It's Apricot Season

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by Susan Russo

apricots.jpgDo you know what happens when you buy a quart size container of fresh apricots? You get about 14 apricots that ripen at the same time (and about 2 that don't). As much as I love fresh apricots, eating 14 of them within a day or two isn't practical or appealing. Apricot muffins, however, are enormously appealing.

Apricot season runs from May-August, so now is the time to buy them. Unlike hardier peaches or nectarines, apricots are finicky. They like mild temperatures and dislike intense heat, which is why they grow so well in California. When selecting fresh apricots look for somewhat firm (not hard) fruit that is brightly colored (they range from light yellow to a deeper orange-yellow). The skin should be velvety smooth without wrinkles or blemishes, and they should yield slightly when squeezed. If you're still in doubt, then take a good whiff – a ripe apricot emits a sweet fragrance. After all, it is a member of the rose family.

Salad on a Stick

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by Cathy Pollak

cheesetoms.jpgWith the warm weather upon us (100 degrees for the past two days at my house) I know I will be attending countless backyard barbeques, pool parties, graduation celebrations and other outdoor events.

What will all these events have in common?

Yucky, mushy salads that have been sitting out and left to glop together in the summer's heat.  It's really disgusting.

That is why, salad on a stick, is so PERFECT for the blazing hot summer afternoons. The salad itself reminds me of the County Fair where everything from Twinkies to Gyros are pierced with a skewer and served to the crowds.  It's really a brilliant concept, food on a stick that is.

These Caprese Salad Kebabs with spinach-basil pesto are the answer to your summery salad woes.

Summer Vegetable Risotto

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by David Latt

summer-vegetables.jpgWith summer vegetables appearing in the farmers' markets, a vegetable risotto is a perfect way to feature the bounty of the garden.

This past Sunday at the Palisades Farmers' Market, we picked up several ears of fresh corn and some baby zucchini. We also bought carrots, spinach, Italian parsley, scallions, green garlic, squash, asparagus, English peas, spinach, and broccoli, any of which would be good in the risotto.

To make risotto requires a variety of rice – Carnaroli, Violone or Arborio – with a high starch content, the source of risotto's distinctive creamy quality.

For the liquid, you have a lot of choices: vegetable, chicken, meat, or fish stock, wine, even water with a pat of butter added for flavor. You'll achieve the best results if you use homemade stock with its fresher taste and lower sodium content.

Strawberries and Rhubarb: So Good, They're a National Holiday

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by Susan Russo

strawberryrhubarb1.jpgYou can’t eat rhubarb without strawberries. Sorry. That’s just the way it is. I don’t make the rules; somebody else does. In fact, June 9th has been designated National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day. Check your office calendar; you might actually have the day off.

Growing up on the East Coast, I remember going over my great aunt Pauline’s, where she grew rhubarb along the side of her house. I also remember eating it raw, and scrunching my face up in satisfaction at its impossibly tart flavor. I loved it as a kid, and I still love it as an adult (but not raw, thanks). Just writing about eating raw rhubarb makes my teeth ache (of course it might just be my new whitening toothpaste).

I also remember carrying home bundles of rhubarb that my mom would transform into mouth-watering desserts, of which my family’s favorite was strawberry-rhubarb pie.


Carrot Salad Makes a Great Sidekick

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by David Latt

carrotsalad.jpgWhat comes with an entrée may be more flavorful than the entrée itself. Grilled chicken breast is a case in point: it's ok, healthy but flavor-wise, nothing special. Put a side of homemade carrot salad on the plate and everything changes. The addition of the creamy, spicy carrot salad compliments the neutral flavor of the breast. I'm in heaven.

The key to that sentiment is "homemade". Carrot salad bought from upscale Gelson's or even Nate n'Al's just won't do. I've taken the classic deli recipe and given it a couple of flavor enhancers: a pinch of cayenne and golden raisins soaked in lemon juice. With those added flavors, the salad can hold its own with an infinite variety of dishes: grilled chicken, steak, hamburger, pork chops, lamb chops, duck, even an avocado for a vegetarian meal.

POM Pomegranate Barbecue Ribs

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by Peter Krause

bbqribs.jpgTo some, May means the Kentucky Derby. To others, the start of the summer growing season. To many backyard chefs, May is the start of barbecue.

Barbecue used to be a very regional thing. One area might mean pork while another means beef. Some barbecue chefs prefer to smoke, some to grill, and some to braise.

There are passionate arguments about dry (a spice rub) vs. wet (cooking with the sauce), and even the ingredients in a sauce, whether the meat is cooked in it or not.

I like to barbecue, and I don’t like to get drawn in to one technique over another. No matter the method, barbecue is just good food. 

I’ve made a tasty POM pomegranate juice barbecue sauce for pork baby back ribs. The sweet spice of the sauce is a nice balance to the salty, tender rib meat.

A Dilly of a Burger

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by Sue Doeden

horseradish_burgers.jpgIt is only right that during International Pickle Week we should all eat at least one pickle. You're probably thinking, "National Pickle Week?" Yep. It's true. International Pickle Week was founded more than 60 years ago by the Pickle Packers International, a trade association serving the pickling industry.

I've already started celebrating with one of my favorite pickles -- Black Pepper & Garlic Babies sold with both Del Monte and Gedney labels. I love them. But, then, I'm a pickle person. I think my dad had me eating pickles and olives as soon as I had teeth to chew them.

With Memorial Day weekend just ahead, the grills will be heating up. And many of them be cooking burgers.

Years ago, my friend, Micky, gave me a recipe for ground beef burgers that had horseradish mixed into them. I'm not sure where she got the recipe. She is a cookbook collector and I know she especially likes Junior League cookbooks. Maybe the recipe came from one of them.

Why You Should Never Eat Canned String Beans

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by Susan Russo

beans.jpgIf there were a contest for worst canned vegetable, chances are good that string beans would be the winner. Or beets, which are equally repugnant.

Canning is unkind to string beans. They become disturbingly gray and mushy. You can't even chew them; they just disintegrate in your mouth. As for the flavor, it's salty at best and metallic at worst. So do yourself a favor, and don't buy canned green beans. Ever. Frozen are much better, but fresh is superior in every regard.

Fresh string beans are appealing: slender, firm, and brightly hued. Though string beans are available year-round, they're especially abundant from late spring through late fall. If available, buy Blue Lake Beans. They've become the darling of chefs who prize them for their sweeter flavor and exceptional crispness.

There is one golden rule for cooking string beans: Do not overcook them. Follow that, and you're good to go.


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