A Little Holiday Jewel of a Salad

One week away….the Holidays officially start with loads of heavy, delicious foods…mains and sides (my favorite part of the meals), desserts…put on repeat. A month of meals.

Consider this little jewel of a salad to be a segue, an interlude, maybe a palate cleanser, definitely a colorful, shiny seasonal edible. It has crunch, color and citrus, freshness and a healthy-feel goodness.

There is no “real” recipe and you can improvise if need be. But here is how I made this.

Chilled shredded Radicchio in the bottom of the bowl topped with Cara Cara oranges, cubes Jicama and Pomegranate Ariels lightly drizzled with a simple vinaigrette.

You could have this for lunch one day between those heavier Holiday meals. Or, just slip it in the mix and build it in a large salad bowl served along with those yummy sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts?

However you spend your Holidays this year…with or without a mask, in a large or small gathering, with family and friends, or just by yourself relaxing and Netflix bingeing, be kind, share and be well.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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Quick and Easy Cast-Iron Garlic and Herb Roasted Tomatoes

Same house, same yard, same wee garden space and 16 years later we finally have a lot of home-grown tomatoes. Which just adds to the many mysteries of gardening. One small sweet cherry tomato plant has been like a factory, revealing ripe red jewels every day all summer. This simple how-to-recipe is just one of the many ways we have eaten them.

Nothing roasts tomatoes quite so well as a cast-iron skillet in my opinion. Toss in some of my “oven-roasted garlic” from my last post, tomatoes and herbs and you are ready to roast.

Incredibly yummy on a baguette from Dozen Bakery with the aromatic roasted tomatoes piled on top of a thin slab of room-temp Brie, a sprinkling of sea salt and a chilled glass of vino.
What we didn’t eat, I put into a glass jar, with more fresh herbs and covered with olive oil and put into the freezer for later. I know one day soon when it is chilly, and dark and rainy I will remembered this secreted away jar, pull it out of the freezer, thaw and repeat this meal, or toss with pasta, or add to a pan when I am baking a chicken. Always planning for another day, while living in this one.
Just a bite away.

Do the best you can, share, wear your mask, get vaccinated, live life.

Cast-Iron Garlic and Herb Roasted Tomatoes

For this non-recipe-recipe you will need:

A very good crusty baguette; two pints of cherry tomatoes; a handful of fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, oregano and sage; olive oil roasted garlic, or fresh garlic smashed and olive oil; sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, room temperature softened Brie

To do:

,Turn oven to 425 degrees. In a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet add the tomatoes, some of the herbs, olive oil with roasted garlic or fresh smashed garlic with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Place skillet in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to burst and start to char. Remove skillet from oven.

To baguette slices add softened Brie and top with tomato mixture (be sure to scrape up some of the pan drippings as well. Add more fresh herbs if you like, salt and pepper. Enjoy.

You can make this any time of the year using store-bought cherry or grape tomatoes. Best with summer home-grown but needs must!

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Oven-Roasted Garlic in Olive Oil…for everyday cooking all year long. E.A.T. #51

This is a pantry basic in our kitchen here at Food on Fifth and has been for quite a few years. It’s easy and incredibly useful for everyday cooking. This pantry basic saves a lot of time, while combining two things we start most meals with….olive oil and garlic.

This all started when we were on a photo shoot a few years ago. The food client sent in a gigantic jar of fresh, whole, peeled garlic cloves. There were hundreds in the jar. We only used a few for the recipes we were preparing. We are a group who does not easily toss out good food. The last day we dumped all the garlic into a roasting pan, filled it with olive oil, completely covering the cloves, set the oven on 325 degrees and let the roasting do the rest. 45 minutes later we had a huge pan of perfectly roasted garlic. We let it cool down completely, divided it among canning jars and each of us took home our own little bit of heaven. Did I say how aromatic the studio was? People kept coming back and asking us what that aroma was all day…just garlic.

So now I do this on a regular basis so I always have garlic roasted in olive oil in my fridge. I don’t have access to a gigantic jar of fresh garlic cloves, but a few local import markets have pretty nice sized jars of peeled, fresh garlic as do some larger supermarkets. As I scoop out of the jar to use when cooking, I always add a bit of olive oil back to the jar so the garlic is always covered completely to keep the contents from going “bad”. It works like a charm. It is as easy-as-this every time.

Jars filled with roasted garlic and olive oil, topped off with additional oil. Scoop out a spoonful of garlic and olive oil and add to pasta sauces, smear on a chicken before cooking, on toasted bread with a slice of cheese and avocado…so many uses. When I cook fresh garden peas or beans a dollop gets added to the cooking liquid…I have even tossed a few spoonfuls with hot pasta, then topping with a generous grating of Parmigiana Reggiano, chopped parsley and lots of freshly ground black pepper for a very amazing bowl of pasta. Oh my…so good.
Pantry/refrigerator garlic cloves in olive oil tossed with just-picked baby tomatoes ready for herbs and baking….this quick and easy recipe next post. Stay cool, be safe and be well….take it easy.

Oven-Roasted Garlic in Olive Oil

Ingredients: 3-4 cups fresh, peeled garlic cloves + enough olive oil to cover while roasting + extra oil for jars for storing

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place garlic cloves and enough olive oil to cover them in an oven proof pan. Roast garlic for 30-45 minutes, or until cloves are softened and a light golden brown. Remove pan from oven. Let cool completely. Divide roasted garlic cloves with roasting oil between glass jars. Top off jars with more oil. Cover jars with tight-fitting lids and refrigerate.

I have kept jars of this roasted garlic in olive for months and continually use. Just be sure to top of the jar with enough fresh olive oil to keep cloves submerged/covered between uses.

Gifting? yes this is a great gift for any of your friends who love to cook and love their garlic.

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(Not-Fried) Green Tomatoes Pasta Sauce

August in Nashville and we are all enjoying ripe, juicy colorful tomatoes from our gardens, but soon, very soon, the weather will change and the vines will have lots of end-of-the-season green tomatoes hanging on. There are many recipe for using green tomatoes. Pickled, fried, jammed and juiced, but this late summer/early fall green tomato pasta sauce is another to add to your list of what to do with those late, we-are-never-turning-red green tomatoes.

A few green tomatoes chopped and sautéed, a quick multi-herb pesto, lots of parmigiana-reggiano…everything mixed and quickly cooked together. Served over a sturdy noodle such as Bucatini with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt…in a half hour you’ll have a pasta dish to celebrate green tomatoes, not fried.

Tossed with noodles and generous grating of parmigiana-reggiano…..and a slightly chilled glass of Italian Red might be a little bit of heaven on a late summer evening. Go ahead, fry, pickle and jam all you like, but do try this recipe and let me know what you think.

It’s August, time is flying, soon it will happen, those lonely little green tomatoes waiting to be celebrated and praised like their ripe red friends on the vine. Hangers-on one and all. Be ready, be creative, eat them.

(Not-Fried) Green Tomatoes Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

For the Pesto- 1/4 cup each fresh basil leaves, parsley, arugula and mint + 2 garlic cloves + juice of half a lemon + olive oil + salt and pepper and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano.

a drizzle of olive oil

6 medium to large green tomatoes, cored and chopped

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 lb Bucatini or Spaghetti noodles

extra grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for topping servings

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  2. While waiting…in a food processor pulse together the basil leaves, parsley, arugula, mint and garlic cloves, and lemon juice, leaving chunky. Drizzle in some olive oil (I like a less oily pesto, but use what you like) and pulse. Add in salt, pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano and pulse a few more times to blend. Scrape pesto out into a bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large saute pan set over medium high heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and the chopped green tomatoes. Toss to coat the tomatoes and saute, stirring, for 8 minutes. Pour in the broth. Add salt and black pepper. Bring to a low boil, turn heat to simmer, stirring often until liquid is reduced by half. When tomatoes begin to soften, sprinkle in the 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss to coat well. Add the pesto to the hot sauce, stirring until well mixed. Cover and keep sauce warm until pasta is cooked.
  4. When water comes to a boil, add in the Bucatini and cook just until al dente. Drain well.
  5. Serve pasta in bowls topped with the sauce and more grated cheese. A good Italian red or white will bring this meal together.

This recipe is based on a Mario Batali recipe from years and years ago. I made some changes to make it even better.

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Sunday Morning….Banana Bread

It’s a funny thing how the mind left to it’s own devices can ramble and roam going back and forth, weaving from the past, to now, then to the future and back connecting memories. Often one thing, in this case making banana bread on a Sunday morning, led me to think about The Velvet Underground and Nico singing Sunday Morning from an album in which one of Andy Warhol’s banana images was the cover. Which led me to many other mental ramblings that gave me much pleasure on the Sunday morning while I was baking this bread.

Start with 3 quite ripe bananas…….

Batter mixed, spread into loaf pan, topped with ripe banana sliced….baked until golden brown. Sunday morning’s are special in that the world seems quieter, more subdued, allowing the mind to wander and weave. Enjoy your Sunday mornings and be well.

Sunday Morning....Banana Bread

Ingredients:

3 very ripe bananas + 1 not-so-ripe banana

3 tablespoons almond butter

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup oat milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

pinch of sea salt

1 tablespoon raw or turbinado sugar for topping baked bread

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan and line bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mash 3 very ripe banana with a fork. Add almond butter, vegetable oil, oat milk and vanilla extract.
  3. In another bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, espresso powder and sea salt.
  4. Blend the flour mixture into the banana mixture, stirring just until combined.
  5. Pour/scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Cut the not-so-ripe banana in half lengthwise. Gently place the two slices on top of the batter not overlapping.
  6. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the batter has risen and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cook in increments of 5 minutes more at a time if batter is still wet.
  7. Place pan with baked bread on a cooling rack to totally cool before slicing. While bread is still hot from the oven sprinkle the top with the raw sugar.
  8. Serve cut into slices. I prefer this bread toasted and smeared with a bit of butter, or a slice of white cheddar to bring out all the flavors. Keeps well wrapped in the fridge for up to one week.

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Wild Plums, Pluots and Black (Flower)Pepper Cake

My friend Mark gave me some beautiful just ripe pluots from his tree recently. I picked up a small container of wild plums from the farmer’s market the same day. Both fruit, along with the only black pepper mixture I use in my kitchen, Flower Pepper, which was given to me by another friend, Jesse, are the main ingredients for this very dense, moist everyday cake.

There is a cookbook I purchased last year, A New Way to Cake by Benjamina Ebuehi, that I pretty much adore. My recipe is a riff on one of the recipes from her book. I simple cannot say how densely moist it is, how the fruit and the black (flower)pepper create a magical flavor profile. No frosting, nothing la-di-dah about this one. It is a cake for sharing.

The little plums are the wild, the pluots are larger and not wild, but both beautiful.
Just ripe, no peeling necessary.
A thick batter, so the fruit stays right on top along with the almonds and more pepper.

Baked with a finish of real maple syrup brushed on top.
The black (flower)pepper just adds so much to the flavor, not to mention the beauty of this cake.

Wild Plums, Pluots and Black (Flower) Pepper Cake

For the recipe for making your own Flower Pepper, click on the link in the post.

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup superfine sugar/caster sugar (put in a food processor and pulse a few times to make finer if you do not have caster sugar)

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

4 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper, divided (Flower Pepper or any good quality black pepper)

3 large eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups almond flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup whole milk

4-6 ripe small plums, or pluots, or wild plums (can be a mixture of all) pitted and quartered

a small handful of slivered or sliced or chopped almonds

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a springform pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat together the softened butter, sugar, vanilla and 2 teaspoons of the black pepper until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time until blended.
  4. In another bowl whisk together the all-purpose flour, the almond flour, baking powder and 1 teaspoon of the black pepper.
  5. Add the flour mixture gradually into the butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon stir in the milk until well blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. This batter is rather thick so use your spoon to spread batter evenly.
  6. Arrange the quartered fruit on top of the batter. Just barely push down into the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon black pepper over the top of the fruit and then the almonds.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan. Remove the sides of the pan and continue to cool on a wire rack. Right before serving brush the top of the cake with the maple syrup.

This recipe is a slight riff on a recipe in “The New Way to Cake” by Benjamin Ebuehi. Her recipe is “Plum and Black Pepper Cake”. Published by Page Street Publishing.

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laid-back blackberry cornmeal scones

Early Saturday morning on a trip to the downtown Farmer’s Market I found a few pints of the first local blackberries. Small and sweet and juicy, warm from the sun where they sat, my mind was already thinking of fresh blackberry scones for Sunday morning. Long, laid-back weekends call for something special.

This recipe is easy and pretty quick and is very much inspired from a recipe in the “Sister Pie” cookbook for blueberry scones with a swap to blackberries in my version. This cookbook often calls for “sugar-sugar” which is just equal parts granulated and raw sugars mixed together. It’s great to sprinkle on the tops of pies or cookies as well as these scones.

Fresh from the oven, buttery-warm, with crunchy granulated “sugar-sugar” tops and full of juicy blackberry goodness.

Have a lazy, joy filled, laid-back 4th of July 2021. Be kind. Be sweet. If you are not vaccinated please wear a mask and if you are I send you a big thanks from the bottom of my heart.

blackberry scones

ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup + 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups fresh (local) blackberries
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid shake 1/4 cup granulate sugar and 1/4 cup of raw sugar together. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1 egg. Set aside.
  4. In a mixing bowl whisk together 1 cup cornmeal, 1 3/4 cups flour, all of the baking powder, 3/4 cup of the sugar and the kosher salt.
  5. Sprinkle the cold butter pieces over the dry ingredients. Using a combination of a pastry blender and your fingers work the butter into the mixture evenly like you would when making a pie crust. Use your fingers to unclog the pastry blender when need be. I used the pastry blender at the beginning and ended with my fingers to get the butter pieces mixed well throughout.
  6. Toss the blackberries into the bowl and stir with your hands to distribute evenly into the dry mix.
  7. Pour the cream-egg mixture over the dry mix and stir using a rubber scraper until well blended. Use your hands to gently press mixture together in the bowl to create a dough. Some of the berries with be crushed while you work, but that is the general idea. Get the dry and the wet mixed to form a dough.
  8. Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife cut the dough circle into 8 to 10 equal wedges and place a couple of inches apart on the parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the tops of each with the remaining 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and sprinkle the tops of each generously with some of the sugar-sugar.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes or until scones are golden brown and doubled in size. Cool on a wire rack.

Save the leftover “sugar-sugar” for your next baking project or add a bit to a cup of tea or coffee. Keeps in airtight jar for ages.

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This recipe is based on “Blueberry Cornmeal Scones” from the cookbook “Sister Pie” by Lisa Ludwinski. I highly recommend this book as a kitchen staple.

No-Sweat Cheater Ice Cream – Nasturtium-Goat Cheese Vanilla

Nasturtiums from my garden…totally edible and peppery and lovely. This is a good year with so much rain, so all my edibles are doing well. Roses, zinnias, marigolds are all edible if you don’t use any pesticides on them. There really is no need as all of these flowers just do their own thing when the weather gives them a fair chance.

I often take a devil-may-care approach when I get a “hankering” for dessert. Not one to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with the fussy details of lengthy recipes, the “cheater ice-cream” concept, which has been around a long time, is one I return to over and over in the summer.

The basic idea is this…purchase a quart of half-gallon of your favorite, good quality, but not too expensive, vanilla ice cream. Soften and stir in whatever you like. This is a fun thing for your kids to do as well. Imagine the possibilities!

cheater ice cream..start with a good vanilla ice cream. Soften, then stir in berries, edible flowers, softened goat or mascarpone cheeses, pink peppercorns crushed, chocolate syrup, instant espresso, peanut butter, bananas, crumbled cookies…whatever you like. Re-freeze…scoop…enjoy all summer long.

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Memorial Day Strawberry BBQ Sauce

It is a rare thing that I would make a bbq sauce using local, short-season Tennessee strawberries for a recipe such as this, really it is a rare thing for me to make any bbq sauce….. But, truthfully I bought too many strawberries from the Farmers Market…if that is possible…and a pint or two got over-ripe before we realized it. Shame on me…quickly I forgave myself and whipped up a batch of sauce for slathering on ribs or chicken, pork chops or wings in celebration of Memorial Day weekend. This holiday is the first yes-we-are vaccinated and yes-we-can be together to celebrate and it seems important to make some classic food for summer.

I must admit that the recipe for this bbq sauce is more of a add-and-taste-adjust-add-and-taste until you have it how you like your bbq sauce to be. I will give you the basics and the rest really will be up to you. It’s hard to go wrong as long as you tweak your way to the result you prefer. As you probably know, bbq sauces are as varied as each person who makes one, and no two homemade sauces are ever alike.

Hot, bubbly and thickened….

This Strawberry BBQ Sauce has all the right stuff…it is not cloyingly sweet, it is tangy with vinegar and lemon juice and spicy with hot sauces. Everything cooked down slowly to allow the flavors of the ingredients to meld. Once you toss all the ingredients in the pot to cook…your work it done…just let it simmer.

Serve with a simple coleslaw, extra sauce on the side…. whatever are your favorite sides….and a cold beer of course!

Please have a safe and cozy Memorial Day Weekend.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pints “almost-too-ripe” Strawberries, capped and pureed in a blender or processor
  • 1/2 cup fruit vinegar such as apple, or any other
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chipotle hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Add all the ingredients to a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low to simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir often, taste sauce, adjust and continue cooking. When sauce has thickened, remove from heat, let cool and put in glass jars with lids. Chill until ready to use.

Other ideas:

If you like a hotter sauce, then add some chopped hot peppers, crushed dried red peppers, or a wee bit of habanero salsa.

If you like it sweeter and thicker add more brown sugar or honey…maybe some molasses.

A splash of balsamic or rice wine vinegar might be something you would like. Or some ketchup?

Make it how you and your family like it…just start out with some very ripe, local berries from wherever you live.

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