Sunday, July 29, 2012

grilled peppered-peach melba

     Friends of mine were moving into their new house over the weekend. I've moved in the sweltering summertime heat and remember what it's like, (miserable.) After a few hours, your strength is sapped... you feel limp as a dishrag.
     I wanted to somehow make the day easier for them... especially since they didn't ask for our help in moving;) So, we invited them over for a quiet dinner. No moving boxes. No chaos. Lot's of air conditioning.
     I wanted to serve something simple and cold for dessert... a sweet treat that's light, colorful and really screams, "summer."
     A basket full of ripe, juicy peaches on the counter provided inspiration... You can't get much more summer than that around these parts. This is the Peach State, after all.
     This is SO easy and delicious. You'll have to try it... Here's the how-to:
Ingredients
fresh freestone peaches, one half per person
1 T. canola oil
2 T. sugar
few turns of the peppermill
vanilla bean ice cream
raspberry sauce, purchased or homemade
lemon-thyme leaves (optional)
Directions
About an hour or so before dinnertime, preheat grill, slice the peaches in half and brush lightly with a bit of canola oil to prevent sticking to grill. Place them cut side up on low heat and leave them for about five minutes.
Next, sprinkle with a little sugar and a bit of freshly ground black pepper and turn cut-side down. I left them just until lightly caramelized... not too brown.
Remove from grill to a plate and set aside until dessert. (It was very difficult for me not to sample one right off the fire, oozing hot sticky-sweet juice... what amazing willpower!)
When time to serve, place each peach half in an individual dessert dish and top with a scoop of good quality vanilla bean ice cream. Next, drizzle some raspberry sauce over the top and sprinkle with a few lemon-thyme leaves. Look at those colors. So beautiful...
Prop your feet up on the coffee table, turn the ceiling fan on and enjoy!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

salt & light

     I'm far beyond excited! After months of praying and research, and praying... our church's Kitchen Ministry finally has it's very own name.
SALT Fellowship Ministry
     This simple name, taken from Matthew's gospel, chapter five, represents the ONLY reason we do what we do. 
     I love the way the Message Bible explains it so plainly... and in cooking terms. (If you don't salt your food during cooking, it has no flavor.)
     And as for the light... ours may come from the flame of the stove or from our big ole gas grill, but our mission is to pass out the Love of Christ along with each plate we fill.
     Read what it says... you can see why these words jumped off the page at me. ha

Matt. 5: 13-14 (The Message Bible)
"Let me tell you WHY you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? [Then,] you've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage."
"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a HILL." 
... Or, a city named Richmond Hill

Monday, July 9, 2012

sole la pasta

     I deemed it TomatoFest 2012 at my house last week... It looks like it could continue throughout July, but I'm okay with that. There's nothing like fresh and juicy summer tomatoes.
     In addition to the five gallon bucket of beefsteak tomatoes a friend dropped at my house, the little yellow pear tomatoes in the garden are producing at an alarming rate. I'm happy to report an overabundance of beautiful sun-colored fruit.
     Their sunny hue inspired me to create a monochromatic pasta dish, simple and full of flavor... lovely to behold. The name means sunshine pasta, in Italian.
     The main ingredients are yellow tomatoes, sweet yellow bell pepper and garlic. Oh, and pasta. A dollop of homemade basil pesto and fresh herbs added just before serving were the only color contrast.
     By adding a green salad and crusty bread, this can be a nice weeknight meal for two or enlarged to feed a family. It can be a meatless main event or have a supporting role.
     If you can't find  the yellow pear or grape tomatoes, use any size. The sauce is casual and rustic so chop the veggies up any old way you choose.
Ingredients
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 t. (or more to your taste) red pepper flakes
1 pound or so, yellow tomatoes, any size or shape
3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 of a yellow bell pepper, cut into chunks
salt and pepper
pinch of sugar
1 t. chicken or vegetable bullion paste
1/2 c. dry white wine
fresh herbs like thyme, oregano and rosemary
1 c. pasta cooking water
1/2 pound or more spaghetti rigati
basil pesto
grated asiago cheese for serving
Directions
Put a large pot of water on for pasta. When water boils, salt liberally and add pasta.
In a large, flat saute pan, heat olive oil on medium high heat. Toss red pepper flakes and tomatoes into the hot oil and stir around until tomatoes begin to break down.
Toss in garlic. When it begins to soften, add yellow pepper to pan. Season with salt, pepper and sugar. Place spoonful of bullion in pan and let it melt into sauce. Deglaze pan with wine, stir and reduce heat to low. Toss in a few chopped herbs, saving the rest for topping finished pasta.
When pasta is still quite al dente, reserve pasta water and drain. Immediately dump drained pasta into the pan with sauce. Stir to blend. Spaghetti will continue to cook, absorbing sauce. Add small amount of pasta water to loosen up the sauce. Add more as needed.
Simmer until pasta is al dente. Taste for seasoning and adjust.
Place in individual pasta bowls and top with a spoonful of basil pesto right in the center. Give it a sprinkling of asiago cheese and remaining herbs. Serve at once.
     Isn't it pretty? That is one of the most important things, after all... pretty food that tastes great! It reminded me of a primavera... I may try adding yellow squash and carrots and a bit of onion next time.

Monday, July 2, 2012

summer tomato-green bean salad over cold, grilled chicken

     Don't you just love summertime? The fresh veggies, the smell of food on the grill, the stifling heat? What? You say, No to the last one?
     I don't blame you... Here in Coastal Georgia, after enjoying a balmy winter and breezy spring, summer marched into town as a fire-breathing dragon.
     For example, Saturday the thermometer climbed to 102 degrees. Ugh. The thought of heating up the kitchen certainly doesn't appeal right now.
     Here is a great dinner designed to avoid cooking for the most part. (You have to blanch a few beans.) You can add more tomatoes and beans to feed a Fourth of July crowd or cut the whole thing in half to feed two. You won't need all of the dressing for one recipe... Save it to toss on a salad.
     I had some leftover, grilled chicken breasts, but this salad would be great on or beside just about anything... can you imagine it with rare, seared ahi tuna? Or piled next to a juicy burger instead of those greasy fries?
     It will surely help you use up a bunch of produce you got carried away and bought last week at the farmers' market. Oops... Sorry. That would describe moi.
     Even if you don't have a penchant for being overzealous on market day, local grocery stores are filled with the bounty of the season. Check them out!
Ingredients
1/2 pound of whole green beans, fresh or frozen
two or more pounds of mixed tomatoes, some large, some small. red, yellow, striped, purple, etc.
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1T. balsamic vinegar
3T. extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
1 clove garlic, grated
pinch sugar
1/8 t. red pepper flakes
lemon zest from one lemon
juice of half a lemon
fresh thyme leaves
pinch of dried italian seasoning
cold grilled chicken breasts, thinly sliced
Directions
In a large pot filled with boiling salted water, blanch the green beans for a couple of minutes. Drain and plunge immediately into an ice water bath to preserve the bright green color and cool the beans. Drain again and set aside.
Place a large colander over a mixing bowl. Cut tomatoes into colander. Cut some in half, some in quarters... different sizes and shapes makes the salad visually appealing.
Next, salt the tomatoes generously and leave for about 10 minutes to drain. The salt draws the water out of the tomatoes. By removing some the water, the flavors intensify. (Never fear... They won't taste overly salty, as you will not be adding salt to the dressing.) Toss them again and give them another sprinkle of salt.
Meanwhile, mix up the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk the pepper, vinegar, evoo, sugar, and lemon juice together. Add the grated garlic, lemon zest and herbs.
Dump drained tomatoes and green beans into a large salad bowl. Slowly drizzle dressing over, adding only as much as is needed to coat vegetables. Taste for seasoning, adding more black pepper if needed.
Place cold, sliced chicken on plate. Top with salad and drizzle a bit of dressing extra over chicken. I served mine with a loaf of rustic olive bread.