Showing posts with label Summer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Summer. Show all posts


Corn & Black Bean Burgers

Veggie burgers get a bad rap. And to be fair to the carnivores that scorn them, it's true, aside from shape, there's barely any resemblance between patty-shaped veggies and the juice-dripping ground meat we Americans have established as the appropriate manifestation of the word "burger." Still, there is much to be argued for the vegetarian counterpart. For one, veggie burgers demand creativity -- since ground vegetables can't hold their own against the grill like meat can, they need some backup. This is where things get fun. Gena Hamshaw, author of the blog Choosing Raw, suggests the "you pick (at least) three" method of curating your veggie burger base. This should include a veggie (corn, zucchini, mushrooms, beets, sweet potato...), a grain (ie. quinoa, oats, rice, breadcrumbs...), a legume (beans, chickpeas, lentils...), and/or a nut (walnuts, pistachios, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pepitas...) From this formula, the possibilities are limitless, and the process becomes a challenge to find the tastiest combination. 

For my burger I pulled from all four categories--

Veggie: Fresh corn
Grain: Quinoa
Legume: Black beans
Nut: Pistachio

Then I spiced the mixture up with cayenne, coriander and cumin, channeling the Southwest flavors suggested by the corn-black bean duo, and finished it off with fresh lime juice and basil. The flavor was so awesome that it was hard not to skip the burger-making and just take a spoon to the bowl. (And really, you could just stop right there and start dunking chips). But I resisted the urge, formed my patties, and grilled them up. Despite the fact that they are indeed more prone to crumbling than meat burgers, that shortcoming is forgiven when you take a bite. The slightly charred crust gives way to an explosion of flavor that summersaults over your tastebuds -- at once fresh, nutty, sweet, spicy. It won't matter that this burger isn't a juicy mass of meat -- it's not supposed to be. 


2 Tbsp olive oil, divided 
1 clove garlic, minced 
1 cup onion, chopped finely 
1 1/2 cups fresh corn off the cob
1/2 cup shelled pistachios 
Salt and pepper, to taste  
1 1/2 cup cooked black beans 
1 cup cooked quinoa (1/3 cup dry) 
2/3 cups water 
1 Tbsp lime juice, plus more to taste  
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped 
Dash cayenne 
Ground cumin, to taste
Ground coriander, to taste

Rinse 1/3 cup quinoa, place in a small saucepan with 2/3 cup water and some salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer with lid ajar for about 15 minutes, until water is absorbed and you see thin rings detaching the quinoa grains. Fluff with a fork, cover, and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium. Add minced garlic and chopped onion; saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add corn and saute an additional few minutes until heated through. *Note: In this batch I used leftover raw corn salad with minced onion, lime juice, cumin, olive oil, coriander. 

Meanwhile, pulse shelled pistachios into a course meal in a food processor with some salt and pepper. Add the black beans, quinoa, lime juice and basil and pulse to combine (you want the beans to break down slightly and the mixture to hold together, but the consistency should still have some texture, so don't process for too long). Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in the sauteed corn and onions, using your hands to combine. Season with cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper, to taste. Shape mixture into 6 round patties.

Heat grill pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high. [Note: You can also attempt on an open grill, but be wary of the patties' crumbly tendency on the flip. You might want to use a grill pan let you lose half of the burger through the grate.] If cooking on stovetop, heat a bit of olive oil in your skillet then add burgers and cook for about 5 minutes on each side (again, careful on the flip).

Alternatively, you can cook the burgers in the oven at 375 dgF for about 25 minutes (flipping halfway). I like to do a skillet cook first to get both sides brown and crispy, then finish off in the oven to help them heat through and hold their shape. (About 3 to 4 minutes each side in the skillet, then 10 additional in the oven.)


Charred Aubergine Dip

This simple, summery dip was inspired by an appetizer I had at one of Michael Symon's beloved Cleveland establishments, Lolita. Despite being a Cleveland native, I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me until this past July to eat at one of Chef Symon's restaurants. My wait was certainly sucker-punched by his incredible fare, which both laughed at me for not indulging sooner and delighted me with creativity that one would only expect from the reputable Iron Chef. Among the (many) starters we tried, the charred eggplant dip was a family fave, with its addictive synchronization of eggplant, cumin, caraway, lemon and feta (not to mention the warm homemade flatbread that flanked the bowl). It's not complicated, nor overly flashy, rather, it's a dish that is rooted in the fact that every ingredient has a distinct voice. It belts a smoky, spiced, seedy, tangy, creamy anthem with such harmony that your pita-plunging will go on autopilot. (You might want to make a double-batch...especially if you're planning to share.) 

[Inspired by Michael Symon's Charred Eggplant Dip]

2 large aubergine (eggplant)
4 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch cayenne pepper
Caraway seeds
Black pepper
Feta, crumbled

Place an oven rack about 4 inches below the heating element and turn on the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease it lightly with olive oil.

Trim stem ends of 2 large aubergine and cut them in half lengthwise. Place on the baking sheet, cut side down. Broil until the skin is charred and the flesh is tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a colander to cool and drain.

Drizzle 4 garlic cloves with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Place them on the same baking sheet and broil until fragrant and soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Unwrap and allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, use a spoon to scrape the eggplant flesh from its skin. Drain excess water, then transfer flesh to a food processor. When garlic is cool enough to handle, peel and add to the food processor, along with lemon juice, olive oil, cumin and a pinch cayenne. Blend to smooth, then season with salt and black pepper. Fold in crumbled feta and caraway seeds, taste, and adjust measurements as needed. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, more caraway seeds sprinkled over top, and pita chips on the side.

To make pita chips: Cut several pita rounds into 8 wedges (or eights, if they're large), and brush each piece with olive oil. Sprinkle with caraway seeds, black pepper, and a drizzle of honey, if you like. Arrange on a toaster oven baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and toast at 400dgF until golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes.


Rapini & Radish Frittata

Forget spinach and kale, if you want a full-flavored frittata, broccoli rabe's your green. A frequent player in Mediterranean cooking, broccoli rabe (also raab or rapini) is not to be confused with the tree-like vegetable that shares its name -- it sports a pungency that aligns it more closely with turnip or mustard greens. Its distinct flavor is a hard sell to some palates, but a quick blanch or saute is all it takes to knock its raw bitterness down a few notches. 

Eggs are a perfect platform for rapini to shine, and here it gets cozy with peppery radishes in a frittata spiked with two more flavors of the Mediterranean: basil and feta. Dense and favor-loaded, the dish maintains its character served warm, at room temperature, or even cold the next day. (It's especially delicious topped with fresh tomato-basil salsa). 


1 large bunch rapini (broccoli rabe), stems removed
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
5 to 6 small radishes, thinly sliced
5 eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
Sea salt
Dash crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup crumbled feta 
1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

Turn on broiler. Bring a pot of water to boil and add rapini. Cook for 2 minutes, drain, and transfer to ice bath to shock it. Drain again and squeeze out the water. 

Heat oil in medium cast-iron or ovenproof skillet over medium. Add onion and saute until softened and lightly brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add blanched rapini and sliced radishes to the onions. Cook for a few minutes until just warmed through (radishes should still be mostly crisp).

In a medium bowl, whisk 5 eggs with buttermilk, basil, feta, salt and a dash of crushed red pepper flakes. Pour into skillet and stir gently to allow the eggs to seep over and around the veggies. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. When crust has formed around the edges and eggs are nearly set (you can tell by giving the skillet a jiggle), transfer skillet to oven and broil for 4 to 5 minutes until eggs puff up and the top turns golden brown.

Cool briefly before cutting into wedges. Serve warm or at room temp with fresh tomato-basil salsa (recipe below).


1 large beefsteak tomato, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
Black pepper, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Prepare in advance to allow flavors to meld.


Blueberry Cornbread with Basil & Lime

The creation of this recipe was spurred by a corn and blueberry salsa I made earlier this summer. It was a simple, use-up-the-leftovers kind of dish that began with a few lonely ears of grilled corn that had survived the Fourth of July feast. Shaving the kernels off the cobs, I tossed them in a bowl with a handful of fresh blueberries, minced onion, lime juice, lime zest, and olive oil. Striking an effortless chord between sweet and savory, and I thought, this combination would be excellent in a cornbread. It's already a common practice to plunk blueberries into cornbread batter -- in fact any bread with blueberries wins in my book -- but corn and blues are especially allied by their sweetness. While some recipes strictly use cornmeal and flour, I incorporated fresh corn kernels into the batter as well to boost the flavor and add another textural element. (Plus, sweet corn is so delicious right now, it would have been a crime not to use the fresh stuff.) Densely packed with kernels and berries, the real excitement comes when lime and basil enter the stage -- lime's tang keeps the bread's sweetness in check, and basil grounds it with savory, earthy notes. That's summer in a skillet right there. 


3/4 cup stone ground cornmeal
1/4 cup course corn grits 
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp lime zest
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 cup fresh blueberries

Heat oven to 375 dgF. Coat cast iron skillet with olive oil and put in oven to heat. 

Wash blueberries, pat dry, and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp flour. (This will prevent the berries from bleeding/sinking while the bread is baking). 

In a large bowl combine cornmeal, grits, flours, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, buttermilk, honey, olive oil, lime juice and zest. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined. Fold in 2 cups fresh corn, blueberries and about 1/3 cup chopped basil. 

Remove hot skillet from oven and pour in batter, spreading out evenly to the sides of the pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the edges are golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool briefly in the skillet -- (at this point I suggest slicing a warm wedge right from the pan and pouring a glass of milk) -- then loosen the edges with a spatula to release the bread from the pan and allow to cool completely before storing.


Cilantro & Quinoa Soup

A recent screening of I Like Killing Flies inspired this recipe. The film documents the eccentric antics of Kenny Shopsins, chef and owner of the (formerly) Greenwich Village-based diner, Shopsins. Despite his notoriously profane behavior towards customers and his "no-party-over-five" rule, his restaurant boasts an inclusive menu that puts Encyclopedia Britannica to shame, and never stops growing. A brief soup montage in the film rattles off a few of (the 86) brothy favorites, and the cilantro & quinoa combo particularly caught my attention. No idea what else was in Shopsins' recipe, but taking the title ingredients at face value, I rolled with it. Mostly I was intrigued by the idea of elevating an herb from its role as garnish to star of a dish. Of course quinoa is there to bulk up the broth, but I wanted to make the presence of cilantro more than just background noise, so I went pretty gung-ho with it. The supporting cast is simple -- red onion, garlic, coriander, salt/pepper, and a pinch of cayenne -- but the soup has a surprising amount of personality. Here it's topped off with a summery trio: grilled shrimp, diced avocado, and charred corn-off-the-cob, (and, of course, more fresh cilantro). 

[With Grilled Shrimp, Avocado and Charred Corn]

1 cup quinoa, rinsed 
4 cups vegetable stock, plus additional water as needed 
1 large bunch cilantro [yield about 1 cup chopped] 
3 small (or 1 large) red onions, thinly sliced 
4 garlic cloves, minced 
Olive oil
Sea salt 
Black pepper 
Fresh lime juice, from 1/2 lime 
Ground coriander, to taste 
Pinch cayenne pepper 

To serve: 
Grilled shrimp 
Diced avocado 
Charred corn-off-the-cob 
Fresh cilantro
Freshly cracked black pepper

1. Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high. Add garlic and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add sliced red onion and cook until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. 

2. Rinse 1 cup quinoa and add it to the pot with the onions and garlic. Stir to coat and cook for a minute or two, until quinoa becomes fragrant and toasted. Add 4 cups vegetable stock and cilantro and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until quinoa is cooked. (Add more stock or water if the soup is too thick). Season with salt, freshly cracked black pepper, ground coriander, and a pinch of cayenne. Squeeze in juice from 1/2 lime. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary.

3. Serve warm, topped with grilled shrimp, diced avocado, corn-off-the-cob (grilled or fresh), and more fresh cilantro and black pepper.

[Another variation: Toss in some arugula while the soup is simmering; when the greens are wilted, crack in a few eggs, cover pot, and let them cook until set. Serve with some freshly grated Parmesan.]


Flaxseed & Pepita Crusted Flounder with Avocado-Basil Crema and Sauteed Asparagus

Flounder loves a good crust. It's a mild, flaky fish that benefits from both the structure and the flavor of being battered and pan-fried. Here I took a detour from the typical flour dredge and coated my fish in a mixture of flaxseed meal and crushed pepitas. When the filets take to the pan, the flaxseed mixture crusts up around the flounder, deliciously nutty and scale-like. The crunchy armor keeps the flesh tender and moist, creating a wonderful contrast of textures in each bite. 

A crema of avocado, basil and a hit of lime makes an addictive dipping sauce for the fish (if you can resist devouring it all with a spoon before meal time). I recommend holding off on the crema until the very end, as the avocado and basil will quickly oxidize, despite the lime's kiss of acidity. It'll still taste alright, but no one wants an ugly brown crema on their plate. I finished off with a confetti-like scattering of asparagus over the flounder (finely chopped and sauteed in the fish's pan leftovers). 


For the flounder:

1/2 cup golden flaxseed meal 
1/4 cup raw pepitas, finely chopped
Dash red pepper flakes 
Sea salt 
1 large egg, lightly beaten 
4 flounder filets 
Olive oil 
1 lime

In a shallow dish combine 1/2 cup flaxseed meal, 1/4 cup chopped pepitas, and season with a dash or two of red pepper flakes and sea salt. In another dish crack one large egg and beat lightly. Dredge flounder fillets in flaxseed meal mixture, then egg, then back in meal. Heat a few tablespoons olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high. When oil is hot, add filets and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, until crust is golden brown. Plate fish, squeeze lime juice over top, and serve with a dollop of avocado-basil crema (recipe below) and sauteed chopped asparagus bits (recipe below). 

Avocado-Basil Crema:

1 ripe avocado 
Handful fresh basil leaves 
A few splashes soy milk 
Juice from about 1 lime
1 tsp lime zest 

Combine all ingredients in a food processor; puree to a smooth consistency, taste, and adjust flavors as preferred. (Note: Avocados and basil are both prone to quick oxidization, so make this relatively close to serving time to avoid a brown colored crema). 

For the asparagus:

1 bunch asparagus, finely chopped
Olive oil

After pan-frying the flounder, heat more olive oil in same skillet. Add chopped asparagus bits and saute over medium heat until bright and just tender, about 5 minutes. Serve over fish. 


Roasted Red Peppers + A Summery Soup

Aside from color, a roasted pepper bears little resemblance to its raw counterpart. After a stint in the oven, the skin becomes charred and wrinkly, sagging around the flesh it once held so tautly. The molten inside easily sheds its blistered skin – emerging incomparably more succulent and sweet than the raw version. It's an exquisite transformation, easily achieved in the oven, under the broiler, or over an open flame -- heat, in each case, being the operative ingredient.

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

8 large bell peppers (any color)
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

1. Heat the oven to 450°F or position the rack under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source and turn it to high. Halve the peppers, leaving stems intact if you like, and remove the seeds. Put the pepper halves on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, cut side down. Roast for about 25 minutes (or 10 if broiling), then flip and cook another 15 to 20 minutes (10 if broiling), until skin is dark and blistered and peppers begin to collapse. (Note: You can also roast the peppers whole, then remove seeds and stems after they cool). 

2. Gather up the corners of the foil from the pan and tightly wrap the peppers (use a kitchen towel to help if the foil is too hot). Cool until you can handle them, about 15 minutes, then remove the skin. (You can do this under running water to make it a little easier.) Don’t worry if the peppers fall apart. 

3. Serve the peppers within an hour or so, sprinkled with a pinch of salt and drizzled with 2 tablespoons olive oil, or more if you like. (Or drizzle them with 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil and store them in the refrigerator for up to a few days; bring them back to room temperature before serving.) 

Note: If you want them really charred and smoky-tasting, you’ve got to use the broiler, or better yet, a grill. To roast peppers on a grill: Prepare a grill; the heat should be medium-high and the rack about 4 inches from the fire. When the fire is hot, put the peppers directly over the heat. Grill, turning as each side blackens, until they collapse, 15 to 20 minutes. Then continue with Step 2, using a piece of foil to wrap them after they come off the fire.

Besides the simplicity of the process, the beauty of roasted peppers is their supreme versatility. It's hard to resist devouring the warm, slimy flesh straight from the tray -- fingers-to-mouth, or, more civilly, with a fork and good olive oil. But they also add flavor and substance to sandwiches, pizza, bruschetta and pasta, make killer condiments (with some yogurt and spices), as well as bright pureed soups...

A roasted spin on gazpacho -- pureed, chilled and kissed with mint.

2 roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
4 campari tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup water
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup greek yogurt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp chopped mint, or to taste

1. Heat oven to 450°F. In a foil-lined baking dish add campari tomato halves, red onion, and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat then place in oven and roast until tomatoes begin to release their juices, and onion and garlic are soft and browning, about 10 minutes or so. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

2. In a food processor, combine roasted peppers, tomatoes, onion, garlic with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 cup water, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, salt and pepper. Puree to a smooth consistency, adding more liquid as needed. (You can also up the amount of yogurt if you want a creamier soup.)

3. Transfer soup to a bowl, cover, and place in the fridge for at least an hour to cool fully and allow the flavors to meld. Serve chilled and garnish with freshly chopped mint.


Cilantro-Jalapeno Chicken Salad

Chicken salad has this summery stigma about it. It conjures images of picnic blankets and block parties. Big, communal bowls of it. Sitting between the watermelon and the coleslaw. Ready to stuff between two slices of crusty bread. Or atop a bed of greens. Or straight to mouth via mayo-laced fingers. It's a dish that has consistently been a thrifty way to re-appropriate meat; bulk it up with choice fixings and wrap it all in a creamy binder (especially useful in hiding dry, flavorless protein.)

Chicken breasts are notoriously boring, so I poached mine in white wine first to get them plump and inebriated with flavor. I lean toward a roughly shredded style of chicken salad -- as opposed to finely minced or perfectly diced -- and the drunken breasts practically shredded themselves as prodded them with two forks. For the fixings I channeled the Southwest with a loud cast of cilantro, lime and jalapeno. Yogurt spiked with Dijon, cumin and a dash of cayenne stood in for the traditional mayo, rendering the salad bright and tangy with a kiss of heat that beckons for summer.


3 large chicken breasts
white wine (or another poaching liquid)
1 jalapeƱo pepper, seeded and diced 
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp cumin
dash cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1/4 cup radishes, finely diced (optional)

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in a medium pot. Cover by about an inch with white wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let chicken sit in the wine for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove to a place and shred with a fork.

2. In a small bowl combine yogurt, Dijon, cumin, lime juice, a dash cayenne pepper, salt and freshly cracked black pepper. When chicken is cool, fold into yogurt mixture and add onion, jalapeno, fresh cilantro (and radishes, if using). Taste and adjust flavors and serve at room temperature or cold. (Best if you let it sit in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors meld).


Grilled Chicken Hearts with Parsley Vinaigrette

I fell in love with chicken hearts when I had them as part of an offal appetizer at Blue Hill NYC. Oft-neglected and under-appreciated, they taste like little nuggets of dark chicken meat with a slightly metallic aftertaste (c'mon, think of all the blood they pumped), and their chewy texture is further reminder of how hard the little muscles used to work. Hearts and their "odd part" cousins (think tongue, liver, tail, and other byproducts of butchery) aren't frequently stocked at local grocers so when I found some at the farmer's market last week I pounced. The curious farmer left me mulling over how I was going to prepare the little organs, but the warm weather had me antsy to grill, and the size of the hearts makes them perfect for skewering, so that's the route I took. 

Piercing and grilling hearts on a stick might be somewhat of a romantic taboo, but the results are delicious. Taking inspiration from this Gourmet recipe, I brined the hearts for several hours, threaded them onto brochettes (homemade from whittled-down chopsticks), then grilled them and served with a fresh herb vinaigrette. I was restricted to using a cast iron grill over the range, but the hearts would really benefit from an open fire grill so they could take on the smoky flavor of wood or charcoal. 


1 qt cold water
2 Tbsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 lb chicken hearts, visible arteries trimmed
1/2 cup flat parsley, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt

1. Combine 1 quart cold water with 2 tablespoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add chicken hearts, cover, and chill for 3 hours.

2. Drain chicken hearts. Thread hearts onto presoaked wooden skewers, leaving about 1/2 inch between them, and place between paper towels to dry.

3. Heat grill or grill pan over high. Meanwhile, make vinaigrette by combining 1/2 cup chopped parsley with 1 minced garlic clove, equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar, about a teaspoon of honey, plus crushed red pepper flakes and sea salt. (I didn't measure, simply adjust to desired taste and consistency.)

4. When grill is hot, brush chicken hearts with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place skewers over heat and cook, turning occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes total.

5. Serve with parsley vinaigrette.


Zucchini and Dill Soup a la Bittman


There comes a time around the end of August when I feel an urgency to take advantage of the produce that, come autumn, will cease to overflow at farmers markets. It is during these dwindling days of summer that I crave the season’s fruits, vegetables and abundant herbs in their pure, unadulterated states. Meet a simple soup that embodies the freshness of summer: pureed zucchini, delicate and light, hosts handfuls of freshly chopped dill—it’s a combination that highlights the strengths of its core ingredients without unnecessary frill.

See the recipe and read my full post at


Don't Judge a Smoothie By Its Color

In a world where smoothies have notoriously been fruit-based, vegetables are making a push for equal presence in the blender. Though we are palatally-inclined to favor a blend of berries over a puree of raw spinach, who's to say that veggies and fruits can't compliment each other?

Move over strawberry, kale is banana's new smoothie partner in this green concoction that is both delicious and packed with nutrients. Kale gives the smoothie a verde hue that might look unappealing to some smoothie traditionalists, but the veggie brings a wealth of vitamins, not to mention antioxidants, fiber and anti-inflammatory benefits to the blend. Banana is the unassuming fruity foil, at once smooth, sweet and potassium-rich. Creamy lemon Greek yogurt contributes both protein and zest, making this smoothie a perfect summery treat or a post-workout replenisher.



2 cups kale, packed and torn
1 small banana
1 container lemon Chobani Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender.

Hint: For an extra chilled treat, use frozen bananas. Swapping some cucumber for part of the kale is another refreshing variation.


Week of Bulgar

I haven't made bulgar in a while, mostly out of laziness. I usually get home at night, ravenous, and head straight for the quick-absorbing grains (think couscous, quinoa or a whole-grain penne if I'm in a pasta mood). None of this wait-an-hour nonsense that comes along with cooking bulgar. (Patience is something I am short on). But on afternoons where I have time to throw some boiling water over those little grains and let them perk up in the fridge before dinner time, I opt the bulgar route and it always delivers. I had an urge to revisit some of the tasty bulgar salads I have in my repertoire this week, so I mustered up some patience and got creative...

The great thing about grain salads is that they are endlessly adaptable and always complex in flavor and texture. I don't think I have ever made the exact same one twice, but that is not to say I don't have my favorites -- one version that I always come back to pairs fresh cherries and pistachios -- a killer combo. With some cherry abundance this week I ran with that idea, throwing in some fresh dill and fennel and drizzling it all wth a sweet lemon-honey dressing:


1 cup uncooked bulgar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and cut in quarters
1 cup fennel, roughly diced
3 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped finely
1/4 cup roasted pistachios, chopped
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ginger

1. In a medium bowl combine 1 cup bulgar with 1 cup boiling water. Cover and allow to sit for an hour or more until water is absorbed.

2. In a small bowl combine lemon juice, olive oil, honey, coriander and ginger; set dressing aside.

3. Combine bulgar with cherries, fennel, dill and pistachios. Drizzle with dressing and stir to coat. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks loosely inspired my second bulgar salad of the week. Her version uses quinoa as the grain base and features currants, zucchini and dill -- a trio that I found both intriguing and seasonally appealing as summer squash abounds in the Farmer's Markets. A perfect recipe to use up my remaining dill as well. Instead of grating the squash as Heidi did, I sauteed it slightly to make it tender and threw in diced cremini mushrooms to add meatiness to the dish.


1 cup bulgar
1 cup water
1/4 cup dried currants
1 zucchini, finely diced
1 yellow summer squash, finely diced
1 cup cremini mushrooms, diced (optional)
1 lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, quartered and finely sliced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
feta or goat cheese, crumbled, to taste

1. Combine bulgar and currants in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup boiling water; cover and let sit for 1 hour until water is absorbed.

2. While bulgar is resting, heat oil in a medium cast iron skillet. Add zucchini and yellow squash (about 2 1/2 cups total) and saute until tender but not mushy. Remove from skillet and add mushrooms with another splash of olive oil. Saute for several minutes until fragrant and soft. Add mushrooms to bowl of squash and set aside.

3. After bulgar has sit for an hour or more, combine with sauteed zucchini, squash and mushrooms.

4. Quarter a small red onion and thinly slice, allowing it to rest in ice water for about 15 minutes to cut the pungency before draining and adding to bulgar mixture.

5. Zest one lemon and stir it to the bulgar along with 2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil and fresh dill.

6. Serve cold or at room temperature topped with crumbled feta or goat cheese and additional dill for garnish.


Season Opener

I can't officially call it summer until I've had a bowl of gazpacho. A soup that never fails in freshness, it is at once cool, savory and undeniably easy to prepare. It sends vitamins and nutrients sailing down the hatch -- a sure-proof way to OD on your daily veggie intake. I've made it many times, catering to its savory tradition, but this time I wanted to give the recipe a dash of sweet pizzaz, while maintaining the tomato base that I love. So I enlisted the mango -- an equally notorious symbol of summer -- to do the job. I have seen fruity gazpacho recipes before -- melons and mangos are often choice ingredients. Yet, rather than giving the fruit the staring role, I used it as a supporting member of the cast of other flavors. Inspired by several mango salsas that I have made, I combined the fruit with ingredients like cucumber, tomato, bell pepper and onion, knowing the flavors would marry well. Not content with just sweet, I also wanted to add a little heat to an otherwise cool dish. With several dashes of ground red pepper the soup was poised to to provide a rich complexity of flavors. A few hours of fridge-chilling later, summer had finally begun.


A seasonal favorite with a fruity flair


1 large cucumber, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 large tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 red onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 mango fruit, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 46-oz bottle of low-sodium vegetable juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1-2 Tbsp lime juice
Several dashes of ground red pepper or tabasco sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

1. In a food processor, pulse each of the vegetables and the mango separately until the pieces are small and uniform; make sure not to over-pulse into a puree-- leave some pulp and texture.
2. Combine all processed ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add garlic and the remaining ingredients.
4. Stir to combine, cover bowl, and let it sit for several hours to allow the flavors to blend. Stir before serving (chilled).