watermelon + avocado salad with feta

 

I’ve been on a real watermelon kick lately. I used to kind of hate it, especially the way it took up too much space in a fruit cup, but ever since my boyfriend’s mom put out a huge tupperware full of big, cold watermelon squares Memorial Day weekend I’ve been a little obsessed. I love coming home from a sweaty workout and sinking my teeth into sweet, juicy chunks. It’s just as thirst-quenching as water but with a total flavor bonus. And, since I have it around all the time now, I’ve been tossing cubes into my salads for lunch.

Everyone is well familiar with the watermelon-feta combo, but I’ve added cucumber (another hydrating fruit) and avocado. If you’ve never had avocado and feta together, it’s a real treat. Yes, they’re both creamy, but only the feta is sharp, providing the avocado with that dash of salt it needs. This one’s a summer keeper, I’ll be sad to see the watermelons go at the end of the season.

watermelon + avocado salad with feta

serves 2

ingredients

  • 3-4 cups spinach
  • 2 cups 1-inch watermelon cubes
  • 1 cup peeled and halved cucumber slices (about half a cucumber)
  • 1/2 firm-ripe avocado, sliced horizontally
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons lime vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

procedure

  1. Prepare vinaigrette: In a small bowl combine 4 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon agave, 1/2 teaspoon salt; whisk until emulsified. Makes about 1/4 cup.
  2. In a large bowl, combine spinach watermelon, cucumber, avocado, onion and 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette; toss gently.
  3. Divide equally onto two plates; sprinkle each with a tablespoon of the cheese. Season with coarse salt, cracked black pepper and small basil leaves if you’ve got them.
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baklava ice cream with pistachios + buttered phyllo dough

Today I competed in an ice cream contest called The Takedown where about 25 amateur chefs created their most inventive ice cream flavors for some ice cream-related judges and the public – my flavor was baklava. I was really pleased with how it turned out but it definitely was more work than your average flavor so I would probably save this one for when you’re really trying to impress. I didn’t win any grand prize, but the judges from Adirondack Creamery and Blue Marble Ice Cream gave me honorable mention for my “labor of love”.

I had to make 2 gallons and things just kind of unfolded as I went along, so the quantities for the syrup below are estimates. The cool thing about this ice cream is that you get to dig around for things and their all worth digging for – the chewy pistachios coated in honey syrup (the syrup gets chewy too) and the buttery flakes of phyllo dough. It doesn’t matter if you get a bite of dry phyllo from the top or a moist piece that’s been sandwiched between ice cream and syrup, both are great because it’s new texture and buttery flavor no matter which way you slice it. And, even if for some reason you don’t get bits and pieces, you still get that baklava flavor somehow.  Hopefully you’ll give it a whirl!

pistachios in honey syrup

phyllo stacks cut to the shape of the container

the samples

baklava ice cream

makes about 2 quarts

ingredients for ice cream

  • 1-1/2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 3-1/2 cups half & half + 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey

ingredients for pistachios in syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, or more to taste
  • 8 ounces raw pistachio meat

ingredients for phyllo dough

  • 8 sheets raw phyllo dough
  • 1/4 cup salted butter, melted

To make the ice cream:

  1.  In a large bowl, mash the cream cheese until soft and loose; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and the 2 tablespoons of half & half; whisk until completely dissolved; set aside.
  3. In a pot over high heat, combine remaining half & half, sugar and honey. Stirring occasionally, allow mixture to come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add the corn starch mixture; mix well. Bring mixture back to a boil and cook for 1 more minute, stirring frequently.
  5. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the cream cheese; whisk until cream cheese is combined. Refrigerate until cool and make according to your ice cream machine’s instructions.

To make the syrup:

  1. In a small pot over high heat, combine the sugar, water, honey and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently; reduce to a simmer until mixture has reduced and is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove to a large container and refrigerate (or stick it in the freezer) to bring it to room temperature.
  2. In a food processor, pulse or chop pistachios into tiny pieces, but not so tiny that it looks like sand.
  3. Once syrup is cool, add pistachio pieces and mix well.

To make the phyllo dough:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with wax paper.
  2. Cut two stacks (each containing 8 layers) of the phyllo dough to the shape of your container. To do this, keep the 8 sheets of phyllo stacked on top of each other. Press the lid of your container  onto one half of the phyllo to create an imprint and make another one right next to it. Cut around the imprint (not inside) and you’re left with two stacks of 8 sheets in the exact shape of your container.
  3. Place one layer of phyllo on the wax paper; brush with butter making sure to get all the edges. Place another layer of phyllo right on top; brush with butter. Repeat until you have two stacks of 8 buttered phyllo sheets. Don’t forget to butter the top layer.
  4. Bake in oven until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

To build ice cream:

  1. In a 2 quart container, layer half of the ice cream, half of the pistachios in syrup and the uglier of the phyllo stacks. Repeat so that you are left with the pretty phyllo stack on top. Freeze until ready to serve.

curried sweet potato + fruit salad

I don’t even know what this is, all I know is that I like it. This recipe was inspired by too many cravings – a creamy potato salad, curried chicken salad, Waldorf salad, a midwestern potluck “salad”…I had every intention of making a creamy potato salad using sweet potatoes (sweet twist on a picnic classic) but then I decided to substitute yogurt for the mayo. Yogurt got me thinking of a Waldorf salad and so I added some fruit. Nothing tastes better than mint and ginger tossed in a fruit salad, but then the yogurt got bland, so I added curry and honey and it took on a whole new identity. This may sound weird but I promise, it’ll kill just about any craving. Would be lovely served with chicken or fish or part of a picnic potluck.

curried sweet potato + fruit salad

ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked sweet potato cubes with skin (I boiled them)
  • 7 ounces Greek yogurt (2%)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest (1 lime)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh mint, divided
  • 1 green apple, cut into cubes
  • 1 large apricot, cut into cubes
  • 1 ripe banana, sliced
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped

procedure

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, honey, lime zest, lime juice, ginger and curry until honey is completely mixed in. Season with salt to taste.
  2. Add half of the mint, apple, apricot and banana, walnuts, cherries and sweet potatoes; toss gently. Sprinkle with remaining mint; toss once.
  3. Refrigerate until cold.

green tea + date smoothie

green tea and date smoothie

I wanted to share a quick recipe I threw together this morning. I love the flavor of green tea; I get so excited when I discover a green tea ice cream with a strong flavor (Lime Tree Deli, 9th Street & 1st Ave, NYC). I used matcha green tea powder to make sure I got the flavor I wanted. I would’ve added half a banana but I was out so I used chia seeds instead to get that thick mouthfeel. I am pretty wired now but it’s totally worth the flavor!

green tea + date smoothie

makes about 2 cups

ingredients

  • 1 cup milk (I used vanilla flax milk)
  • 1/4 cup raw almond, soaked overnight if you remember
  • 3 medjool dates, soaked overnight if you remember
  • 1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 cup ice

procedure

  1. In a blender, combine milk, almonds, dates and green tea powder; whirl until smooth.
  2. Add chia seeds; allow to sit 5 minutes until thick. Add ice; whirl until smooth.
  3. Enjoy immediately.

savory ricotta + fava bean quiche

This quiche is so flavorful and delicious, it’s difficult to have  just one slice. It’s hard to mess up ricotta and eggs, you could add just about any ingredient to the mix, but I’ve used fava beans for texture and a mix of leafy greens. The lemon zest really makes this so don’t omit it!

I used a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom but had some crust and filling leftover, so I would recommend using a 10-inch pie pan with some depth.

ricotta + fava bean quiche

makes about 10 slices

ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups flour, extra for surface
  • 8 tablespoons salted cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 6 tablespoons cold water
  • 12 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups tightly packed baby greens, such as arugula, chard and spinach
  • 1 cup shelled fava beans, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

procedure

  1. In a food processor, combine flour and butter. Pulse until the mix resembles coarse cornmeal. Slowly add water and continue pulsing until dough comes together and is wet. Remove dough to a floured surface. Roll out dough to fit your pan. Carefully press dough into pan, adjusting sides as needed. With a fork, pierce the  bottom of the crust in several places.Place in freezer 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Once frozen, place a square of aluminum foil over crust; fill with pie weights, dry beans or rice. Bake 15 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and pie weights; bake 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 400°F.
  3. While baking, in a large bowl, whisk together ricotta, eggs, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Fold in greens and fava beans.
  4. Pour mixture into pie pan. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake in oven until puffy and brown, about 45 minutes.

watermelon + citrus gazpacho with avocado

This recipe was completely inspired by this weekend’s weather. We’ve had the sunniest, most gorgeous weekend and the colors and flavors in this gazpacho are a perfect representation. If you’ve never had watermelon or orange in your gazpacho, you’re in for a treat. Traditional gazpacho tastes like a really good salsa, so adding watermelon and orange makes more sense to me for some reason. I leave it a little chunky and then stir in a few larger chunks of all the ingredients plus some creamy avocado before serving. Serve this chilled on a hot summer day as a soup or palate cleanser. Some beautiful lump crab meat would make this an elegant starter as well.
citrus + watermelon gazpacho with avocado
makes about 3 cups
ingredients
  • 3 navel oranges
  • 2 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 3/4 cup diced watermelon
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 small avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced

procedure

  1. Grate 1 teaspoon zest from one orange; set aside.
  2. Peel and cut one orange into segments. Cut segments into small pieces. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Peel and segment remaining oranges into blender or food processor.
  3. To oranges add tomatoes, 1/2 cup of the diced cucumber, 1/2 cup of the watermelon, 1/4 cup of the onion, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, the oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the reserved orange zest. Pulse until finely chopped, about 10 to 12 times; chill until ready to serve.
  4. To reserved orange segments add remaining cucumber, remaining 1/4 cup watermelon, the onion, remaining 2 teaspoons vinegar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the avocado; mix gently.
  5. To serve, divide pureed mixture among four bowls. Spoon chopped mixture into center of each bowl.

chiles capones (pasilla chiles stuffed with tomatillo + cotija cheese)

I was in Mexico last weekend hosting a group of editors in the magical town of Morelia. As a representative for the Mexican avocado industry, I was introducing food writers to the ancient tradition of avocado harvesting. In addition to touring avocado orchards, I get to eat some of the most wonderful foods I have ever eaten. These trips, which I go on about once a year, are what have made me fall in love with authentic Mexican cuisine. It will take many more trips before I can digest and wrap my head around the multitude of earthy ingredients that go into this deep rooted cuisine, but for now we can start with a recipe for chiles capones. 

The chile used in this recipe is the pasilla chile or also called chile negro or black chile. It is the dried form of a pepper called chilaca. The pasilla is long, narrow and wrinkled, dark in color and rich in flavor. It is mild in heat but sometimes can be medium hot. For this recipe you will have to soak the chiles for several hours before using them, but in some recipes all you need to do is heat them to make them pliable. I love the deep earthy flavor dried chiles bring to a dish – they are wonderful in salsas, broths and rich sauces, like mole. To learn more about chiles and to try other recipes, see Diana Kennedy’s write up on Mexican chiles in Food & Wine.

look for tomatillos with tightly wrapped husks

I had these chiles capones at a restaurant in Morelia called Los Mirasoles. Our tour guide, Deborah, recommended them years ago and I still ooh and aah when I eat them. For something so rich and complex in flavor you’ll be surprised at how easy they are to make. You start with a saute of onion and tomatillos then slowly add the cheese. If you taste the mixture before the cheese is added, you’ll taste the tartness of the tomatillos and understand why so much cheese is added. You’ll also notice that no salt is required thanks to the cotija.

chiles capones 

serves 3 (I know this is odd, but it’s the truth)

ingredients

  • 6 pasilla chiles
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups finely diced tomatillos (about 4)
  • 8 ounces cotija cheese, grated

procedure

  1. Seed and devein chiles by gently cutting a vertical slit in the center of the chile. With scissors, carefully cut up and down the chile until it is split open. Remove seeds and light colored veins.
  2. In a large bowl, combine chiles and vinegar; fill with water until chiles are submerged. Soak for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions; cook and stir until translucent. Add tomatillos; cook and stir until slightly tender and translucent.
  4. Slowly begin adding the cheese, stirring constantly until all the cheese is incorporated. Remove from heat.
  5. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  6. Drain chiles and pat dry. Arrange chiles on aluminum foil.
  7. Spoon tomatillo mixture into the peppers until you run out. Bake in oven until cheese begins to brown, about 10 minutes.
  8. Serve stuffed peppers with tortillas, crema and avocado if desired.
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