The Unexpected Kindness of Strangers

This post isn’t going to be about food, or sites I have visited or markets in foreign countries. Rather, this is about the kindness of strangers, and what happened to me this week gives me hope that the world has kind strangers who are willing to help. I have not told A SINGLE PERSON about this, until now.

We spent the majority of October in Antigua Guatemala to visit and to volunteer — my husband recently retired and did some work with an International Planned Parenthood NGO. His experiences and what is really going on in Guatemala with respect to population growth could fill a 400-page book. More on that later, perhaps.

I had my birthday at the end of October (YAY!), the murders at the Pittsburg synagogue took place the day before I left and I was so distraught. I returned home the next day by myself. My flight went from Guatemala City to Mexico City, then on to Seattle. The 2 ½ hour layer with AeroMexico in Mexico City was pretty uneventful and I did the usual: cleared customs, refilled my water bottle, downloaded the latest version of my newspapers and a movie on my iPad, all was well. Until it wasn’t.

I boarded my six-plus hour flight around dinnertime. I took out my knitting, looked at my phone to put it into Airplane mode, and I saw a voicemail and missed call. The voicemail, in broken English, said, “Hello Marilyn, this is Antonio. I have an iPad with your name on it…did you lose your iPad?” I had a huge hot flash, searched around and lo and behold my iPad was gone. Damn. I must have left it in the waiting area where I was reading my Kindle book. I kicked into gear, called Antonio but could only listen to his message. Another passenger listened to the Spanish recording too and confirmed what I thought it said, I kept calling, I kept getting the recording, the flight attendant said that it didn’t matter, that even if the device was brought to the gate I couldn’t get it due to security. Great. But I had hope…hope that because this man called me, he had my iPad and knew my name, my email and my phone #. I even purchased Wifi for the flight. And by the way, the worst part of this is that I had a really good book, two newspapers and two movies to keep me busy for those six plus hours. No iPad meant I got a LOT of knitting done.

A few hours into the flight, I heard from Antonio. He said he had my iPad, wanted to know where I left it just to be sure he had the correct owner. I told him where I had been sitting by gate 68, and that is where he discovered my device. He was headed to Campeche, Mexico for vacation and I wrote that I would text or email him when I got home.

THE SECOND MOST AMAZING PART OF THIS STORY? I read before I left that when traveling, it is smart to have my locked screen display my name, email and phone number. I took a picture of this information and set the picture for both my phone and my iPad. (Usually, I have pictures of my grandkids or a pretty Seattle picture). What brilliance. TAKE NOTE and do this when you travel.

My Screen – HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

But I digress. I went back and forth, Spanish translated into English and vice versa. Antonio was on vacation but spotted an international DHL office where he could ship my iPad. HALLELUJAH. I counted over 50 back and forth emails, over 20 texts trying to figure out how to make this happen and how I could reimburse him for the mailing cost. It was complicated and I won’t bore you with the details. By Wednesday, he took four taxi cabs to mail my package, I wired money through the bank which took over an hour and a lot of red tape and ta-da!

Antonio is such a good person. I am so grateful. I still cannot believe this happened, and that my iPad ended up back with me. Antonio told me in an email that he Googled me (of course he did) and saw I posted recipes from my travels! He wrote, “If you some day return to Mexico City searching for food recipes, come home, my beautiful wife cooks great.”

You got it, Antonio. And if you are ever in Seattle, I’ll treat you to the best food ever. Gracias!! Here is a picture of Antonio’s beautiful family he sent to me.

Antonio’s Beautiful Family

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Monday Mushroom Barley Soup

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Mouthwatering Mushroom Barley Soup

I often join the “Meatless Monday” club and try to plan a mostly vegetable-focused dinner when I can. This soup is one of my vegetarian favorites.  I was especially pleased with it recently when I prepared it in tandem with a baking project. I had a yearning for Marge’s Mandelbrot so I measured and mixed the dough, and while it was resting in the refrigerator I used a lot of the same utensils and bowls to make the soup.  Needless to say, the house smells ah-maze-ing.

This soup makes a good amount (about two quarts) so it’s a perfect one to share with friends and family.  I ended up adding some carrots to the soup and garnishing with parsley because otherwise, it is brown, brown, brown.  One of my “things” is that I like food to look appealing.

Midway through the cooking process, when the barley was done and the mushroom/onion/garlic mixture was nice and soft and fragrant, I thought about how delicious it would be to serve just the slow sauteed mushrooms and cooked barley, perhaps with some fresh tarragon slivers,  chopped tomato and fresh corn kernels as a side dish. This is going to happen one of these days while I can still get fresh corn and juicy tomatoes at the farmers market!

In case you are wondering, I also made corn pancakes with a little tarragon thrown in and a tomato topping as well.  What a great summer meal!

Monday Mushroom Barley Soup

(Adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook)

Serves 8

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Ingredients
  • ½ cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 6 ½ cups stock or water (I added a tiny bit (1 ½ tsp?) of Better than Boullion chicken flavor. Be careful if you add more because of the salt factor.)
  • 1 medium brown skinned onion, chopped
  • ¼ c parsley leaves, coarsely chopped for garnish
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ¼  lb fresh Cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
  • ½  tsp salt-add more to taste
Instructions

Cook barley in 1 ½ cups of the stock or water in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until barley is tender (20-30 minutes). Add remaining 4 ½ stock or water, tamari and sherry.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onions, and garlic   Sauté for about five minutes over medium heat. Add mushrooms and salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until everything is very tender (about 10-12 minutes).

Add the sautéed vegetables with all their liquid to the cooked barley. Add carrots and fresh ground black pepper to taste and simmer, partially covered, for another 20 minutes.

Serve in mugs or shallow bowls, garnishing with chopped parsley.

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Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Muffins

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Fresh Out of the Oven!

Fall is in the air, and once temperatures drop I get into a baking frenzy.  I don’t mind heating up the kitchen when the oven is turned on! Yesterday I tried a half batch of these muffins to see if they would be something my grandkids and kids and friends might enjoy.  The answer is YES, for sure.

Next, I tweaked the King Arthur flour recipe (I noted that other bloggers used this basic formula as well).  My changes are truly my own, adding some crunchy, sparkly turbinado sugar for the topping, using less than two apples and measuring the quantity instead since apples are so many different sizes. I also made a full, full muffin rather than smaller, more numerous ones indicated in the original recipe, and added some lemon zest just because.  

Several changes I made were out of laziness – making soured milk rather than buttermilk?  I was too lazy to go to the store. Using salted butter because I was too lazy to go to the store … are you getting the picture?

Anyway, these turned out to be so good, and they stay fresh for a few days and freeze for up to a couple of months.  (HAHAHA, as if). The only downside here is that once you put these into the oven, you will have a mound of dishes and measuring utensils to clean.  Someday I am going to have a sidekick sous chef to follow me around the kitchen, to wash everything, sweep and mop the floor and then disappear. In my dreams.

Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

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Muffin Ingredients
  • 1 stick (½ cup) salted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk (OR 2% milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar-let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes)
  • 1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 pinches table salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (Use your microplane grater)
  • 2 slightly rounded cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples (I diced mine about ⅓-inch in size and my apples were large so it took 1 ¾ apples to equal a slightly heaping 2 cups)
Topping Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp turbinado sugar (raw cane sugar)
Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease and flour a pan with 12 full-size muffin cups and set aside.

Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, lemon zest and set aside. FYI I always sift my baking soda and baking powder-they are lumpy.  Remove one tablespoon of this flour mix to toss with the apples.  

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg to the buttermilk (or soured milk you made) and mix gently. Add in the milk/vinegar mixture quickly. (If you over-mix, this will cause the mixture to curdle.) Stir in the dry ingredients.  Toss diced apple with the reserved flour mix and fold in these apple chunks to the batter.

Combine the dark brown and turbinado sugar in a bowl and set aside (for the topping).

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups (I just butter or spray mine) with an ice cream scoop and sprinkle the brown sugar/turbinado sugar mix on top of each. With a damp finger, even out the topping and batter.  The muffins will be very full.

Ready for Baking

Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees then turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional five minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for five minutes in the tin, then carefully place them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Try one while warm.  

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Easy Pressure Cooker Chicken & Vegetable Stew

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Comforting Chicken & Vegetable Stew

I’ve always said that, if I ever find myself on death row and get to pick my final meal, I would choose chicken soup.  Old fashioned, clear, savory chicken soup with matzo balls. I still stand by my wish, but this chicken stew, hearty and nourishing and even more decadent than my beloved chicken soup, would be a close second!

Fall has definitely arrived in Seattle and, with the cooler nights and cloudier days, soup and stew sound and taste amazing to me.  All summer I was enamored with many cold salad type dishes, and I didn’t really desire much in the way of warm, stewy things. My cravings have changed with the colors of the leaves and this particular recipe, which I discovered earlier this year and perfected over time, is now on heavy rotation at Casa de My Global Kitchens.

Fall Has Arrived!

I can check most of the boxes that are important to me with this stew*: One pot cooking, check.  Quick prep and cooking time, check check. Tasty and loved by others? Oh yes. (*A stew, by the way, is different from a soup because it has much less liquid.)  

This originated with a Cooks Illustrated recipe I stumbled upon, and being old school with my pressure cooker, I decided to give it a whirl.  Wowza, it is good enough that I have prepared this at least ten times and usually give a half gallon of this soup to a new mom, an ailing friend, or any child who begs.  

I have added more carrots, substituted fresh dill for the thyme and added additional liquid and soy.  I’ve also ended up, at times, adding in different vegetables I’ve found in my vegetable drawer…corn kernels, green beans, you get my drift.

Make this in your Instant Pot or pressure cooker.  Have the stew alongside a thick slice of challah or other great bread.   Let me know how you like it!

Pressure Cooker Chicken & Vegetable Stew

Serves 8-10 (makes a little over a gallon)

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Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (I use grapeseed or avocado oil)
  • 1 peeled yellow onion, chopped ⅓ inch
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill weed
  • 10 cups water
  • 5 large carrots, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 (4-pound) whole chicken, cavity cleaned and giblets discarded
  • Salt (up to 1 tsp) and
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper or to taste
  • 4 ½ ounces (about 3 cups) wide egg noodles
  • Fresh chopped parsley or dill fronds to garnish
Instructions

In an 8-10 quart pressure cooker, heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir in garlic and dill and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in water, carrots, celery, and soy sauce. Put whole chicken, breast side up, on top of the liquid and veggies.

Lock the pressure-cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure over medium-high heat. As soon as the pot reaches high pressure, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 22 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure.

Remove pot from the heat. Quickly release pressure, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.

Transfer the whole chicken (It will be soft and probably fall apart) to a cutting board, let it cool enough for you to be able to handle it.  Remove the chicken skin and bones, and shred the meat into bite-size pieces.

Bring the soup to a boil, stir in the noodles, and cook until tender, about five minutes. Stir in the shredded chicken and parsley or dill  Add more soy or season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. The soup keeps well in the refrigerator for five days or can be frozen.

PS: After this cools in the refrigerator, the fat will congeal at the top and will be simple to remove.  

 

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Mediterranean Herb Chickpea Salad with Eggs  

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Sumptuous Summer Salad

OK, listen up.  If you have any type of herb garden, then put this recipe on the “to make” list, pronto.  On my rooftop deck planter box, I happen to have beautiful basil, parsley, tarragon, and mint – more than I can use.  I’ve already made and frozen multiple batches of tomato sauce infused with a lot of the basil and was trying to figure out what to do with the other herbs … then I spotted this recipe.  I loved the Middle Eastern spices and the idea that egg slices would make this a filling, protein-laden meal.

I gave half of this to my son Jake’s family, and they also had it for lunch and again for dinner – so I’m not the only one who likes this combo.

It’s simple to prepare, really healthful and satisfying to boot.  With all the fresh chopped herbs, what could be better?

Mediterranean Herb Chickpea Salad with Eggs  

(Adapted from Themediterraneandish.com)

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Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 ½ tsp Dijon mustard

  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced

  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced

  • 1 tsp ground sumac
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper (or more if you are a spice lover)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 20 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • About 1 tsp of honey

Salad Ingredients

  • 2 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (or you can use 3 cups of freshly cooked chickpeas, drained)

  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
 into ¼ inch pieces
  • 3 unpeeled Persian cucumbers (or ½ seedless English cucumber), diced
  • 4 small green onions, trimmed and chopped using the white and light green parts
  • ½ cup shredded red cabbage
  • ½ yellow pepper, dice into ¼ inch pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • ¼ cup packed chopped fresh parsley leaves

  • ½ cup packed chopped fresh mint leaves

  • 6 large hard-boiled eggs, sliced thinly
  • Optional: 1 jalapeno peppers, chopped (optional)
 — I did NOT use this and it was still plenty spicy

Instructions

In a Nutribullet or small blender, combine everything for the dressing and emulsify.  Taste and add more honey or salt as needed. Pour into a bottle or container and set aside until about an hour before you want to serve the salad.

In a large mixing bowl, add all the salad ingredients except the eggs. The salad and dressing can be held separately for a day or two if you wish, or you can proceed.

Give the dressing a quick shake and pour over the salad. Mix to combine. Add the sliced eggs, and mix gently again. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Add a sprinkle more sumac to the top if you like. Set aside a few minutes before serving to allow flavors to permeate. The salad will keep in the fridge for a few days if you have any leftover, and this makes such a great lunch!


 

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Summer Sweet Corn Risotto

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Savory & Sweet Corn Risotto

It’s corn season and I couldn’t be happier! SO many things to do with it. While my Summer Corn Pudding is pretty hard to beat (in my humble opinion) – this Risotto recipe is neck and neck.

With risotto, the ratio in a pressure cooker or Instapot is one part rice to two parts of liquid if you care to adjust the recipe.  With just two eaters in my home, I usually cut everything in half and still have leftovers, even though we are huge eaters!

Summer Sweet Corn Risotto

Serves 6-8

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Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 brown skinned onion, peeled and chopped ¼ inch
  • 2 cups of Arborio Rice (sold in bulk at a lot of food stores)
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth (I use Better than Bouillon – 4 teaspoons in 4 cups of water)
  • 1 Tbsp of dry vermouth or leftover white wine
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese + ½ cup  extra to dust on top when serving
  • 1 Tbsp soft butter (optional to finish the dish)
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, kernels taken off the cob (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh chopped tarragon leaves
  • fresh ground pepper to taste (taste to see if you want additional salt)
Instructions

Heat the empty pressure cooker on medium heat for about three minutes, add the oil and let that heat for two more minutes, and then add the chopped onion.

Sauté the onion until it becomes translucent (about 3-5 minutes).

Add the rice and lightly stir it to release the starch. When you add the Arborio rice to the onions, the rice will turn from solid white to translucent, then about a minute later it will go back to white. Wait until just a couple of grains look toasted.

Add the white wine or dry vermouth and stir any grains from the bottom of the cooker with it and stir the rice until the wine has fully evaporated. This takes very little time.

Add the lemon zest and broth, mix and close the top immediately.

Lock the lid of the pressure cooker.  For stove top pressure cookers – turn the heat up to high and when the cooker indicates it has reached high pressure, lower to the heat to maintain pressure and begin timing seven minutes pressure cooking time from the time it reaches full pressure.

When time is up, open the cooker by manually releasing the pressure.  Stir and add the raw corn kernels and tarragon

The risotto might appear just slightly too wet. Stir, and the rice will continue to absorb the extra liquid in about a half minute. If the rice is still very wet, put the open pressure cooker back on a medium flame, without the lid, and finish cooking it this way – stirring often – until it reaches the right consistency. For extra deliciousness, stir in a tablespoon of soft butter and top with additional grated parmesan cheese right before serving. Season to taste with ground pepper and additional salt if needed.

(In the fall, I make this but substitute two cups of some tiny roasted cubed butternut squash instead of corn squash and a tablespoon of fresh chopped sage in place of tarragon.)  

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Yael’s Super Caesar Salad

I end up making this in the summer when I am in the mood for something salty and tangy. Now I sub grapeseed oil for canola (healthier) and I renamed it “Yael’s Super Caesar Salad.”  When my family visited last week, I made Caesar Salad (and threw in some leftover fish) and my son didn’t think the kids would eat this for dinner.  To my gleeful surprise, they both ate multiple helpings and Yael, who is seven, wanted me to name this after her since her brother Levi now has “Levi’s Luscious Hot Fudge Sauce.”  A food for every grandchild, I guess.

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Hail Caesar!

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Caesar Salad - Simple & Satisfying

Caesar Salad – Simple & Satisfying

I’ve been on a Caesar Salad binge for about a month now…crispy heads of Romaine, salty homemade croutons, and creamy dressing: what could be bad about this?  I have all the fixins prepared ahead of time, and most days I indulge shamelessly and consume a nice amount of Caesar.  Lettuce counts as a vegetable in my eyes.

From what I can remember, Caesar salad has been around as long as I’ve been an adult – in other words for a long, long time.  Other salad trends come and go, but Caesar is a staple and beloved by so many young and old.  And it seems like everyone has a favorite Caesar salad recipe.  Many cooks love the drama and flash involved with making this tableside with a wood bowl, a whisk and elbow grease.  But me?  I’ve never been a showman, I should say show-woman.  All I care about is that the final creation I make brings joy to me and to those I am feeding

This is one of my recipes I made by the gallon back in my catering life.  Everyone asked about our Caesar, and ironically I landed a few jobs just because of this simple salad.  While I was a business person, I never dared divulge my tried and true catering recipes.  And now?  If you ask me for a recipe, I’ll gladly share with you!

I simplified my catering recipe even further since I now own a Nutribullet – although a blender works just dandy too.  I don’t even bother to grate the parmesan cheese, but weight out what I need and let the blender do all the work.  And everything goes in at once, making this a breeze. The version I’m sharing has anchovy paste because I love the salty flavor, but if this doesn’t float your boat just skip the anchovy and add Worcestershire sauce.

It's all about the dressing...

It’s all about the dressing…

Blender Caesar Dressing

Makes 1 ¼ cups dressing

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Ingredients
  • 1 whole egg (supposed to be coddled for a minute – I used a pasteurized egg instead but you can read how to do this here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coddled_egg)
  • ½ cup high quality grated Italian Parmesan/Reggiano cheese-eyeball it or if you have a kitchen scale,r simply weigh out a  2 ounce chunk of cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon + add unseasoned rice vinegar if you don’t have quite enough juice from one large lemon)
  • ½ teaspoon anchovy paste (If you don’t like anchovy, use one teaspoon Worcestershire sauce)
  • 2 whole cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp fresh black pepper ground
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ cup salad oil (not olive oil – I use canola oil)
Instructions

To begin with – HAVE EVERYTHING (eggs, lemon, cheese and anchovy paste)  AT ROOM TEMPERATURE!  If the ingredients aren’t at room temp, you’ll have to slowly drizzle in the oil at the end.

Add all the ingredients including the oil to a Nutribullet or whirl using a blender, run the motor until everything is smooth.  This takes me about 20 seconds.

Pour into a glass container and refrigerate at least an hour or up to a week.  Let stand at room temp 15 minutes before serving.

To compose the salad, use chopped or whole leaves of Romaine lettuce and fresh croutons too.

Cook’s notes:  

Be sure to make homemade croutons! Just cube up a denser (usually leftover) baguette bread into ¾ inch pieces (I use a small loaf from Macrina bakery from my beloved neighborhood Metropolitan Market called “Giusseppe Roll”).  Coat the cubes with half a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then bake 325 for ten minutes – or until the cubes are brown.  Cool and store at room temperature.  I usually make a bunch of these for the week and briefly pop them in the toaster oven at 300 degrees for a few minutes to freshen them up before I toss my salad. I’ve also made the salad a bit unique by using leftover rye bread for croutons.  It’s surprisingly great.

It’s not traditional, but I often add halved cherry tomatoes and avocado to my Caesar.  Or I add cherry tomatoes along with fresh mint and oregano.  I”m shameless.

And finally, if you aren’t into cheese, you can make this eliminating the parmesan — you’ll end up with a creamy, garlicy lemony dressing that is mighty fine.

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Zucchini Ribbon Salad

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Super Colorful Zucchini Salad

I know, I know.  Zucchini doesn’t sound too exciting as a salad, but hear me out.  In early summer there are mounds of fresh, inexpensive zucchini at farmers markets and grocery stores throughout the country.  And if you have a plant or two in your yard – you know of which I speak. Zucchini for weeks and weeks.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of cooked zucchini because I find it watery in texture and not that flavorful.  HOWEVER, I made this salad while in a class taught by visiting chef, Joe Yonan, food editor of The Washington Post.  It was an interactive, hands-on class with about seven dishes to prepare, and we were able to choose which recipe we wanted to cook.  I was feeling fairly lazy so I decided to try making something that was quick and which did not involve the stove (it was a hot afternoon, after all).  I was paired with two women from San Diego and we whipped this up in no time flat.

And you know what?  This absolutely will be THE salad that I will bring to various potlucks this summer.  I have been preparing another previously published raw zucchini dish for a while now, and this is just as refreshing and as easy to make.  Plus, this one is pretty, colorful and tastes like summer.

A GREAT COOKBOOK indeed!

The recipe is from America the Great Cookbook (with a few of my own twists and turns, of course). What I love about this cookbook is that it supports Share Our Strength’s incredible No Kid Hungry initiative. In case you’re not familiar with the cause – here’s their Mission Statement:

“NO CHILD SHOULD GROW UP HUNGRY IN AMERICA. But 1 in 6 children struggles with hunger. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending childhood hunger in America by connecting kids in need with nutritious food and teaching families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. You can help surround kids with healthy food where they live, learn and play.”

Zucchini Ribbon Salad

Serves 6

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Ingredients:
  • 3 green zucchini
  • 2 cups small grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 3 yellow squash
  • ¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Fine sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup good quality grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves.  (I will try fresh dill leaves next time just for a change)

Such Simple Ingredients

Instructions:

Make the dressing: combine the vinegar and olive oil.  Add the tomatoes and season with the salt and pepper, and let this marinate while you make the squash ribbons.

Using a sharp vegetable peeler, cut the zucchini into lengthwise ribbons.  Peel off several ribbons from one side, then turn the zucchini and peel off more ribbons.  Continue turing and peeling until you get to the seed part at the core of the zucchini. You can also do this with a spiralizer or mandoline, although the veggie peeler method went fast. Repeat for the yellow squash

Right before you are ready to serve the salad, place the ribbons in a serving bowl with the tomatoes and dressing, add the cheese and gently toss.  Taste and add more salt and pepper–remember that Zucchini is bland and might need more salt than you initially anticipated. Finally, add the mint and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

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Simple Summer Rhubarb Strawberry Bars

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Super Simple Rhubarb Strawberry Bars

This recipe came to me in 2018 on Fathers Day…we had a family shindig for the dads (and uncles who have been fill-in dads) and for the moms who enabled their men to become dads.  Anyway, I kind of organized this mid-afternoon swim party/early dinner and signed up for bringing barbequed chicken, beans and slaw. Others were assigned beverages and paper goods and my daughter said she’d make these bars.  

If I had seen the recipe published, I’m not sure I would have headed immediately to the store to get the ingredients or that I would have swooned over the idea of these bars.  HOWEVER, I tasted them and I was hooked from the first bite. They originate from One Bowl Baking, although I made many changes in amounts, method, ingredients, baking time — even the way to ensure they are gorgeous when cut…so I can almost call them my own.

The same week as father’s day, I made these EVERY DAY. Arguably, some went to a family with a new baby, a few went into the freezer but the majority of these little bars are in my stomach (and my husband’s stomach too).  I became obsessed with making them perfect (I do love things to taste great AND look appealing) and I tried lots of tweaks.

Ready for the oven!

Below is what I decided is the perfect bar.  Now I plan to try this with different fruit (blackberry/cranberry?  Apricot/blueberry? The sky’s the limit. I cut mine into beautiful little rectangles and store them in the freezer long term and in the fridge short term.

Rhubarb Strawberry Bars

Makes 12 nice sized servings (if you only eat one)

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Filling Ingredients
  • 1 cup rhubarb, diced into ¼ inch cubes
  • 1 cup seasonal strawberries, stems removed and cut into ¼ inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
Crust and Topping Ingredients
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup minus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 6 Tbsp melted salted butter
Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in the middle of the oven.  

Line an 8 x 8 metal brownie pan with parchment paper (cut to about 8 x 12?) – leaving some of the paper extending over the sides in one direction and put a second sheet of parchment going the other way with paper extending up the sides as well.  I take my fingernail to be sure the bottom edges and corners of the paper won’t slide about and I spray the paper with Pam.

Dice up fruit, stir in orange juice, zest and cornstarch and mix well.  Let it remain on the counter while you make the bottom crust and top crumble. Stir it again when you walk by.

Mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt and dribble in the butter, mixing everything together with your hands.  (This is a great job for little people too). Remove a little less than ½ cup of this crumble.

Press the remaining flour/oat mixture for the crust into the bottom of your brownie pan.  I make sure everything is even steven, then I press it down firmly using an offset spatula.   or bench scraper.  Top with the fruit mixture and make sure this layer is even.  Top with crumbs of the crust-making sure it doesn’t stick together in clumps.  I then lightly press down on the topping with my hands.

Put into the preheated oven and bake for 42 minutes (look at 35 minutes-it should be browning). Remove from the oven when it is brown and smells delish, and let the pan cool on a rack for a half hour or so.  Put the entire pan, when cool to the touch, in the refrigerator for at least an hour or even overnight.

Remove the bars gently from the brownie pan, using the parchment paper.  Peel the paper away and put the mass of uncut cookies on a cutting board.  Cut into 12 nice pieces (4 rows down and 3 across) with a sharp, long knife.  

Keep these stored in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Repeat as long as you can get tender, fresh rhubarb, and nice strawberries.

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Simple Summer Strawberry Shortcake

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Celebratory Shortcake!

If you ask me what my very favorite type of summer fruit, there is no contest.  I LOVE BERRIES!! Raspberries take first place followed closely by strawberries, but I only like berries that are fresh off the vine, preferably eaten within a day or two of picking.  In June and July, I become obsessed with making sweet and savory dishes using berries.

Imagine my delight when I took part in a recent hands-on class taught by Joe Yonan.  This particular strawberry shortcake wasn’t something I prepared in the class, but it was made by a few students and served to all twenty of us that evening.  I thought it was a genius move to make the shortcake in a large disk, then cut it into wedges to serve rather than to bake individual shortcakes. I loved the taste of the not-too-sweet dessert and knew it was going into my summer berry recipes rotation.  

Two weeks later, serendipitously, I was invited to accompany my in-town grandkids for two days close to the Cascade mountains.  My grandson Asher celebrated his birthday during this time! It has become my daughter’s tradition to let the birthday kid (or adult) select the menu for their birthday …so Asher and I had quite a discussion about what he wanted to eat for his birthday dinner.  He settled on baked salmon, a sliced veggie platter with raw carrots, tomatoes and cucumber spears (and yes, everyone ate a huge amount of the vegetables). He also requested spaghetti with homemade red sauce and parmesan, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. My now 7-year old grandboy has a very sophisticated palate.

Asher & Grandma

The best part of all is that Asher made most of his birthday “cake.”   I measured out the dry ingredients at home and brought everything in a container along with whipping cream, and he destemmed all four cups of tiny fresh strawberries, then made the shortcake, patted it into a circle, painted it with butter and turbinado sugar and finally helped me hand-whisk whip cream for the top.  

The Chef

Wowza!  It was good… really really good in fact.  If you still have strawberries in your neck of the woods (or if you have strawberries later in the season) this is super easy and wonderful to take to a picnic or 4th of July celebration.  We served seven eaters and refrigerated the remaining five slices of shortcake. For breakfast the next day, we put a piece of cake on a plate and heated it for 10 seconds in the microwave, then topped it with berries and cream.  Asher’s crazy grandfather (Zadie Wayne) put his shortcake in a bowl with berries and cream then made a moat of milk. Not my thing, but he loves soggy stuff like that.

Strawberry Shortcake

(from America the Great Cookbook with my changes, of course)

Serves 8-12

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Ingredients – Berry Topping
  • 4 cups (2 pints) of small ripe strawberries, stems removed.  If your berries are larger, cut them into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp turbinado sugar
Ingredients – Shortcake Biscuit
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 1 ½ cups chilled whipping cream
  • 1 Tbsp melted butter + 2 tsp turbinado sugar
Ingredients – To serve:
  • 1 Tbsp soft butter to brush on the biscuit while it is still warm)
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream, hand whipped to soft peaks
Instructions:

For the berries: in a bowl, toss the cut berries with the sugar and mash them slightly with a fork (if they are tiny and soft) or a potato masher.  Set aside for 45 minutes and stir occasionally while you are making the shortcake

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  

Mix together the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the cream and mix with your hands until the dough holds together slightly.  Knead a few times (don’t overdo or the dough will be tough) then pat the dough into an 8 inch by a ½ inch tall circle on a parchment lined cookie sheet. The dough is quite soft and felt like bread dough.   Brush with one tablespoon melted butter and sprinkle with two teaspoons of turbinado sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 325 and continue baking another 10 minutes.  Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and brush the shortcake with one tablespoon of melted butter while it is still warm.  It can stay on the counter for an hour or so.

To serve, cut the shortcake into wedges, top each piece with about ½ cup of berries and their juice, and top with a dollop of whipping cream.  Eat and repeat.

PS: I am actually going to try this with diced peaches (aka peach shortcake) too … just because.   

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