Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Heirloom Tomato, Melon & Arugula Salad with Jalapeño-Orange-Honey Vinaigrette

So much of what we create in the kitchen comes from some sort of inspiration... our own imagination, something that has captivated our thoughts (or palate)... a recipe we've spied, a photograph, an outing, a conversation. Or, simply an ingredient that's at the peak of its season.

In this particular instance, it was much of the above; elements that came together to create a truly flavorful, summer-centric salad composed of so much of the bounty we assign to this time of year: ripe, succulent heirloom tomatoes that range from large, bulbous spheres to smaller varieties of varying symmetry, size and hue; sweet, juicy, summer melon; and crunchy pops of flavor that tie these two seemingly unmatched fruits together... arugula, radish, cucumber, and mint. Oh... and a chili-infused dressing. And, yes, it all (surprisingly) works.

The inspiration for this salad was a meal we had at Redd Wood in Yountville, California, just down the street from chef Richard Reddington's well-known spot... Redd. This newer venture, however, is a more casual, rustic restaurant... a chic pizza spot that is so much more than pies (though the pies are delicious!).

We have a favorite place we stay at in Yountville... a perfect locale for not just enjoying the fruit of this region's nectar, but a truly central position to many wonderful restaurants. And Redd Wood is just a good stroll from this perch, making it not only a great choice for good food but convenient! For us, it was a great spot to enjoy a relaxed, late evening meal tacked onto an equally relaxed, perfect day spent in and amongst the vineyards of this region.

This is my own rendition of the salad we selected at Redd Wood. As said, it incorporates a lot of what summer has to offer and, in particular, two ingredients you might not think to couple: heirloom tomatoes and cantaloupe. Then it pops these two ingredients with the addition of radish and arugula... flavors that kind of turn the lights on in this salad. And, unexpectedly, dresses it all in a light, chili-infused vinaigrette which illuminates the flavor of this salad but also keeps it so approachable.

In my version, I use a jalapeño pepper and tempered its robust flavor with a bit of honey, fresh orange juice and a little cayenne pepper.

It's kind of summer at its best... bountiful, bold... and balanced.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fresh Cherry Pie-In-A-Jar {for Stemilt Growers}

I recently took a couple of cherry pies … in jars… as a hostess gift to some friends who had invited us to join them on their boat. 

From her: “Oh my gosh, this is great. How fun is this?”

From him: “It’s a Pie-in-a-Jar… a Pie-in-a-Jar,” expressed in kind of a singsong sort of way and definitely just the beginning of the evening’s renditions of what you could put in a jar… accompanied, of course, with that little singsong tone.  (FYI… he’s the comic of the group.)

In the end, we took one of these two “pies” on our boating cruise into town for dinner, figuring we’d share it on the ride home. Well… let me tell you “he” was singing a little different rendition of his song on our return jaunt and I’m pretty sure “he” had his sights on that second pie (...in a jar!). Come to think of it, I believe "he" was the one who grabbed the jar for the boat ride in the first place... hmmm.

There’s really nothing new on this pie-in-a-jar concept. It’s pretty much what you’d bake up as a regular cherry pie… only in a jar. A cherry pie with fresh cherries, that is. No packaged cherry pie filling here. It's a fun way to serve up a generous "slice" of pie... and, better yet, a fun way to gift a "slice" of pie (even if you share it among four spoons!). 

This particular little sweet is made with Stemilt’s beautiful, fresh cherries. And, recipe details and step-by-step instructions are up on their blog today! Click over to The Stem to read more.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Veggie Cups

I love the fact that this bright red pepper cup presents all buttoned up and pristine, the perfect little side serving of veggies neatly tucked away. But the minute you slice into it, there's a party on your plate! One slice and you get a brilliant burst of flavor and interest... infusing your plate with all the goodness a good grill deserves.

Barbecuing is the perfect way to go when temps heat up... which has recently been the case. However, regardless of what we happen to be grilling, I need something on the side that really delivers... a sauce, a soupy medley, a fruity salsa... to accompany our main. Something to give whatever we happen to be grilling a nice, compatible balance of flavor, texture and substance. Why just spoon a sauté of veggies over whatever you happen to be grilling when you can compose it in a neat, little package?

On this particular occasion, we were finishing off a week of Paleo cooking (as you do to accommodate whomever happens to be visiting). On the grill: chicken. The sauce of the day: a grilled veggie salsa composed of roma tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and garlic seasoned with a good dash of kosher salt and ground black pepper, and topped off with some fresh chopped cilantro. (The veggies just take minutes on the grill and then get popped into a food processor... let them sit to cool a bit... whirred up, seasoned... and cilantro'd. Just remember to get the skins off your grilled garlic before processing).

While the grill is going, pop your red pepper cups into the oven and get your filling started on the stovetop. While you can include just about any veggie that strikes your fancy, we went with a simple sauté of onions, mushrooms and tomatoes.

Round it all out with a simple salad and you are good to go.