This is pregnant lady friendly (or just afternoon/had to many coffees already but still want one friendly) and is sooooo good with the almond milk.
I was at Starbucks the other day and had a cold brew toasted coconut coffee. While it was good, it got me thinking of some other flavors – and the fact that I can make my own cold brew in a decaf form so I can drink more of it! Or at least still have my approved one cup a day AND an afternoon cold brew.
I remember when I was in high school and we had family dinners at my mom’s house on the weekend, we would sometimes eat in the dinning room and have courses. There would be a little appetizer, a salad, and a main course. Dessert was usually popcorn in front of the TV, or bowls of ice cream (mom didn’t bake much after grade school, aside from the occasional banana bread or gingersnaps). One of the things about the food that has stuck with me is my mom’s salads.
I don’t need a gallon of sun tea. But I want some amount of sun tea to be in my fridge at all times. I love trying different flavors, blends and teas as sun tea too. They way sun tea works, is that you put the tea in a glass container and let the sun work it’s magic on it. The slow, steady rise in temperature from the sun creates a brew that is so delicious, and smooth. It’s different then just regular iced tea!
I’ve been so inspired by all the summer bucket list posts I’ve seen on the internet these days–and just people out there on social media doing some quintessential summery things–I had to make my own list!
If you look at my life (living with my boyfriend/fiance, not married yet and no near wedding plans, went back to school as an adult) I would not really look I am into rules, order or tradition. I think I’ve just realized that I am happy to figure it out, whatever it looks like.
Lemonade is such a simple thing. Lemons, water, sugar. That’s it. Yet, we complicate matters… packets, powder, stirring endlessly. This is all unnecessary. Come with me and let’s go back to a simpler time (and a simpler way). Let’s squeeze, juice and macerate. You won’t regret this.
I think the turning point for my relationship with cooking was in college. I get asked this question a lot, and it’s something I’ve thought about carefully. I used to make cookies and brownies with my mom growing up, lick the beaters or the bowl and play with her pots and pans. But that was when I was 4 and 5. There was a departure from the kitchen, for me, between about 7 and 15. I think I always loved food and eating, but then again, who doesn’t? I don’t especially remember liking to make cookies when I was 13 and reading Cosmo Girl, searching for the perfect nail polish and taking quizzes about what my style was. No, cooking and I didn’t really get along again until about 18 or 19. I was in college, living at a girls co-op at Oregon State University, and eating most meals out of the kitchen at Azalea House.*
The cook at Azalea, or AZA as we called it, while I was there was named Kevin. He was a man probably in his 30’s (this was 2002 or ’03), with a booming voice that traveled through the small kitchen and out to the dining room. So many times I padded across that room to get something from the kitchen in the afternoon and could hear the voice of Kevin, long before entering the kitchen, chatting with someone, but it sounded more like a one-sided conversation. It is things like this that were a comfort to me in a way, when being away from home for the first time. Being on your own at 18 doesn’t feel so strange when you are in a house full of 50 girls and a guy like Kevin you could talk to like a big brother.
The dining room was really a white tiled room with a row of 6 foot by 2 foot tables put in a row down the left side. The front of the dining room, near a bank of windows, was where the food went, buffet style. When the food was put out, at 5pm every evening, is when Kevin’s work day would end. I don’t think I thought too much about the food beyond: me. hungry. brain. need food. But one night there was this salsa. I couldn’t stop eating it. I got seconds and thirds. The thought that kept going through my head was, what if I never have this again? I HAVE to know how to make it. I HAVE to eat this again. And that was it.
That’s where my love affair with cooking started.
The next morning I begged Kevin for the recipe. “It’s called Pico de Gallo” He said. He was pretty free with this recipes, but I don’t think very many girls asked him for them. So he told me the basics and I scribbled them down on a piece of paper. That weekend I went home and made the salsa for my family. I, again, couldn’t stop eating it. I think my parents were happy to have something made for them, but probably have eaten pico de gallo before. I was mesmerized. I couldn’t believe that I could make these flavors with just produce, and that the only thing standing in my way was a bunch of chopping. It was from there, that I started. I made more things, I discovered what I liked to eat and how it was made. I moved out of AZA in 2004, and in 2005 I was living in a small house off-campus with two other girls (who also lived in AZA with me). It was while living in the house that I really got the cooking bug. I started watching Food Network, reading Real Simple and cooking whatever meal they deemed “simple for a weeknight” and becoming obsessed with Martha Stewart.
It’s really funny, what one salsa can do to change the course of your life.
Through all that has happened, I never forgot about Kevin. He was a sounding board, a guy you could vent to, tell your problems to, commiserate with, and get advice from. He knew us. He could tell when something wasn’t right or when something had gone SO right we were beaming. Kevin probably got a little more then he bargained for when he took on AZA, but we were lucky to have him. And I am lucky to have this recipe. It brings me back to my roots and reminds me why I do this. For the love of food.
So, the recipe is simple. I think you could even just throw everything in to a bowl and lightly toss it and it would turn out as good as that day in the dining room. But here I’ll offer you a little more instruction then that.
Have you ever noticed that some food just looks better before you cook it? The cooking process can make some vegetables and fruits look less vibrant. Of course, they are less vibrant, they’ve been steamed, roasted, boiled or cooked. Thank the powers that be, we have more then just sight to go on here. Even if a vegetable looks bland after cooking, we have smell and taste to tell us something different.
These little eggplants are one of those things that are breathtaking when raw, but a little bland looking when cooked. We have the bronzed miso side of them to make them appealing. The taste of them will prove to be interesting; salty and meltingly tender. I couldn’t stop eating them when they came out of the oven.
This recipe is simple if you have a couple of irregular things on hand. I didn’t have sake or mirin, and I improvised for both with excellent results.
Here’s how to make a “mock sake.” You just need a little dry vermouth and sugar. Mix them together in a small dish.
For the mirin, I just substituted whatever opened sweet wine I had, which happened to be rose.
Then you roast the little babies with sesame oil, cut side down. After they roast, turn them over and let them cool while you make the glaze. The glaze comes together quickly.
Brush it on the eggplants. You might have a little extra, but you will definitely want to save it.
These get broiled. They smell amazing! Watch them, they go fast under the broiler.
These made a fantastic snack, but they would also be delicious alongside roasted salmon or chicken.
*I saved the extra 3 tablespoons I had and used it to glaze grilled bok choi. A super tasty and quick side dish!
1 teaspoon sesame oil, plus additional for the baking sheet
1 tablespoon white wine or mirin if you have it
1 tablespoon “mock sake” or regular sake if you have it (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons white or yellow miso
1 tablespoon sugar
Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and cut off the stem and calyx. Using the tip of a paring knife, cut an incision down the middle of each half, making sure not to cut through the skin, but cutting down to it. Salt the eggplant lightly and let sit for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and brush with sesame oil.
Blot the eggplants with paper towels to remove the moisture on the surface and place, cut side down, on the baking sheets.
Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin is beginning to shrivel and the flesh is soft. Remove from the oven, carefully turn the eggplants over, and preheat the broiler.
To make the glaze, combine the mirin and sake (or wine and mock sake) in the smallest saucepan you have and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 20 seconds, taking care not to boil off much of the liquid, then turn the heat to low and stir in the miso and the sugar. Whisk over medium-low heat without letting the mixture boil, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sesame oil.
Brush the eggplants with the miso glaze, using up all of the glaze. Place under the broiler, about 2 inches from the heat, and broil for about 1 minute, until the glaze begins to bubble and looks shiny. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool if desired or serve hot. To serve, cut the eggplant halves on the diagonal into 1- to 1-1/2-inch slices.
To make the “mock sake”:
Mix 1/4 cup dry vermouth with scant tablespoon sugar. Use just 1 tablespoon for this recipe and save the rest for another day you need sake.
Joel LOVES cheese sticks. I’m talking about those kind you had as a kid, the mozzarella string cheese sticks that you could pull and pull and make last for an hour. Yea, as an adult, he still loves them. Honestly, sometimes he gets low blood sugar and it’s not a bad idea to have them around if dinner is taking a little too long-er then I meant for it to take. So we’ve made a habit of buying them and I’m always looking for new varieties. I bought these fresh mozzarella sticks at Safeway the other day (A. they were on sale. So, yea, you got me. B. Fresh mozzarella? Yum! Maybe he’ll like those…) But in reality, peeling the wrapper back and having that little bit of liquid spill out isn’t…uh… exactly appetizing and doesn’t make for great finger food. Needless to say, these were not his favorite cheese sticks. So, I repurposed them into this salad!
Summer is the perfect time to have salad for dinner. But to make it satisfying, you need to keep it interesting. Try adding one element from each of the following taste categories:
Salty: Prosciutto, bacon (any cured meat, really), salted nuts, aged cheese like asiago or parmesan.
Sweet: fruit, small chunks of roasted sweet potato, roasted or raw mushrooms, dried fruit, fruit based vinaigrette or dressing such as a raspberry or strawberry balsamic dressing.
Crunchy: Nuts, seeds, croutons, crunchy bits of apple or carrot (which could also satisfy the “sweet” category) even crispy bacon or roasted chickpeas. Sometimes I just slice up some cabbage and add it in with the other lettuces I’m using and that alone adds some needed crunch!
Creamy: Oooh yea, cheese is my go to here. Goat cheese, bleu cheese, the fresh mozzarella, or anything that will linger on your tongue a little longer. I like to think meat here too, like steak, roasted chicken, even pork belly or bits of slow cooked meats like pork or beef roasts. Basically creamy means fatty – you want a little bit of a fat element. Maybe it’s just a drizzle of olive oil, some avocado chunks, or a couple dollops of greek yogurt. Tofu and eggplant could even be considered creamy, given the right context (roasted eggplant and silken tofu especially).
Of course, there’s always sour (pickled beets – pickled anything really, buttermilk dressing, capers, lemon zest/juice or some fruits like pomegranate) or spicy (sliced chili, raw onion, arugula, cayenne on those spiced nuts, or radish) and bitter (parsley, grapefruit, chard, radicchio, dandelion, and probably many other things I am missing at the moment). But let’s not overwhelm ourselves, shall we?
The important thing when building a good salad, one that you will really love to eat rather then loath, gobble down rather then begrudgingly eat and savor rather then suffer… is that you have some variety and a little bit of indulgence with it. Make it special, and you won’t go searching for sustenance beyond the salad bowl.
You don’t have to have all of these categories represented at one time, but it’s nice to have two or three (with the basis of some sort of lettuce or greens). For us, a simple weeknight salad that goes alongside a more involved main dish, will likely include just one or two other things besides dressing. I might just quickly chop some onion slices and grate a carrot, then add some olive oil and a few dashes rice wine vinegar to the top. Or perhaps I have a cherry tomato or two I can slice up and top the greens with along with a little snipped chive from the garden and (in the lucky event) a coating of homemade buttermilk dressing leftover from some weekend cooking session. Often, I add a small handful of sunflower seeds, because the crunch is satisfying and I know that is what “makes” a salad for Joel. It is for me too, really, I need to have a crunch in my salad, wether that comes from the lettuce, the raw onion or some nuts… somehow a salad is much more sustaining (and keeps me away from chips and other snacks in the afternoon) if it involves a bit of a bite.
By the way, walnuts are my special hybrid… if I have some good spiced or sugared walnuts on hand, they can be about 3 or 4 of the categories at once. I’ll have to show you some good candied nut recipes this fall… they are so easy and so much better then store-bought.
So, that’s how this salad came about. I needed a way to use up these fresh mozz cheese sticks and I have been craving stone fruit. But in Oregon, it’s tough to know exactly when the stone fruit will be at it’s peak! Often times I’ll buy a peach or a nectarine only to have it be mealy and bland when I cut into it at home. So this method of quick pickling the fruit with a little sugar, thinly sliced onion and seasoning gives you a little grace on the ripeness of the fruit. If it isn’t perfectly ripe, the vinegar helps bring out whatever flavor is there, while the sugar rounds it out and mellows any tanginess. And if it is ripe it’s still just as good. These were just ripe, and still a little firm, which is perfect.
Light, healthy and satisfying. Perfect summer dinner or lunch!
Salad with Pickled Nectarines, Mozz and Proscuitto
Serves: 2 servings
2 nectarines, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 large handfuls field greens
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
olive oil for drizzling
2 ounces fresh mozzarella or cheese sticks, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces
2 slices prosciutto
1/4 cup thinly slices white onion or red onion
Toss nectarines, onion, vinegar, and sugar in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Let sit 10 minutes to marinate.
Divide the greens evenly between two salad bowls and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Spoon the pickled nectarines and onions over the greens, adding a little of the pickling liquid on to the greens as well. You can sort of sprinkle it with the spoon over the greens as part of the dressing.
Slice the prosciutto into long and skinny ribbons, and drape them over the greens and the nectarines.
Layer the basil leaves in a small stack and roll them into a little cigar shape. Starting the top, slice into ribbons. Sprinkle evenly all over each salad.
Scatter the mozzarella over the salads.
Add an additional sprinkle of salt and pepper and serve with or without sliced bread.