Fresh Spinach Strawberry Salad with Herbs and Goat Cheese

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by James Moore

With the warmer months approaching, it’s time to start enjoying some spring and summer recipes. In California, strawberry season is in full swing and it is big business here considering the Golden State is the nation's leading producer of strawberries. In 2014, more than 2.3 billion pounds of strawberries were harvested which amounts to 88 percent of the country's total fresh and frozen strawberries.

Sweet strawberries make a perfect addition to this vibrant salad and the balsamic vinegar brings out the berries' beautiful color and truly enhances their flavor. The spinach leaves are tossed with a mixture of mint, basil, parsley and tarragon which lend delicious flavor and combine beautifully with the goat cheese.

Peach and Pecan Chicken Salad

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by James Farmer III

chickenpeachsaladWhether you are married or buried in The South, you will have chicken salad. You may be a newly born baby down in Dixieland, and your first meal will most likely be a Dixieland Delight of chicken salad – second to pimento cheese or barbeque. I say all this in jest – “jest” saying, y’all, we eat a lot of chicken salad!

This Southern staple is apropos for a wedding, a shower, a luncheon, a wake, a church supper or a hunt club picnic. It is a mandatory dish at garden club. You can be quite elegant with your presentation, and remove the crust (Mimi always said that if you cut the crust off, it was fancy), or you may scoop it onto a lettuce leaf. Or, you may dip Ritz crackers into the styrofoam cup of chicken salad as you leave the drive-thru window at Georgia Bobs – chicken salad can be casual, everyday or highbrow, high-end… diner’s choice.

Chipped, chopped, shredded or chunky – chicken salad is much the same as Southern barbeque in its array of forms. “Mother always chipped hers so fine that it was almost fluffy…” I’ve heard many a time. “Uncle Earl just chopped his…” you may have witnessed this. MawMaw, Mema, Mimi and Mama all have their methods and, like brands of mayonnaise, their posterity follow suit in their taste and preference. Then there is the entire debate about celery. As for me and my house, the finer chopped the better – if added at all.

Sparkling Rosemary-Ginger Lemonade

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by Susan Russo

rosemarylemonadeIt's almost the end of summer, which likely means you're sunburned, overtired, and ready for your kids to go back to school. I'm here to help. Are you ready for some relaxation? Here's what you need to do:

1. Make a batch of this Sparkling Rosemary-Ginger Lemonade and refrigerate it. Chill a tall glass in the freezer, and fill it with the ginger lemonade.

2. Find a comfy hammock or chaise lounge, preferably in a shady spot. Recline on it while sipping your ginger lemonade.

3. Tell your significant other, your kids, the dog to leave you alone. OK, maybe not the dog.

4. Listen to the hum of bees. Smell the sharp scent of freshly cut grass. Watch the clouds float by. It's a lazy summer day. Make the most of it.

5. If you're still not relaxed, pour yourself a second glass of ginger lemonade and add a shot of vodka or gin. Repeat steps 2-4.

Berry Pies: Filling Tips

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by Evan Kleiman

berriesBerries 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.

Ice Cream Sandwiches with Homemade Magic Shell

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by Susan Salzman

icecreamsandwichI 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!

Raspberry Sour Cream Cake

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by Susan Russo

raspberrycakeOur 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.

Peach Buttermilk Pound Cake

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by James Farmer III

peachpoundcakeI 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!

Chilled Corn Soup with Avocado

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by Amy Sherman

cornsoupIt'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.

Grilled Caprese Sandwich

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by Cathy Pollak

capresesandwichYou never know where you are going to find inspiration when it comes to cooking. However, these past few warm summer days, my muse has been a likely source…my herb garden. I have found myself outside, in the heat of the afternoon, just to smell the herbs made fragrant by the sunshine. The pineapple sage, the peppermint, the lemon thyme and oregano…all smell wonderful in the summer sunlight. And then there was the basil, it was just begging to be harvested and made into something…anything really.

I had a loaf of rosemary-olive oil bread, fresh mozzarella in the fridge and vine-ripened tomatoes on my counter. If you are lucky enough to have a warm, summer tomato picked right off your own vine, lucky you. Your sandwich will taste even better.

The rosemary-olive oil bread really gave a nice, complex flavor to the sandwich. However, you can use any crusty bread you choose. Just make sure it is sturdy. I also sprinkled a touch of Fleur de sel on my tomatoes, just to perk them up. I brushed the bread with olive oil before grilling and rubbed it with a garlic clove when it was warm….so delicious. Pulling out a tray of these at any gathering will cause a great commotion, you have been warned.

Peach Project

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by Jessica Harper

PeachSaladA friend brought me 32 peaches. She’s growing them in her backyard in Burbank. I didn’t think much of anything was growing in Burbank except the Disney coffers, but there you go.

While I was very grateful to my friend, I struggled a little to figure out what to do with that pile o’ plenty. They were ripe, ready to eat, so the Peach Project had to begin immediately. But peaches are just one item on the very long list of foods my husband will not eat, so whatever I made, I’d have to scarf it down myself, unless I can organize a quick Peach Party. (NOT.)

I wasn’t equipped (or inclined) to make preserves, and the idea of baking a pie always makes me irritable. I could give some to Oliver, but my dog will not eat a peach unless you can disguise it as a hot dog.

I finally decided to invent a peach salad, with excellent results, which I am sharing with you here. That took care of two peaches. I will get back to you with what became of the other 30.


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