Category: recipe

Charred Cauliflower with Picada Sauce

Picada is like a pesto. Made with chocolate and almonds it is lovely on the palate!

Charred Cauliflower with Picada Sauce
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Charred Cauliflower with Picada Sauce
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat oven broiler to high
  2. Toss florets with 2 T. olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil, turning once, half way through, until charred and tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat garlic and remaining oil in skillet an cook, over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Be sure to watch and stir, so garlic doesn't burn. Transfer oil and garlic to a a medium bowl an let cool.
  4. Stir almonds, parsley, chocolate, sherry, salt and pepper into garlic oil. Toss with cauliflower while it is still hot. Garnish and serve immediately.
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Valentines Day Chocolates!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I know you are still wondering what to do. We all spend a lot of time looking for something new and creative to do. We all want to “keep it fresh”. Well, I’ve been married for almost 20 years and let me tell you it gets hard. I am a devotee of the classics. Let’s do a romantic dinner. That’s not to say we can’t shake things up a little bit. If you or your significant other are certified chocoholics, like me, how about a meal that has chocolate in every single course?

There is so much to love about chocolate but what you need to know here is that it starts out as cacao, which is mouth wincing bitter. Don’t be scared, that gives you control. That bitter cacao nib is a chameleon. Once add sugar, fat and cream, with a little mixing, you can have the sweet Hershey Kiss from your childhood or a complex and award winning delicacy.

In a typical three-course meal, you’ll start with salad. Let’s make milk chocolate vinaigrette. The milk chocolate is an emulsifier that creates a welcome creaminess. Serve the vinaigrette it over greens that included purple radicchio. Radicchio is a little bitter so it cuts the sweetness. Spinach adds necessary balance. To round out the salad add Asian pear for a tart crunch and diced cranberries for their sweet chewy flavor.

The star of the main course is a fennel seed and cacao nib rubbed pork tenderloin. The secret really is the rub. The rub is a blend of cacao nibs, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cayenne with cocoa powder and brown sugar bounces all over your mouth. The recipe calls for grinding the nibs and seeds in a mortar and pestle. The result will be quite coarse. If you’d like a finer texture you can use a coffee grinder or food processor. Remember though, the finer the rub, the less pungent the flavor. Is the rub sweet or spicy? The rub will seal your juices in while cooking so you won’t need any other sauce than the glorious juices as they pour out when sliced.

In keeping with the play on sweet and spicy the pork is served with a charred cauliflower in a picada sauce. Picada is similar to a pesto. This recipe uses; bitter dark chocolate, Marcona almonds, garlic, parsley and a touch of sweet sherry. The cauliflower should be tender, almost creamy, inside and just charred on the outside. There are so many great textures in your mouth.

In moments of humility and mistakes often come our greatest success and sweetness. Dessert comes from one of those moments. I misread a recipe that called for teaspoons of flour and sugar as tablespoons and the result is more like a rich, incredible brownie than cake. It won’t look so pretty when you first turn it out, so decorate with abandon. You can try whatever fresh berries in season. For a more elegant presentation, sift some powdered sugar through a lace doily and add some fresh herbs. I always say if it smells good together it will taste good together so get creative; how about some tarragon or thyme? If you are short on time a dollop of fresh whipped cream will work too.

Here’s the truth, I did not take pictures the last time I made this and don’t want to use stock pictures from the internet. I promise to post pictures as soon as I can. Finally, it appears I can only do one recipe per post so I will send the recipes one after the other.

I wish you and your loved one a very meaningful Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Melt chocolate and stir until smooth. Whisk in vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. While whisking continuously, drizzle in oil until thickened and combined.
  2. Divide arugula/spinach among plates. Top with pear, cranberries and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
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Jam Cake!

For most of my life I heard about “Granny”. My Great-Grandmother. By all accounts she was an amazing cook, great seamstress and she was feisty! My Great-Grandfather was 27 years older than her and had come from a family of privilege in Georgia. My Great-Grandfather was “one of the most sought-after bachelors”. By all accounts he was a bit of player and drove a flashy “rubber-tired buggy” with a “trotting horse”. Today that might be compared to a little red corvette. Granny was a schoolmistress that came from a hard working, “good” family. In the 12 years they were married, prior to his death, they had 4 children and she was pregnant with the 5th when he passed. While the story is told of their love at first sight, I’m guessing there was a certain amount of satisfaction in catching the un-catchable.

In 1900 $18,690 would have been the equivalent of approximately $430,000 today. In 1900 that would have meant that you were wealthy. This is how much the savings passbook shows my great grand parents had in the their bank account when Granny started using it to write recipes. That is a lot of money for the time. While they lived a somewhat grand life with servants and a large plantation home, they also were very conscious of using what they could from their own land. They had crops such as watermelon and their own patch for growing fruits and vegetables. They also raised several different types of chickens and had milk, butter and cheese from their own cows.

A grandchild’s imagination can run wild and mine is no different. At first, I imagined my “feisty” Granny getting mad at Ab, my great grandfather’s nickname. Perhaps he had asked her to run ANOTHER errand to the bank on a day when she had sick children and chores to do on the Plantation. I can see her running into a friend and asking for her Watermelon Rind Preserves recipe. When she realized she has no paper, maybe she thought, “I’ll show him the value of his money!” and scratched out the recipe right there on the 4th page of the passbook. I say this because the recipe is quickly given. There is no list of ingredients and amounts, then instructions. It’s all on continuous sentence.

I sometimes fantasize that maybe she really didn’t have any paper and thought it would be “just one recipe”. However, it became her go to for writing recipes when she ran into friends. Eventually, the recipes did evolve and have a list of and amounts ingredients and instructions.

Today we don’t have passbooks and most of our recipes are shared via email, the Internet or pinterest. Having those recipes written in my grandmother’s handwriting is invaluable. As the years passed, after my Grandfather’s death, times got hard for my great-grandmother and her family. She was able to turn to her Brother in law for help and keep her family together, during the depression, World War II and a great cyclone. I still imagine that she would have been teaching us that the value of a rich family history has more value than today’s $430,000.

My favorite recipe was the Jam Cake. This is a traditional southern cake that came out of Tennessee or Kentucky, depending on what website you are looking at. I have searched high and low for a jam cake recipe that was made with wine instead of buttermilk. I’m not sure why Granny made the substitution, but it sure is good!

I’m giving it to you as written and then my version. How lucky was my Granny to be able to bake with such a limited recipe. I hope you enjoy it too.

 

Jam Cake!
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Jam Cake!
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Beat eggs and sugar together until light colored and ribbony.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder together.
  3. Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add to eggs and sugar.
  4. Slowly add flour & baking powder mix to butter/eggs mixture.
  5. Once flour is completely added, add spices and lastly wine. Blend until just combined.
  6. Pour into 8 or 9 inch cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350°F for 30 - 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  7. For frosting I make a cream cheese frosting and use a good store bought caramel sauce to make a caramel frosting. Divide the layers. I put an extra layer of jam in between cake layers with the frosting and then frost the whole cake.
  8. You can find my cream cheese frosting recipe in my May 8, 2015 post of Red Velvet cake.
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Winter’s Colorful Citrus

Winter knows how to hook you. That first nip of cold air gets you excited and all the sweaters come out. When you are sick of rain the snow starts and when you think you can’t handle the grey skies anymore, Peonies show up and the citrus is ripe for the picking.

The Peonies I had to find in NYC while looking at colleges for my daughter. They were a welcome sight on a slushy, grey street in Chelsea. The citrus, in the form Cara Cara oranges greeted me when I came home to Los Angeles. They were bursting with juice and practically leapt off their trees when I went out to pick them.

Cara Cara oranges are wonderfully sweet and have specks of dark red hinting of a relationship to blood oranges. You can juice them and cook with them. This year they were too sweet not to use in everything! First, I peeled, sliced and served them on a beautiful platter on their own. Delicious! Then I tried a variation on lemon curd. It is literally sunshine is a jar. You can use any way you would lemon curd or, like me, just eat with a spoon.


Cara Cara Orange Curd
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Cara Cara Orange Curd
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Bring the orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan, over a medium high heat and reduce to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and stir in zest. Cool to room temperature.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in cooled juice mixture. Once combined, pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken and it reaches a temperature of 180°. This should take 6 - 8 minutes.
  3. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl and stir in butter, until it is completely melted. Cool completely and place plastic right on surface of curd, to prevent skin forming. Place in refrigerator until well chilled.
  4. Store in airtight in refrigerator for 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator, before use, if frozen.
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Why is it important to Me?

I am often asked why do I write about cooking. Why is it important to me that “you” cook? It’s often a hard question to answer. Maybe, because it feels existential to me; I cook therefore I am. Recently, I had a small epiphany to this question. I woke up early one morning, I went down stairs and noticed the pungent aroma of too ripe bananas. I immediately got to work on banana bread. My movements around the kitchen, to grab my ingredients were easy and lazy on a warm Saturday morning: three ripe bananas, an egg, some flour and sugar are the basics and then I can get fancy. As I worked it dawned on me, this is why I want YOU to bake. I want you to stumble into your morning kitchen and think “banana bread” or cinnamon rolls or whatever you are craving and not be intimidated, afraid or ill prepared to bake. It is gratifying to bake/cook for your family and friends. It is also extremely gratifying to be the teacher. I want your emails saying you succeeded or even failed with one of my recipes. Let’s walk through it and try again. I love running into you in the store and answering your questions about ingredients or techniques. Send me the pictures! I want to see.

So in turn this answers another question that I have been asked. What’s your voice? Who’s your audience? My voice is just me. And you are my audience. In any article you read whether it is here on my blog or a book or a magazine; I want you to feel like we are sitting at the island in my kitchen, sipping a cup of … and just talking. You can ask me anything and tell me everything. See you soon.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Print Recipe
Adapted from a recipe on Food Network.
Servings
1 loaf
Servings
1 loaf
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Print Recipe
Adapted from a recipe on Food Network.
Servings
1 loaf
Servings
1 loaf
Ingredients
Glaze
Servings: loaf
Instructions
Bread
  1. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer bowl, mix together the peanut butter, brown sugar, white sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth and well blended.
  3. Mash the bananas and then fold them into the wet mixture.
  4. Ad the flour mixture and beat on medium low until just just combine. Some lumps are ok.
  5. Pour batter into a greased 9X5X3 loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. I know that sounds vague but every oven varies and you don't want your bread to be over or under baked. A tooth pick should come out clean but just clean. Run knife around edges and let cool completely in pan.
Glaze
  1. Put peanut butter, butter and confectioners sugar in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave and stir, in 30 second intervals, until smooth.
  2. Pour glaze over top of turned out bread. Garnish with chopped peanuts. Let set for 10 minutes to set up before slicing.
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La Peetch!

I have returned from Julia’s, La Peetch! It was everything I thought it would be. It was so much more and a little less at the same time.

For anyone that fancies themselves a good cook. For anyone that has ever watched a black & white episode of The French Chef, on PBS; walking into the kitchen at Julia Child’s home in the south of France and seeing the peg board wall still adorned with every kitchen utensil imaginable is awe inspiring. Somewhere in your mind you understand that these can’t all be original pieces but it doesn’t seem to matter. YOUR IN HER KITCHEN!!! As you “tour” her approximately 10X13 kitchen, you can feel her, you can smell the remnants of meals past and your fingers want to graze over every edge.

Our first evening there we were served appetizers on her cottage table. They were simple, as I thought they should be. We had a little cheese and both green and black olive tapenade on crostini. Each of us explored the home and compared it to pictures on our phones. We sat on the green velvet couch and walked the grounds imagining Julia and Paul walking every step with us.

The next morning, we met again at that cottage table for coffee and “morning pages”. We were given a prompt and our writing began. For me, this is where I think my separation from Julia began. I had a crazy expectation that she would work through me and I would suddenly have words flowing from my fingertips. Not so much. As the week went on and this exercise got more frustrating for me, the bloom fell of the rose, as they say. But, in a good way. I became less focused on Julia and more focused on the women I was with. I started listening to their words. I paid more attention the food and beverage I was consuming, in the moment, instead of what Julia would have been eating and drinking. As I did that the words started to come for me. The drink started to taste sweeter and I had a keener sense of how our food tasted. I was able to enjoy even the simplest meal of pasta with Roquefort sauce.

It was last day and I had yet to find my perfect magazine pitch or outline for my breakout cookbook. Some had already began their journey home and others were taking in a sunny day at the pool. Some had gone exploring in St. Paul de Vence. I decided to take my camera and journal and explore the property practicing my new camera skills. I was composing some artsy photo of an olive or a leaf when the piano started. It was so beautiful and magical. It stopped me mid-shot and I started to write. In that moment I found the soul of Julia I had been looking for. It wasn’t her words but her inspiration that came through me.

On the very last day, I found my words and started my project. So while I continue to walk with you on your journey to good cooking I will share some peeks into my project along the way. Here is my version of the Roquefort Pasta we had a La Peetch. Bon Appetit!

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Pasta with Roquefort Sauce
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A creamy, not overpowering sauce of Roquefort cheese & butter tossed generously with fettuccine pasta. Serve with baguette and a fresh green salad.
Pasta with Roquefort Sauce
Print Recipe
A creamy, not overpowering sauce of Roquefort cheese & butter tossed generously with fettuccine pasta. Serve with baguette and a fresh green salad.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Note: I cook my pasta in a well salted boiling water. As the saying goes the water should taste like the sea. Reserve at least 1 cup of the cooking water for the recipe. Right before putting everything together, while the water is still boiling hot, swirl it in your serving bowl, to warm it, then toss out.
  2. In a small bowl combine Roquefort and butter with a fork until well blended and soft.
  3. Put pasta in warm bowl with butter mixture and toss slowly so pasta can absorb flavors of cheese and butter. Slowly add cup of cooking water until "sauce" forms and pasta is coated (you may not need whole cup). Season with nutmeg. I use a good amount. There's something about cheese and nutmeg.
  4. Toss with lemon zest and rosemary. Taste and adjust seasoning with fresh ground pepper.
  5. Serve with fresh greens dressed with a simple vinaigrette and fresh bread with butter. Don't forget the wine ENJOY!
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I’m Going to Julia’s!

There’s that icebreaker question, “If you could invite any 3 people, dead or alive, for dinner; who would it be?” My answer is simple. Julia Child, Julia Child and Julia Child. I even know what I’d make, my Osso Bucco and Parmesan Ricotta Gnocchi.

You may think that Julia is the obvious choice for a chef but there is more to my choice than just that. Cooking is a lifetime sport, you never stop learning or playing with your food. There is always room for improvement or a new technique. Julia herself was well into her forties before she enrolled in the Cordon bleu. Which is why she is one of my biggest inspirations.

I am often asked how long I’ve been cooking. I can honestly say I’ve been cooking since I was 2 years old. I finally formalized my education when I was 23. The last few years of writing this blog, with your support and feedback has really fueled my desire to continue my education and to educate you.

Recently, I was given an incredible opportunity to travel to La Pitchoune, Julia and Paul Child’s home in the south of France. I will be going with a small group of women writers and an amazing mentor, for a 10-day retreat. I can’t wait! I feel like a kid anticipating Disneyland. I know when I come back I will have so much more to share with you.

I want to share those recipes with you that I would have cooked for Julia, had I been given the chance. I hope I am posting often from France too, but this should keep you day dreaming while I’m away. As Julia would say “Bon Appétit”!

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Osso Buco
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Osso Buco
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Osso Buco
Gnocchi Verde
Servings:
Instructions
Osso Bucco
  1. Rub veal shanks lightly with olive oil , season with salt & pepper and chopped herbs.
  2. Dust each shank shank with seasoned flour and set aside.
  3. Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy skillet and heat. Do not let the oil smoke. Brown shanks on all sides. You may add small amounts of oil if needed, be careful not to overdo it.
  4. Add the wine, tomatoes and chicken broth. Stir to combine.
  5. Cover pan and reduce heat. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  6. Test for tenderness. Fork should pierce meat easily.
  7. Sauce should be thick. If not , remove meat and hold, let sauce reduce uncovered over low heat.
Gnocchi Verde
  1. Remove stems and veins of spinach and wash thoroughly. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch spinach for 1 minute and then drop in ice water to stop cooking. Squeeze ALL moisture out and let air dry. You want spinach to be bone dry. Chop spinach fine.
  2. Saute onion and pancetta in butter. Add spinach and saute until dry. Cool until cool to touch.
  3. Mix together remaining ingredients and fold all together.
  4. Flour your hands and form 1" - 2" balls. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a damp towel. You can hold here for up to 6 hours.
  5. When you are ready to cook: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil oil and salt the water. Add the gnocchi a few at a time and cook until puffed and cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. They should rise to the surface. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to remove, GENTLY, from water.
  6. Place in a buttered dish in a single layer. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan.
  7. Broil for 5 minutes until just browned. They are great served as is or with your favorite tomato sauce.
Recipe Notes
  • You can chop and slice the fresh vegetables by hand. I use a food processor and the chopping and slicing blades. This save a lot of time.
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Baked Kale and Rice

Baked Kale and Rice
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This is a great Vegetarian main course. You can add chicken if you are not a vegetarian or use it as a side dish.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Baked Kale and Rice
Print Recipe
This is a great Vegetarian main course. You can add chicken if you are not a vegetarian or use it as a side dish.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Cook the kale in a large pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Then immediately drop in ice water.
  2. Squeeze dry and chop. Make sure all moisture is removed before you bake.
  3. Using the same cooking water, for flavor, boil the rice for 10 minutes. Drain and spread out to let cool. I use a baking sheet lined with paper towels. When cool, transfer to large a bowl.
  4. Preheat over to 375° and butter a baking dish. Dust baking dish with 2 Tbs. of parmesan.
  5. Melt 2 Tbs. of butter in a small sauce pan and add almonds. stir until golden and add to rice bowl. Season with Salt and pepper lightly.
  6. Add remaining parmesan, ricotta, jarlsberg, nutmeg, lemon zest, thyme an sage to rice. Add chopped kale and toss well. I use my hands to get every thing mixed in well.
  7. Transfer to baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes until browned.
  8. Serve immediately.
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Simple Pleasures

Swimming in Lake Tahoe.
Swimming in Lake Tahoe.

As a young mother, MANY years ago, I was very idealistic. My children were not going to eat chocolate, too early. High fructose corn syrup would never pass their lips and they would never have frozen or processed foods. Ha! Last summer we vacationed in Lake Tahoe, and were concentrating on the simpler pleasures. We hiked and spent days on the lake. Our nighttime activities were nothing more than dinner out and a movie in the hotel room.

One night, while we were waiting for our table, at dinner, my kids and husband were playing beanbag toss. I must have been in a dreamlike state, when I had a vision of those little girls and the meals I use to make for them. I don’t think there is a kid out there that doesn’t like chicken tenders or nuggets. In an effort to get my kids to be happy campers at dinner I developed my own recipe for chicken nuggets. It was a hit! I always served them with whatever fresh fruit was in season and some sort of potato. I admit that I was too lazy to make my own French fries so I often used a wholesome frozen variety.

As we get back into the busy days of fall, I hope you and your family will take a moment to slow down and enjoy a simple pleasure like homemade chicken nuggets. Oh and we are planning our next Lake vacation.

Chicken Nuggets
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Chicken Nuggets
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cut chicken into 2 bite pieces
  2. In a large ziplock bag combine flour, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt & pepper.
  3. Add chicken pieces to bag a few at a time. Shake to coat and then set aside.
  4. In a shallow bowl stir milk and egg. Put crushed crackers in another bowl.
  5. Dip floured chicken pieces in egg mixture then crackers to coat well. Then place on baking sheet, in a single layer.
  6. Bake at 425° for 10 - 12 minutes, until golden brown
Recipe Notes

My kids love these with ranch dressing homemade or not.

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The Last Hold of Summer

 

Chicken Pallard with Rustic Corn, Tomato Salsa
Chicken Pallard with Rustic Corn, Tomato Salsa

I love to be the first one at my local Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. There is a coolness to the morning air that lets you know Fall is on its way. Sometimes the farmers are still setting up and your chat will be more relaxed than when they are trying to make a quick sale and onto the next “neighbor”. This past weekend as I was strolling through my Farmer’s Market, I was in awe of the beautiful corn and tomatoes. Then the gorgeous fruit of the summer struck me too. Even though, I know some things have already peaked, it sure felt like everything was leaping off the table as if to say “pick me!”.

So I bought those beautiful tomatoes, some sweet fresh corn and the last of the summer blackberries. I also bought some avocados and peaches. As I am writing this I can smell all the freshness. YUM!!! The truth is we don’t spend a lot of time canning and preserving, since we have beautiful produce, year round. Nonetheless, I wanted to feature this beautiful bounty as a slow goodbye to summer.

I grilled chicken, which I had pounded thin (pallard) with just a little bit of lemon, lime, olive oil, salt & pepper. Then I made a rustic corn and tomato salsa to serve over it. The greatest part of the salsa was grabbing whatever I had in my kitchen to add to it. This type of cooking is perfect for using up herbs, vegetables and even leftovers.

I was so excited to share my bounty that I grabbed a shawl; a few friends and we sat outside, on a slightly cooler evening and enjoyed the flavors of the season. Don’t forget a glass of crisp white wine, too!

Rustic Salsa
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I call this a "dump" salsa. You can really use whatever you have leftover. The recipe calls for corn, tomatoes and avocado but I had some leftover peas so those got thrown in there too. This is great for extra herbs too.
Rustic Salsa
Print Recipe
I call this a "dump" salsa. You can really use whatever you have leftover. The recipe calls for corn, tomatoes and avocado but I had some leftover peas so those got thrown in there too. This is great for extra herbs too.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. The truth is mix it all together in a bowl and serve it over any kind of meat. As I said above I pounded chicken thin and gave it a squeeze of fresh lemon and lime juice with a little olive oil , some salt and pepper and grilled fro about 3 minutes on each side. You could easily do fish or steak too.
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