There is no better way to spend $25 in the summer.
Completely related: shooting out the last 3 episodes of WCFoodies Season 2 today.
Strawberry-Mint Ice Pops; Homemade Vanilla Extract; Kulfi Pops
This week’s episode is all about refreshment. And treating yourself. And stirring a pot of milk for 4 hours, which is the long way to go about making kulfi, but hard work yields better rewards.
We filmed the first part of this episode (the strawberry-mint pops) a couple of months ago, when strawberries were peaking at the Greenmarkets here in New York. The summer fruit has really started to explode the past week or so, and while strawberry season has pretty much already closed (;_;), peaches, apricots, sugar plums, all kinds of berries, red currants, and melons are now hitting the stands.
I can’t stop thinking about how pretty cantaloupe-champagne pops would be: big chunks of pastel orange melon suspended in a light syrup of water, honey, and champagne. You want one, right? Don’t lie.
Or what about pureeing up some watermelon with just a touch of sugar and some fresh basil leaves for neon-pink watermelon pops?
But my favorite summer fruit is, easily, donut peaches. I’m going to have to buy a couple pounds at the market tomorrow, because I’ve already thought of 3 distinct recipes for them:
Vanilla Peach Creamsicles: I’m thinking about gently simmering a pound or so of halved donut peaches in milk (whole, 2%, 1%, skim, soy, rice should all work) with some homemade vanilla extract.
Donut Peach Mimosa Pops: Simmer your halved donut peaches in a 3:1 mix of water and honey. Fill ice pop molds halfway. Top with champagne and fresh donut peach slivers.
Donut Peach Kulfi: Make a basic vanilla kulfi. Slice donut peaches and macerate with a tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 a teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1/2 a teaspoon vanilla. Layer your ice pop molds thusly: 1/3 kulfi, 1/3 peaches, 1/3 kulfi.
With all that summer fruit out there, the possibilities are endless.
Currently drinking: Demolition Ale, Goose Island Brewery, Chicago, IL
A tart Belgian with small, tight carbonation. A little like small, tart green grapes and honey. Saison yeast? Wouldn’t mind a little more hop flavor, but I enjoy the citrusy bitter end notes
Great for a summer BBQ - would wash down a sun-soaked burger and chips like a pro.
What are you drinking?
This week: Cherry & Thai Basil Soda with Brooklyn Soda Works
Want to bring something really cool and different to your 4th of July parties this weekend? Why not try making your own fruit and herb soda, a la Brooklyn Soda Works?
As far as I’m concerned, my parents raised me right - they rarely kept pop and other sugary junk in the house, and my discerning dad bought artisan seltzer water, packed in old-fashioned glass bottles and shipped in wooden cases, instead of the plastic liters at the supermarket. Basically, my parents unwittingly raised me to be a huge fan of Brooklyn Soda Works.
Of course, you can adapt Caroline and Tony’s soda recipes and methods to make delicious juices and teas, too. I did exactly that yesterday with some fresh berries from the market and fresh mint from my backyard.
Once you start seeing soda - or juice or tea - as another way to enjoy, preserve, and celebrate summer’s sweetest bounty, you’ll see your farmer’s market and homegrown herbs in entirely new ways. Cucumber, tarragon, & lemon soda! Huckleberry and apricot juice! A savory tea of rosemary, thyme, peppercorn, and lemon that would probably pair beautifully with some Hendricks gin! A peach-vanilla egg cream!
See what I mean? Endless.
(Black tea & clove! Ginger and lemongrass! Lemongrass and lime! Horchata soda! Guava and lime! Coconut and lime and lemongrass! Blueberry and peach! Peach and ginger!)
For more on Brooklyn Soda Works, check out their blog.
Simply clean your fruit, trim the strawberries, and de-stem and slice the cherries, then toss in a pot of water and bring to a boil, kind of smashing the fruit every once in awhile, for about 45 minutes or until the fruit looks brown-anemic. Strain and steep a few bags of tea in the juice and then remove the tea bags and pour the juice-tea into a large, ice-filled pitcher. Garnish with fresh, crushed mint and keep in the fridge. I recommend drinking it outdoors to really feel the summer full-force.
…while Humphrey hunts a squirrel.
This week’s episode: DIY BBQ Part 2: Homemade Veggie Burgers & Potato Salad
It’s a little embarrassing to admit this: for over 10 years, I was a vegetarian, and I never even considered making my own veggie burgers. I don’t know why. I remember living mainly on salads, pasta, and black beans.
Maybe it’s because every veggie burger I tried was either a passable-at-best meat substitute from the freezer aisle, or some strange and unhealthy concoction pasted together by a well-meaning chef. I remember one veggie burger in particular that had a strangely soft texture. The reason? The chef made it by ‘soaking’ chunks of stale bread in an entire jar of mayo overnight, then mixing in a bag of frozen peas, carrots, and corn and deep-frying the whole thing. I was fairly horrified.
Luckily, I have Brendan, and although he’s never been a vegetarian himself, his veggie burger recipe is hands-down the best veggie burger I’ve ever eaten. His secret: fresh roasted vegetables. Seriously, that’s it. No fake veggie protein, no weird filler, and absolutely no jar of mayo.
This recipe is great for vegans, but you can add an egg to help hold the burgers together. I made more veggie burgers for a BBQ a couple of weeks ago using leftover Thai black rice from some take out and spiced them up by adding in 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce. I have a feeling they’d also be good with some minced smoked tofu mixed into the bean and rice base.
And like Brendan says, if you’re not a vegetarian, top these babies with a nice, thick slice of slab bacon. Chances are, you won’t even miss the beef.
There’s nothing better than perfectly peak-season summer fruit, but preserving fruit yourself is a great way to extend the life of your favorite fruits, so you can still enjoy them come fall and winter - without the guilt and compromise of buying out-of-season fruit, trucked in from miles and miles away.
These bars are so easy to make, it’s almost like cheating. Of course, they’re also so tasty that I have to exercise tons of will power not to eat more than one per sitting; although the sugar and almost all the fat comes from healthy sources, like honey and peanut butter, these bars are still super-rich.
Even if you’re not going hiking or camping, the Peanut Butter Oat Bars make a fantastic brownie/cookie/cake alternative for a Memorial Day cookout, or even as an alternative to that store-bought energy bar you eat before or after the gym.
Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!
As a kid, it wasn’t uncommon to see a simple green salad on the table as an accompaniment to the steak, or roast chicken, or whatever was for dinner. These salads were usually of the last minute, kitchen sink variety: some bag of pre-rinsed lettuce, bits of spare veggies, perhaps a can of hearts of palm. Oh, and of course, doused in one of those packaged, sodium- and hidden-fat laden dressings. I thought of these salads as an unfortunate prerequisite for dessert (of course with those dressings, the salad was just as unhealthful as dessert).
This scene probably isn’t all that different from other American households. Salad is often seen as the unwanted stepchild of the dinner table. I know I saw it that way. But it can be so much more. And it’s so damn easy, what with the prevalence of farmer’s markets nowadays. . For our salad, we picked an interesting lettuce in rocket. Grabbed some veggies at their seasonal peak (beans and the smallest of potatoes). Made a drop-dead-easy vinaigrette (one easy formula to remember is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar). There’s a reason they call it a simple salad, right?
All of these ingredients alone would have made a beautiful salad to me, but what really threw it over the top were the queso blanc and the duck fat bread we turned into croutons. They added a richness that really set the whole thing off.
My memories of childhood salads aren’t quite the same as my brother’s. I’ve always loved salad, but I’ve also always had strict salad rules: the lettuce must be fresh, crispy, and vivid; the dressing must be homemade and applied with a light touch; and the accoutrements must extend beyond raw carrots and celery (frankly, I prefer if you leave those two out altogether). As a broke sometimes-vegetarian in college, I found inventive ways to eat salads on the cheap. A favorite was a variation on the standard Israeli salad: I’d toss together chickpeas, grape tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper, and eat that with toasted pita bread every day for dinner. Sometimes, I’d splurge and treat myself to a few crumbs of fresh Feta.
And then, I discovered the Union Square Greenmarket, literally steps beyond the entrance to my dorm. For as little as $6, I could pick up an overwhelming variety of vegetables and fruits that would turn, almost on their own, into a week’s worth of salads. I grated raw, finger-long summer squash over baby field greens; paired slivered fennel bulbs with lemon and parmesan; and discovered my most favorite salad of all, and the simplest: chopped heirloom tomatoes; shredded basil; fresh mozzarella; cubes of day-old baguette; and plenty of salt. That’s a salad that I still eat almost daily in the summertime, even though, in college, it was an extravagance because the mozzarella doubled my usual spending limit to $12.
But even that salad wasn’t my most significant Greenmarket discovery. That honor falls fully on arugula. I’d had arugula plenty of times before, always in restaurants, and always left with the disappointment of, “so what?” I liked it better than iceberg, and it far outdid lank romaine, but it wasn’t until a farmer at a Greenmarket stand forced a leaf of tender, grass-green arugula into my hand that I really got it. Spicy, crisp, and packed with the grassy flavors of a fantastic olive oil. Arugula was a breakthrough. It was salad enlightenment. And it quickly became the base for all of my green salads.
The salad we’ve made today is the direct product of my salad days (to coin a phrase). It’s filling enough to make your whole meal, and is a great summer-to-fall transitional salad, perfect for those days when you’re too hot to spend much time in front of the stove but are ready to move on from summer’s peak produce. If you wanted a comparison, it’s most like a salad Niçoise, except we’ve left out expensive and unsustainable tuna and foregone the traditional hard-boiled egg. What we took from the Niçoise were blanched beans and boiled potatoes, and we capitalized on the rainbow beans from YuNo Farms and the itty-bitty, baby new potatoes from Paffenroth Gardens. The squash blossoms came from Conuco Farms and added a pop of color and sweetness to the salad. We chose the subtle, slightly chewy queso blanc from Patches of Star Dairy farm as a no-cooking-needed replacement for the texture and fat of the Niçoise’s standard hard-boiled eggs. Because the queso was made from goat’s milk, it was lighter than a cow’s milk cheese, and it’s farmer’s cheese-like consistently meant it stood up to the acids in our Dijon vinaigrette where many cheeses would break down and turn to mush. The roasted garlic duck fat bread from Bobolink Dairy – their general trade is in rich, pungent cheeses, and they got the duckfat for the bread from a duck farm in Sullivan County, NY – as a bold and deliciously indulgent salad pièce de résistance. With croutons made from something as wonderful and flavorful as that, who needs tuna?
¼ lb green beans
½ lb fingerling potatoes, uniform size
¼ lb (or two loose, heaping handfuls) arugula/rocket or other favorite green
4 oz. queso blanc or other mild cheese
4 squash blossoms
kosher and/or sea salt
1 cup roasted garlic duckfat bread*, cubed
1 clove of garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
*This is easy to make yourself. Just cube up any good, crusty baguette-type bread, preferably a day old, and toss in a pan with lots of crushed garlic, salt, and either a good deal of duckfat or olive oil.
2T Dijon or whole-grain mustard
1T lemon juice or white wine vinegar
3T olive oil
1t chopped capers or cornichons, rinsed (optional)
1 clove minced garlic (optional)
1 T minced fresh herbs, such as thyme or tarragon (optional)
salt & pepper, to taste
For the dressing
First, make your dressing. If you’re doing the garlic, start with that in a small mixing bowl. Add in your mustard, then any herbs or capers or cornichons, then the oil, and then the vinegar or lemon juice, stirring vigorously all the while to blend it all together. Taste and adjust to your liking. When it’s right, cover it and stick it in the fridge while you do the rest.
For the beans & potatoes
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a rolling boil. Drop in your beans and bring back to the boil; cook for 30-45 seconds, then remove beans quickly to a bowl of ice-cold water.
When the pot of water has cooled to just above room temperature, add the potatoes. Resalt, if necessary, and cover; bring to the boil. Depending on the size of your potatoes, boil 5-10 minutes; remove heat and let stand, covered, an additional 10 minutes, or until a fork slides easily into the center of each potato without causing the potato to totally fall apart. Toss the hot potatoes in ½ of the salad dressing and set aside.
For the croutons
In the meantime, mince up 1 clove of garlic and heat about ¼ cup of olive oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot, toss in the garlic and let cook about 1 minute, then add in your cubed bread. Toss it all together, and let it cook, tossing occasionally, until the croutons have soaked up the oil and are golden-brown.
For the arugula & squash blossoms
Wash your arugula. This might include as much as trimming off the root end and most of the stems. Rinse the arugula and spin it vigorously in your salad spinner; if your arugula is from the farmer’s market, you may have to do this 3 or 4 times before the water runs clear off the arugula. It’s worth it.
To wash the squash blossoms, first shake them around in cold water, then fill up the bulbs with water and dump them out. You might have to do this a few times, too.
Once the squash blossoms are clean, cut them in half and remove the pistles – and any ants that weren’t washed out. You can add them to the salad raw, or you can toss them with some olive oil and salt and roast them in a 350º oven for about 10 minutes, or just toss them in the pan you did the croutons in.
Serve the salad by either tossing everything – including the dressing and some crumbled up queso blanc – together in a shallow bowl, or by grouping the various toppings around a mound of arugula on individual plates and drizzling with the remaining dressing and crumbling the queso blanc on top.
The Greenmarkets of NYC