It’s Labor Day Weekend Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

This time of year, the front meadow is a sea of goldenrod.

I always use Labor Day weekend as the benchmark for the end of summer. Kids are back at school, the days are getting shorter and cooler, and the local apple orchard is now open. So this weekend is a perfect time to say goodbye to the season and to invite some friends over for some a delicious meal! I’ve scoured MVK’s archives for some recipes that would be perfect for this time of year. I hope whatever you do this coming weekend, it is filled with good food!

Appetizers

Deviled Eggs
Who doesn’t like deviled eggs? Take this to a party and they will be gone in the blink of an eye!

Baked Artichoke Dip
While this is a little fussy, it is well worth the effort.

Homemade Hummus
Know the ingredients in your hummus by making a batch of your own!

Mediterranean Kebabs
You don’t even need to know how to cook to make this tasty appetizer!

Entrees

Marinated Grilled Chicken Legs
Get the grill going for this flavorful chicken dish.

Linguine with Clam Sauce
If you can find fresh clams, this dish will be phenomenal, but canned work just as well.

Mystic Pizza
Impress your guests by grilling this pizza!

Marinated London Broil
Mmmmm…..

Brazilian Fish Stew
This stew tastes like a professional made it. Show off your skills!

Salads and Such

Potato Salad
I made this over Fourth of July weekend and am still thinking about it!

Kale Salad
Instead of a usual green salad try using kale instead!

Quick Pickles
Because I love these!

And you can never go wrong with a platter of sliced fresh tomatoes with basil and a little drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Desserts

Warm Roasted Peaches with Cream
Pick up some Amish peaches if you’re in the Northeast and roast them with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. You won’t be sorry!

Brownies
You’ll make a friend for life if you make a couple batches of these incredible brownies.

Crumbly Peach Pie
A summer isn’t complete without making my grandmother’s peach pie.

Cocktails

Mad Men Manhattan

Margaritas

Mocktails

sunday dinner

(Photo Steve Cavalier/Alamy/Alamy)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Should Sunday Roast Dinners Still be on the Menu?
One of the things I was most excited about when I was in London last year was going out for Sunday Roast, which is basically a full dinner at lunchtime. I have a version of that in my own home almost every Sunday because there is more time to cook; a really nice meal, usually a roast of some sort, to end the weekend and to have a nice start to the work week. Sunday just feels odd if I’m throwing together a stir fry.

So I really enjoyed this pro and con op-ed piece out of The Guardian last week for Sunday roast dinners.  Of course I’m in the “pro” camp; they truly are a comfort blanket meal. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

I love my early morning summer walks. I run into geese, chickens, and Dexter the Cat!

A few weeks back The Eater of the House and myself were invited to a dinner party and the request was to bring either an appetizer or dessert. Since I had the time and the urge to cook a little bit, I made some chocolate chip cookies with coconut, but wasn’t really sure what to make for an appetizer. Be forewarned, if I am cooking for a group of people either at my home or for a potluck, I almost always try something new. Certainly not the wisest of decisions (the rational voice in my head is always questioning why?!), but I love trying something new to me and introducing it to guests. And I truly hit the jackpot with this dip.

This incredibly flavorful black bean dip has a little bit of heat, a hint of garlic and crunchy onion, and a combination of lime juice and red wine vinegar that is so good that after one bite I moved the plate closer to me with the hope the other guests wouldn’t notice. It was so delicious, I made it the next day just for myself!

I searched high and low in the grocery store and couldn’t find queso fresco cheese, so I used feta in place and it was just as good. This appetizer will make vegans and those who don’t eat dairy happy if you leave off the cheese as well as those who are looking for a healthy, flavorful dip that isn’t terribly heavy or rich. I thought it would be terrific as a vegetarian burrito filling or as an accompaniment for eggs!

black bean dip
Black Bean Hummus with Queso Fresco

This recipe first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Can’t find queso fresco? Crumbled feta cheese can certainly be substituted, or if looking for a dairy-free version, just add extra onion and cilantro. I also added a couple tablespoons of water to make it more dip-like as I found it a little dry without it.

1 tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons queso fresco
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine tahini, lime juice, olive oil, beans, salt, water, and garlic clove in the bowl of a food processor. Add vinegar, cumin, and crushed red pepper to food processor with black bean mixture; process until smooth. Top with queso fresco, onion, and cilantro.

onionsMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Pickled Onions
This is more like my love of the week. Or month. Or year. I decided at the beginning of the summer to make some pickled onions to go with the burritos I was making. O. M. G. They are the best (and easiest) thing you can make to add flavor to your food! I take 3/4 cup of apple cider or red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of water, and add some diced red onion. They last forever and are so good! I’m a big onion fan, so this just adds enhanced flavor with a little bit of a zing. I especially like putting them on a warmed corn tortilla with melted cheese, a scrambled egg, and some avocado for a really tasty breakfast!

I found this article, which gives great instruction on how to make quick pickled onions or you can do what I do. Either way, I hope you find a new delicious food accompaniment!

The Lazy, Shorter Days of Summer: Late Season Pesto Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Summertime and the living is easy!

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy!

Vermont in August is one of my favorite times of the year. While the light has quickly diminished in both the morning and evening, the fields are now a bright yellow with goldenrod, a little bit quieter, and the gardens have reached their peaks. While the days can still be quite warm, nighttime is usually perfectly cool sleeping weather. Weekends are spent at the lake, soaking in the sun and making memories that (hopefully) will keep us warm in the winter.

Speaking of gardens, you’ll never see me turn down an offer of free vegetables or fruit from someone’s garden. Which was the reason I was cutting up cups and cups of late season rhubarb for pies a couple of weeks ago, and why I found myself in a friend’s garden one recent evening, pulling all of the basil that she didn’t want. While it was almost past its time, it was still salvageable and all I could see was green, and knew I could make mounds and mounds of pesto.

I can grow tired very quickly if I eat the same thing all the time–leftovers are a two-meal minimum for me–but I think I could eat pesto every day and be completely happy! There is something about the mixture of basil, garlic, nuts, cheese, and olive oil that is heaven on a plate. During the summer I make it just about every Monday night for dinner. Even during my detox I talked about a few weeks ago, I created a dairy-free pesto that was almost as good as the real thing, served over quinoa pasta! For my friend who graciously gave me the basil, I made a nut-free and dairy free version for her.

The word pesto comes from the Italian, pestare, which means “to pound or crush,” and I have certainly made it many times the authentic way with a mortar and pestle, but my blender is a lot quicker when making lots. For nuts, I’ve used almonds, walnuts, or the traditional pine nuts. Or I’ve left them out if I don’t have any on hand. Making batches ahead of time will be a way to bring some summer into the darkness of the cold, winter months!

It's a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

It’s a pesto explosion in my kitchen!

Late Season Pesto

I don’t measure when I make this. Ever. So these are my approximations of measurements. I go by taste, so as you’re mixing, keep tasting to see if it suits your palate. When freezing, I put a little piece of plastic wrap on the top of the pesto to keep it from drying out.

1 large garlic clove
2 large handfuls of basil leaves
A few parsley stalks (preferably flat-leafed parsley), about 2-3 tablespoons
About 3 tablespoons grated parmesan or Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons whole almonds (or substitute walnuts or pine nuts)
Extra virgin olive oil, roughly ¼ cup (you can also use some hot water as a substitute for some of the oil)

With a blender, add the ingredients one at a time, ending with enough olive oil to make a paste. Serve over pasta, veggies, fish, or toasted bread.

movie posterMVK’s *Like of the Week: “That Sugar Film”
Are you like me and think the food you find in a health food store is good for you? Think again. Australian filmmaker, Damon Gameau, has a movie out, based on the movie “Super Size Me,” where he eats only “health foods,” but which are actually filled with added sugar. For two months, he gave up his normal diet of fresh foods for one that contains 40 teaspoons of sugar daily. But he wasn’t eating the obvious sugary foods like ice cream, candy, and soda. He instead focused on those foods perceived as healthy, but which contain added sugars: juices, low-fat yogurt, healthy bars, cereals. The effect of the diet is shocking.

While I think the movie is a bit gimmicky to get his point across, maybe this will be added to the American dialogue we are having about food and how it can help, or in this case hurt, your body. You can read more about the film and watch a trailer by clicking here.

Sizzling Skirt Steak with Asparagus and Red Peppers Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Isn't this farm stand adorable? I stopped on my way home from the lake and picked up some beets, broccoli, tomatoes, and an onion!

Isn’t this farm stand adorable? I stopped on my way home from the lake and picked up some beets, broccoli, tomatoes, and an onion!

For the past few weeks, I’ve been making more and more vegetarian meals. Summer is so easy to fix up some veggies you’ve picked from the garden, the farmer’s market, or tiny farm stands like the one above. August is the month all veggies shine; they are their peak of ripeness and deliciousness, it’s easy to just have a plate filled with some beans, tomatoes, and an ear of corn and be happy. But there are some evenings that I’m dragging, tired, and I know it’s because my iron is low, so I decide to fix a nice steak. When that happens, pull this recipe out! You can let the steak marinate during cocktail hour (or when you run out for an errand, like I did), and with just a few ingredients, it takes hardly any time at all to put dinner on the table!

Remember the Caesar salad and Brussels sprouts recipes I gave you a few months back that called for fish sauce? Still have the bottle? Here is another recipe where you can use it! Fish sauce has something that experts refer to as umami, the “fifth taste”; like sweet, sour, etc., the combined ingredients make foods flavorful. Like MSG without the chemicals. Just a little bit adds a load of flavor–and it’s not fishy at all. The grated onion marinade is perfectly suited for flavoring the meat and the additional sauce with the vegetables adds a nice touch. 

I have never seen skirt steak in Vermont despite many searches, so I’ve substituted both flank steak and sirloin for this recipe. I’ve let the marinade sit longer than 30 minutes with no ill effect, it just made for a more intense onion flavor, which I love. And this would be fabulous if you put it on the grill! And you can substitute some fresh green beans instead of asparagus if you like!

steakSizzling Skirt Steak with Asparagus and Red Pepper

This recipe originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine. Serves 4.

1 pound skirt steak, halved crosswise
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
2 medium red onions, divided
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Combine steak and 1 tablespoon fish sauce in a shallow dish. Cut 1 onion in half lengthwise. Grate half of the onion. Add onion pulp to steak; toss to coat. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Cut remaining 1 1/2 onions into 1/4-inch-thick vertical slices. Cut each asparagus spear diagonally into 3 pieces. Combine sliced onion, asparagus, bell pepper, and oil; toss to coat. Heat a large wok or stainless steel skillet over high heat. Add vegetables to pan; stir-fry 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce to pan; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove vegetable mixture from pan; keep warm.

3. Scrape onion pulp off of steak. Return wok to high heat. Add steak to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Place steak on a cutting board; let stand at least 5 minutes. Cut steak across the grain into slices. Serve with vegetables.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: “The Kitchen of Ambrosia”

Last week I told you about my small screen debut and now its ready for the big reveal! A little peek at Vermont in August and blueberry season! Click on the movie poster to enjoy “The Kitchen of Ambrosia!”

 

movie poster

Old-Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Don't the clouds look like cotton candy?

Don’t the clouds look like cotton candy?

A funny thing happened to me in March. I received an email from a local filmmaker, Josh Hummel, who stumbled across my blog and my recipe for blueberry pie from 2012  and wanted to meet to discuss a film he was planning on making that featured—ta da! A blueberry pie!

The film, titled “The Kitchen of Ambrosia,” is brilliant; six athletes come together with ingredients to make a pie that is then shared. A runner gathers the berries, a kayaker takes the berries into the lake to wash them, a hiker goes into the woods for the maple syrup, a cyclist goes to a farm to gather wheat berries and cream, a rock climber grinds the wheat into flour, and a mountain biker goes over bumps and hills to make the butter. I spent a few hours filming this over the past few weekends and had great fun. And as you can surmise, I was the cook so I had to make two delicious tasting—and more importantly good looking–pies!

The Eater of the House took this photo of everyone being filmed eating the pie!

The Eater of the House took this photo of everyone being filmed eating the pie!

My blueberry pie is normally made with sugar, but I wanted this to be authentic to the film, so I found this pie recipe published in Bon Appétit magazine that uses maple syrup. I had wanted to practice making a lattice crust this summer, but time escaped me, so I had to do it on the fly! And it was super easy! I used these instructions, and had my phone in front of me as I followed the instructions on crisscrossing the crust. Since I was making two pies in the morning of the film shoot, I made the crust ahead of time to save on time and popped it in the fridge. You can do this too, just make sure the crust is room temperature before you start to roll it out. And of course, you don’t have to do a lattice, a “regular” crust will taste just as good!

The pie filling was delicious; I was disappointed in my crust and that the filling bubbled over a little bit, but all the athletes declared it delicious! I haven’t seen the final movie but saw a sneak peek of the rough cut and I can’t wait to be able to share this little bit of Vermont with you in the near future!

bluepieOld-Fashioned Blueberry-Maple Pie
This recipe first appeared in the August 1999 issue of Bon Appétit magazine. Pie crust is from The Joy of Cooking.

Pie crust
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon or so of salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Ice water

Filling
4 cups fresh blueberries (about 23 ounces)
1 cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup unbleached all purposed flour
¼ cup quick-cooking tapioca
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the crust: In a bowl, sift the flour and salt together. Add the butter, cut into chunks, and with a pastry blender or two forks, work the butter into the flour until it resembles cornmeal. One tablespoon at a time, add the ice water and mix until the crust melds together, and divide in half. On a floured surface, take your rolling pin, add a little bit of flour to the pin and the crust, and work it in a circle until it is about 9 inches for your pie pan. Carefully set it into a greased glass pie plate.

Combine blueberries, syrup, flour, tapioca, and juice in a bowl; toss to blend. Let stand for 15 minutes. Add the filling and repeat rolling out the crust for the top or cut for lattice. Bake pie until juice bubble thickly and crust is golden, about 1 hour. Cool pie on rack. Serve at room temperature.

MVK’s Like of the Week: Tonight’s Dinner

I read about food every single day. Whether it’s newspapers, magazines, websites, emails, cookbooks, I am always getting new ideas and inspirations. A few months back, I told you about the email the New York Time’s Food team sends several times a week. It’s great and I get lots of creative suggestions for meals that don’t take a lot of time or money to put on the table. I just loved this message last week from writer Sam Sifton. I’m going to look for some local tomatoes tonight!

fresh-tomato-exporterSummer cooking is different from the cooking we do other times of the year. Here are some beautiful tomatoes. With a drizzle of olive oil, a spray of salt and a garnish of capers, that’s dinner, and if someone happens to have a beautiful ball of fresh mozzarella to tear apart on top of it all, so much the better. Honey, could you grab me some basil? Dinner is served. (Try doing that in February.)

 

Summer Minestrone Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Small town living at its best.

Small town living at its best.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve brought you a soup recipe! And while one doesn’t normally think of summer as soup season, but since this one has been cooler than normal with fits and starts of heat (I’m not complaining!), it’s the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the garden’s bounty and make a big pot of minestrone soup.

Longtime readers know I’m a sucker for a good soup. They are easy to make on a Sunday morning and tote to work for the week. Add a small salad, a half sandwich, or a slice of bread with some in-season fruit, and you have a healthy and delicious lunch! And this soup is so good and flavorful! Lots of squashes, green beans, with the flavor of basily and garlicky pesto, it make a delectable lunch or dinner. Plus, it can be easily frozen, so you can have some later on in the month.

This is a free-wheeling recipe, so there are lots of substitutions that you can make based on your own palate. Water or vegetable broth for chicken, gluten-free pasta or none for the ditalini, spinach or chard (which I used) in place of kale, omit additional cheese, and you can even omit the pesto if you don’t have any on hand. I’ve done that and it’s just as good.

As I write this, it is a cloudy and rainy and I’m under a blanket next to the open window as it is windy and cool outside. Just a reminder that this glorious season isn’t forever and cooler days will be coming in the future–with more soup!

minestroneSummer Minestrone Soup
This recipe first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

A gentle simmer keeps the vegetables in the soup slightly firm, so they maintain their texture during freezing and reheating.

Yield: Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced leek, white and light green parts only (about 2 leeks)
1 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 cup thinly sliced celery
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
2 cups chopped yellow squash
2 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 ounces Lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup homemade or refrigerated pesto (such as Buitoni)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add leek, carrot, celery, and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (do not brown). Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add stock and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes.

2. Place 1 cup cannellini beans in a small bowl; mash with a fork. Add mashed beans, remaining cannellini beans, squashes, bell pepper, green beans, pasta, salt, and black pepper to pan. Increase heat to medium; cook 10 minutes. Stir in kale; cook 2 minutes. Place 2 cups soup in each of 8 bowls, or follow freezing instructions. Top each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons pesto and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese.

How-To

FREEZE: Cool soup completely. Freeze flat in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag for up to 2 months.

THAW: Microwave soup in bag at MEDIUM (50% power) 5 minutes or until pliable.

REHEAT: Pour soup into a large Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat, partially covered, 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve with pesto and Parmesan cheese.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Speaking of Veggies…
veggiesI came across this article, “10 Surprising Ways You Are Making Your Vegetables Less Nutritious” a little while back and thought I wouldn’t find anything new. Well, blow me down, I realized I am actually doing several of these things on this list! I always add garlic and carrots to recipes right after chopping and I sometimes will deleaf the head of lettuce to easily make salads. I thought this had some great tips and information, I hope you find it helpful too!

 

Spice Grilled Chicken Thighs with Creamy Chili-Herb Sauce Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

It’s summertime and the living is easy. Which means the cooking is easy, too! This dish, with tender chicken and a fiery sauce, is perfect for one of those cooler summer evenings. While I made this on a weekend when I had more time, it’s easy enough to make on a weeknight, too!

The flat-leaved parsley at the store was looking really sad, so I opted for curly parsley, but I wouldn’t advise that; I find curly more flavorful, sometimes a little bitter, so while the sauce was good, I think the sweeter flat-leaf is the definite choice. I don’t have a grill pan, so I pan-fried the chicken in a skillet and finished cooking in the oven. Although my original plan was to use the real grill, which would give great flavor! Also, if it’s a hot night, you can cook the chicken outdoors so the kitchen won’t get hot!

I love spicy foods, as you know, so if you wanted just a little heat, maybe a quarter of a jalapeno or a dash of crushed red pepper would do the trick. I served this with some sautéed fresh Swiss chard and garlic and a cucumber salad with dill. But a simple green salad or maybe a tomato salad with some basil and mozzarella would also be great. Something to celebrate summer and bountiful vegetables that are coming into your home kitchen!

spicychix
Spiced Grilled Chicken Thighs with Creamy Chile-Herb Sauce

This recipe first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic, divided
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned (about 2 pounds)
Cooking spray
2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño pepper

1. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon sugar, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal bag. Let stand 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

2. Preheat grill to medium.

3. Coat grill rack with cooking spray. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken to grill rack; grill 8 minutes on each side or until done.

4. Place remaining 2 table­spoons oil, remaining 1 tablespoon juice, remaining 1 teaspoon garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, parsley, half-and-half, and jalapeño in the bowl of a mini food processor; process until finely chopped. Serve sauce with chicken thighs.

eat-clean-2MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Clean Eating!

For two weeks in June, the Eater of the House and myself went through a detox with two other friends. In a nutshell, I was a gluten-free vegan for 14 days. Plus, no sugar, alcohol, or caffeine. The first few days were difficult, but by week two I had hit my stride; I no longer had to think about what I could eat, plus I had a lot more energy. When that first Monday morning rolled around, I was so excited for a cup of decaf coffee and eggs, but I’ll admit the meal fell on a low note. I was expecting a taste thrill, but it was just ok. I didn’t even have a glass of wine with dinner that night!

Cooking Light has jumped on the “clean eating” bandwagon, with a guide for clean eating plus tips, recipes, and ideas for a month of clean eating. While I like to look at eating as everything in moderation, I do plan to do this detox on a regular basis, as well as incorporating some of these changes in my daily life. No one has been hurt by eating even more fruits and vegetables!