Insalata di Caprese is one of those classic Italian recipes that shouldn't be reinvented. It's so simple and delicious just as it is—sliced mozzarella layered with sliced tomatoes and basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil. But there is room for reinterpretation, especially when you take those familiar flavors and ingredients and turn them into a whole new kind of salad.
I love grains in all their many forms, but they are most interesting when left whole and unadulterated. Wheat berries, for example, are wonderful in a salad. The Italian grain farro, which is related to spelt, is another whole grain that makes a great salad. This recipe combines farro with the ingredients of a classic Caprese salad. All the components that make a healthy and refreshing salad are right here.
Instead of sliced mozzarella and tomatoes, I use small bocconcini and cherry and cocktail tomatoes. For added tang, I drizzle the salad with red-wine vinegar. Serve this salad in place of the usual pasta or macaroni salad at your next picnic. It's perfect as a side dish for grilled meats, like steak or chicken. But it can even make a terrific light appetizer. Add some whole grains to your diet with this recipe. It will have you going back for seconds—even thirds.
I was walking through my local farmer’s market today and saw a new vendor called the Maine Connection Seafood Company.
The prize on their table was fresh Maine lobster – flown to LA the same day that it is caught from the family run fishing business.
Of course, you can buy a whole lobster and cook it yourself, but this is so convenient and incredibly fresh.
Lobster rolls in Maine are almost always made with a top split hot dog bun, but they’re nearly impossible to find in California.
Almond and peach flavors are totally apropos for one another – probably because they’re cousins! Peaches are in the almond family. Just take a gander at a peach pit’s inner pit or the blossoms even – you’ll see the family connection for sure! I won’t bore you with the horticultural nomenclature, Latin naming, bark similarities and inner cambium layers of their trunks: just trust me – they’re related!
My sisters and I had the best extension of siblings with our first cousins growing and still do today! Something about having your own playmates from your own family tree is so fun. Growing up in a small town, we often were mistaken as “oh he’s one of those Brantley kids” or “she’s that Farmer girl isn’t she?” and for the sake of not splitting hairs, we’d just answer “ yes’m or yes sir” accordingly. We’ve always been glad to be the from the same tribe!
The kissin’ cousins in this recipe are the amaretto cookies, almond liqueur and the peaches. They are a household of flavor all to themselves! I can remember my Mema, my great-grandmother, and my Mimi, my grandmother, being the most temperate of ladies – “lips that touch wine shan’t touch mine!” was often exclaimed. Yet, there was always a bottle of almond liqueur, grand manier, sherry or Lydia Pinkum cough syrup somewhere in the pantry or medicine cabinet! I guess they had to say such an expression because they married Baptists. I digress…
The farmers' markets here in Southern California are amazing -- you can find dates, figs, guavas, kumquats, passion fruit, persimmons, and pluots, but rarely do you see humble blueberries.
I grew up picking and eating fresh blueberries every summer back in New England. Why, I wondered, are they so hard to find in California?
The problem is dirt. Apparently blueberries like to grow in highly acidic soil and Southern California has alkaline soil. This presents a challenge to growing blueberries in Southern California (which explains why most the of the blueberries I buy at the market are from Washington).
New England's acidic soil is perfect for blueberry bushes. I don't know what was better, marching along rows of blueberry bushes, basket in hand, with blue lips and fingertips or standing in the kitchen watching my mom use my very own fresh picked berries to make sweet blueberry buns with lemon icing, old-fashioned double crust blueberry pie, or a loaf of hot blueberry-corn bread (that went straight from the oven to my mouth).
The classic triumvirate of tomato, basil and mozzarella is nothing short of divine. I can just imagine Michelangelo snacking on this delicacy whilst carving the David statue. The salad is such a quintessential, Italian dish yet it has become a major part of the American summer menu – especially with the resurgence of heirloom tomato growing!
My Georgia Caprese Salad has a fun origin and pays homage to the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention.” The necessity of mention was supper. A light summer supper for yours truly alone. I was hot. I was tired. I did not want to cook – the thought of being around more heat was as tempting as repeatedly running into the back porch screen – head first mind you – like the bumble bee was doing. My family was scattered with other activities, travel or who knows what and Ol’ Jimmy was home alone – and hungry!
Not only was the thought of cooking with heat unappealing, the thought of eating something hot was equally unappetizing. Enter the “necessity… invention” moment. I rummaged through the fridge and saw I had a block of Pepper Jack cheese from M&T. I said to myself, “Self, you can at least have cheese and crackers.” Then I got to thinking – a dangerous pastime.
Berries are fragile, which is why we love them so much off the bush or in a bowl But there are a couple of things to keep in mind once you decide to cook them, like in a pie.
First. Often they are less sweet than you imagine, even when they are perfectly ripe. Don’t confuse the full berry flavor with sweetness.
Second. Blueberries tend to need some acid to brighten the flavor and even blackberries can use some for balance.
Third. I believe in adding some starch to thicken fruit pies. I don’t want berry juice to run all over the plate. I want to get it into my mouth. That is the role of starch as a thickener.
I haven’t been cooking. Well, if you call defrosting some homemade marinara and boiling some water for pasta, cooking, then I guess I have cooked a little bit.
Last week was Isaac’s Bar Mitzvah. I planned the whole event, from start to finish, and in the end, the high anxiety and elevated stress level was well worth it. Isaac’s “ear to ear” smile was worth the lack of sleep and the 8 pound weight loss.
As I slowly get back into a routine, I took inventory of what I currently had on hand. A big batch of frozen cookie dough was just what I needed to kick off the first of many summer holiday weekends. With plans to go to friend’s for a BBQ, whipping up a batch of homemade ice cream sandwiches was effortless.
As the cookies baked and cooled, I made a modified version of this “magic shell“. I used all bittersweet chocolate and added a pinch of Celtic sea salt, espresso powder, and some vanilla. Delicious! And additive free!
Our local market recently had raspberries on sale -- 77 cents per half pint. I bought 8.
Since tangy fresh raspberries are highly irresistible (and perishable), Jeff and I have eaten a lot of berries over the last few days in cantaloupe boats, smoothies, berry parfaits, salads, scones, and today's raspberry sour cream cake.
This may just be the perfect summertime cake. It's delightfully quick and easy to make, and it's versatile. I know. I loved the raspberry sour cream cake so much that I made a blueberry buttermilk one too. Most of all, it's delicious.
Underneath the crunchy sugar-dusted top is a pillowy soft interior punctuated by bursts of juicy, tart raspberries. This cake needs no adornment, but a dollop of creme fraiche doesn't hurt.
I love pound cake. I love peaches. I love cooking and baking with buttermilk. Need I say more about my Peach Buttermilk Pound Cake? Not really. It’s a Peach Buttermilk Pound Cake, y’all! But then at the same time, I could elaborate volumes upon volumes simply on the amazing nature that is a pound cake! Oh, the dilemmas of Southern culinary literature! I digress...
Buttermilk is my “go to “ baking liquid for cornbread, biscuits, pound cakes and cakes too. There’s chemistry involved with the acidity and dairy quotients but I shan’t bore y’all with that. I just know that buttermilk is awesome. Instead of further elaboration on buttermilk and its baking prowess, I’ll tell y’all why I love it in this cake in particularly – the zippy tang. It is not strong but there is a slight undercurrent that keeps the cake from being too sweet. A perfect pairing with sweet to tart peaches!
It's not Summer until you've eaten a peach over the sink, nibbled on cherries, and enjoyed a stack of fresh blueberry pancakes. One of the most highly anticipated Summer treats aside from all the luscious fruit, is fresh corn. When I see Brentwood corn, I buy it. It's sweet, tender and pairs wonderfully with all types of shellfish, blueberries, lime and avocado.
Corn is high in starch and carbohydrates but it's also a good source of Vitamins B1, B5, and C, folate, dietary fiber, phosphorus, manganese and protein. I use white and yellow corn interchangeably. White seems a bit sweeter and yellow a has a rounder flavor, if that makes sense. Corn should be cooked as soon as possible, after it has been picked. It's particularly good in fritters, pancakes, succotash and salads. If you eat it on the cob, try squeezing lemon or lime juice over it and dipping it in something spicy like smoked paprika or chile powder. Another way to enjoy it is with crumbled Mexican Cotija cheese. Slather the hot cobs with mayonnaise and dip it in the cheese. Messy, but good.