Monday, September 27, 2010

Heat Wave in Northern California - Dishes to Help You Cope

Virgin mojito - my relief from the heat

This summer has generally been rather cool, only occasionally rising above 80 degrees. As a former Virginian a typical summer day is in the mid-90s combined with unbearable humidity. So you can see why I don't usually bat an eye when the thermometer creeps up to the upper 80s. However, as the months go by the wussier I seem to get. This weekend's high of 90 degrees had me begging for A/C.

Green bean, zucchini, tomato, chickpea salad.

Now in Virginia I could crank up the A/C all I liked, but in the San Francisco Bay area A/C is a rarity. With no respite from the heat, I prefer to keep my oven and stove off. But a girl gets hungry (and thirsty), so here are some nice dishes (and drinks) to keep you cool.

The green bean salad was a concoction I threw together when I got home from work. I had just gone to the farmer's market on Saturday so I had some nice green beans, zucchini, and heirloom tomatoes. But trust me, this salad would be just as lovely with some broccoli or maybe some cucumbers and bell pepper. The key is the simple dressing which adds such depth of flavor (BONUS: and little fat). I serve this salad with a nice loaf of multigrain bread (from the store, because who wants to bake in this heat?)

My favorite drink to accompany this beauty of a salad is the virgin mojito. Now don't get me wrong if you're feeling the need for some rum, I enjoy those too. But when it's really hot alcohol will just make me sleepier. The combination of mint, lime juice, club soda, and just a shot of sprite is so refreshing.

Green Bean Salad

1 zucchini
1/2-3/4 lb green beans (trimmed of ends)
1 heirloom tomato (diced)
1/2-3/4 can of chickpeas (6-8 oz)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1-2 tbsp mint (chopped)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar

Place an inch of water into a large pot with a steamer to place the vegetables on. Bring to a boil. Take the zucchini and cut into 1/4 in rounds and slice those into half moons. Cut green beans in half or thirds. Place vegetables into pot and steam for 5-7 minutes (depending on how crunchy you like your vegetables). Set aside to cool for a couple minutes. Chop tomato, mint and mince garlic and set aside. Zest the lemon and pour lemon juice into a large bowl. Add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper and mix until thoroughly combined. Drain chickpeas. Add steamed vegetables, tomato, chickpeas, and mint to the vinaigrette in the bowl. Toss to combine. Serve with bread and cheese.

Virgin Mojito
1 lime
3 ice cubes
couple sprigs of mint
club soda

Take a glass and fill with juice of half a lime, torn mint leaves, and a shot of sprite. Muddle in glass with a spoon. Add ice and club soda. Enjoy!

Perfection in a glass.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When the soup's in the cup...

Sip it like its hot, sip it like its hot. Oh Justin Timberlake, you crack me up. If you haven't seen his SNL skit as the Cup O' Soup, you must check it out:

Now that September is upon us, what better way to mark the beginning of the fall season than by cooking up a batch of butternut squash soup! Katy and I took one evening this week to make ourselves a warm, comforting and quick meal. We used a Giada De Laurentis recipe and I have to say she really does know her stuff. We've tried a bunch of her dishes and they've never failed. I don't always love that she must pronounce every word with the proper Italian accent, I mean we get it, you're Italian, you don't need to force these words, "paahnchettaahh, mooozaaahrellaaa and parmaahgeeaahnoo reggiaahhnoo!" down our throats, okay?

Butternut Squash soup with Sage

That being said, I love that Giada uses fresh simple flavors with just a few ingredients. Don't you love when you don't have to buy 15 million ingredients for just one dish? I was skeptical about how just a few veggies, herbs and some olive oil could make such a rich and tasty soup, but it really was one of the best soups I've ever tasted. No cream required! It tastes so earthy from all the sage, and the onions and garlic really bring out the sweetness and nuttiness of the squash and carrots. The color of the soup was a beautiful orange with little flecks of green from the herbs. What really kicked this soup up a notch was the fontina and sage crostini Giada pairs with the soup. It just adds another level of flavor and a nice gourmet touch. All you have to do is cut up a nice Italian loaf or whatever bread you have on hand into rounds, sprinkle with olive oil, shredded fontina cheese, chopped sage and sea salt and pop it into the oven. The bread gets golden and crusty and the cheese is melty and delicious. I loved sopping up my soup with the crostini. Yum!

Please give this soup a try, I plan on making it again soon! It's the perfect starter course or light lunch or dinner meal. I might even put this on our family's Thanksgiving menu!

Recipe courtesy of the Food Network and Giada De Laurentis