutes on the grill to melt the cheese and quick drizzle of balsamic vinegar turned them into one of my favorite desserts of all-time.

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Not cooking at all is another option for really hot days. The weather’s been pretty agreeable here lately, but I was craving avocados and didn’t feel like making guacamole or using the avocado as anything other than the main ingredient. So I tried making my first avocado-cucumber soup. Despite the simple handful of ingredients, the flavor of the soup was very complex. This one is definitely going into my late-summer rotation.

recipe after the jump

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The greater scape

For something I’d never even heard of before last weekend, I can’t imagine living without the garlic scape now. I picked up a huuuuuge bag of them at the farmers’ market yesterday, but after two days of cooking with them, I didn’t have enough left to pickle. Poor me. Maybe that’ll be a project for next weekend.

Ah, but this weekend … this weekend there was fresh garlic (below, left) and scapes (below, right),

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not to mention lovely sugar snap peas

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and radishes

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and grass-fed beef!

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Wow. Did we eat well. Gil was out on a hike yesterday and didn’t share in the stir-fried sugar snaps, scapes, and radishes with grilled shrimp,

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but I didn’t hear any complaints when he had the grilled combo today — steak, corn, and scapes.

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recipes after the jump

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Nicoise

A yummy, light lunch inspired by the good folks at Last Night’s Dinner:

Colorful and delicious! And without the traditional heavy mayonnaise dressing, it was the perfect antidote to a hot and humid day.

A near miss?

I’m on quite a roll this week. First the brussels debacle and now a plate of simpering squid. Where did I go wrong? Is it bad juju, a full moon, my subconscious sabotaging my alone-time? Sheesh, even the picture sucks:

I’ll call it a near miss because I think the calamari could be good if it spent a longer time marinating than I was willing to give it at 8pm. The grilling took less than five minutes, and it was very tender, but … meh.

The salad was mighty tasty, though. I marinated the calamari in garlic-infused olive oil, oregano, and salt & pepper, so I used the leftover oil as the base of a lemony vinaigrette. The garlic flavor was subtle, but it stood up to the juicy, briny kalamata olives and parmesan cheese shavings I used as toppings.

But I’m not giving up, no way! Once I figure out how to correct this recipe, I’ll be sure to pass it along.

Cinco de Mayo and cake

I don’t deal well with cravings. Never have. They ping around my brain until the whole thing is lit up like a pinball machine. It’s dangerous to walk around in such a state, but I’ve learned the hard way that indulging is the only way to reset, even if you possess the willpower of a thousand Southern Baptist virgins, as I do. My most recent reset took place over the weekend as I gave in to a weeks-long craving for coconut cake. Now I’m happy and sane once again after devouring far too much of it.

At least it wasn’t heavy. Cooking Light is a great resource for all kinds of healthy dishes and not-too-bad-for-you desserts, so I turned to their website for super-light coconut cake and cream cheese frosting recipes. Since baking frightens the bejeezus outta me, I’ve been reading a lot about it online, where I learned that cakes benefit from sitting in the freezer for a few hours before you frost them. Like a little bakery penalty box, the freezer forces the cake to get its crumb together before it gets back in the game. Who knew? Pretty much everyone but me! So after dutifully freezing and thawing the cake before applying the crumb layer (a crumb layer — brilliant!), I got down to the serious business of frosting with my new offset spatula and produced a cake I wouldn’t be ashamed to serve to guests.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough cream cheesy goodness (or hours of daylight) left to test my new decorating tips, but maybe I’ll try them next time. I’m already planning my next baking adventure — a red velvet cake for a friend’s birthday in a few weeks. And she’s kind, so she won’t mind if her cake looks like something from a 1st grade science project.

The reason there was NO TIME for decoration was because we needed to get the Cinco de Mayo celebration rolling so as not to bring shame on white people everywhere with our lack of (relative) inebriation. I knew I didn’t want to make regular skirt steak fajitas, but wasn’t sure what to prepare instead. After I tooled around online for a little while, the paper of record came through with a recipe for fish tacos that really surprised me — not like, “Where am I and where are my pants?” surprise but more like, “Cool … I didn’t get sick from those 25-cent oysters!” surprise. I’ve only had fried versions of fish tacos, so I didn’t know how this broiled one would work, but it was really delicious, even with the substitutions I made. As banana leaves are few and far between in Ringwood (where Gil and I are probably the most ethnically exotic folks around), I used about a teaspoon of pureed chipotle pepper with adobo to give the sauce a smoky flavor, and I used scrod instead of halibut because I didn’t want my tacos to taste like ass. We had pureed black beans with chorizo on the side and would’ve had corn fritters with roasted garlic and cilantro sauce, too, but it was impossible to get everything finished at the same time.

So Saturday was a little rushed, I guess, but we enjoyed our Cinco de Mayo anyway. The traditional Mexican gin martini might’ve had a little something to do with that — the Official MI Husband is turning into quite the mixologist!

recipes after the jump

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High-test deliciosity

The Official MI Husband will be getting lost attending a conference in Boston until Wednesday, possibly even sporting his sexysexy Contract Pharma sweater vest during the work day! (Or so I hope — I don’t think he believes me when I tell him a woman can’t be held responsible for the things she’ll do to a man in a sweater vest. Is it the barely concealed laughter or the rolling eyes that give me away?)

His absence leaves me roaming the halls of the palatial VM Estates by my lonesome, but instead of moping about, I plan to do stuff I don’t have the chance to when he’s around — not watch even one second of basketball or Sports Center and cook a lot of things he won’t eat. The toughest part of avoiding basketball is deciding which LOTR movie I should watch, but cooking involves a newly developed strategy for meal selection: I’ll make the most olfactorily offensive foods early in the week to give the house a chance to recover before his return. On successive days, the foods will (in theory) be less offensive to his nose, while remaining esthetically displeasing in other areas. Olives come to mind.

So last night I started my alone-time with a bagna cauda. Actually, I’m not sure how Gil feels about the taste of anchovies, but I’m pretty sure the fishy smell would leave him in a weakened state. Having a big bowl of bagna cauda around all evening would’ve been too tempting for me, so I decided to use it as a topping on grilled hearts of romaine and leave the rest as an offering to the wood gods behind the house. Instead of using raw garlic as most recipes call for, I used a head of leftover roasted garlic; I think it mellowed the sauce quite a bit, and played nicely with the mild lettuce.

Tonight there will be brussels sprouts and ROTK! Boy, don’t you wish you were here?

recipe after the jump

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Broadening our chorizons

Deb left too early Sunday morning to partake in one of my favorite Creole dishes — shrimp & grits. Sausage or bacon really helps this dish along, but I have no idea where I’d find chaurice up here, so we went with chorizo instead. To keep the Spanish influence going, I used Manchego cheese in the grits, which lent them a subtle depth without overpowering their delicate flavor. It’s one of my favorite non-eggy brunch dishes and cooks up in a flash, the perfect meal for those mornings when your head feels too heavy to lug around for very long.

recipe after the jump

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