Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Real Deal

It is entirely possible that pizza just might be my favorite food. I always had the inkling it was. My suspicions were confirmed about two weeks ago. I had the good fortune to get involved with a grilled pizza-making "class" which came about quite unexpectedly. One of our customers (and now friend) at Wine and Spirit world has a reputation for creating authentic, exquisite pizzas that are so perfect they are hard to describe. As part of a silent auction for the Franklin Lakes Education Foundation in New Jersey, John Gonzalez, along with some friends, donated a fabulous night of pizza making, wine, and osso bucco which was purchased by 5 couples and went for $1,000. John and his wife Sandy, and 2 other couples prepared everything themselves. The night consisted of a pizza making demonstration given by John, a wine tasting coordinated by John and myself, and a fabulous dinner prepared by one of the other couples involved. All aspects of the night were created, donated, organized, and served by the three couples who donated the package. They did everything from soup to nuts and it was truly a fabulous evening.

John came into Wine and Spirit World several days before the event, asking for recommendations on wines that were on the inexpensive side, but tasted like more high-end offerings. This idea was intended to prove that you don't have to spend a lot of money to get wines of superior quality. And that's where I came in. After selecting about 6 wines that I thought would impress his guests, John invited me to participate in the event. I attended, and as a result, had the good fortune to get a lesson in making what I consider to be one of the world's most perfect foods.

John giving the group a lesson in dough-making 

Using the indoor grill at one of the participating couples' homes, John wowed the group with his pizza making expertise. He uses black garlic (fermented garlic) on his pizza which just brings the flavors to an entirely new level. I have to say he made the process look painfully simple, though I have yet to try it and have to think it's not as easy as it looks. His crust is cracker thin and the finished product offers the perfect crunch combined with the delectable flavors of San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh Pecorino Romano and Fontina, fresh basil and fresh parsley (the herbs come from his own garden). Watching him, one would guess he could do this with his eyes closed. I consider myself to be somewhat of a pizza snob, and I have to say that John's pies rank among the best I've tasted.

One of my latest addictions is grilled fennel. I would love to try some atop John's pizza!

Patience is key. Let the underside cook sufficiently before flipping and adding the toppings.

Usually when I recommend wines to go with pizza, I tend to suggest reds (like Sangiovese) in a lower-end price range. While an everyday Chianti would be fine next to John's pizzas, I personally would opt to enjoy something a little more special. They are that good!

Viola! A work of art!

John G's Grilled Pizza Margherita
(Adapted from Al Forno's in Providence, RI)

For the dough:
1 envelope (2 1/2 tsps) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
Pinch sugar
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 cup stone ground corn meal or polenta
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

Extra virgin olive oil
2 cups grated fresh mozzarella
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 cups shredded Fontina cheese (not aged or smoked)
4 1/2 cups chopped canned tomatoes (San Marzano DOP's are the best)
3 scallions, chopped and sliced thinly
4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped fine (or fermented black garlic)
3/4 cup chopped Italian flat-leafed parsley
Chiffonade of basil for garnish
Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water with the sugar.
2. After 5 minutes stir in the salt, corn meal, whole-wheat flour, and oil.
3. Gradually add the white flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until a stiff dough has formed.
4. Place the dough on a floured board, and knead it for several minutes, adding only enough additional flour to keep the dough from sticking. When the dough is smooth and shiny, transfer it to a bowl that has been brushed with olive oil. To prevent a skin from forming, brush the top of the dough with additional olive oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place, away from drafts, until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down the dough and knead once more. Let the dough rise again for about 40 minutes. Punch down the dough. If it is sticky, knead in a bit more flour.
5. Divide into 6 balls.  Cover the balls with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
6. While the dough is rising, prepare a hot charcoal fire, setting the grill rack 3 to 4 inches above the coals and set out topping ingredients. If using a gas grill, warm it up.
7. Place a ball of dough on a flat surface. Mold it into a round shape, then with a rolling pin, spread and flatten the dough into a 10 to 12-inch rectangle, 1/8-inch thick; the shape is unimportant. Take care not to stretch the dough so thin that small holes appear. If this happens, all is not lost. Rather than try to repair them, avoid them when adding toppings and drizzling with olive oil.
8. When the fire is hot, brush olive oil onto one side of the dough, and using your fingertips lift the dough gently by the two corners closest to you, and drape it onto the grill, oiled side down. Once it's in place, brush olive oil onto the second side. Within a minute, the dough will puff slightly, the underside will stiffen, and grill marks will appear.
9. Once the underside is well grilled, use tongs to flip the crust over onto the coolest part of the grill. Quickly brush the grilled surface with 2 tsps of virgin olive oil.
10. Spread 1/2 cup or more of the cheese mixture over the entire surface of the pizza.
11. Dollop with 8 to 10 tbsps of the tomatoes.
12. Top with parsley, scallions, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper and anything else you desire.
13. Drizzle the entire pizza with extra virgin olive oil.
14. After the toppings have been added, slide the pizza back toward the hot coals so about half of the pizza is directly over the heat. Rotate the pizza frequently so that different sections receive high heat checking the underside by lifting the edge with tongs to be sure it is not burning.
15. The pizza is done when the top is bubbling and the cheese has melted. Garnish with basil and serve immediately. Use a pizza cutter to slice irregular pieces...and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

back from the country

Getting my hands on fresh shallots is a rare and wonderful treat. Country Gardens farmstand in Bridgehampton has been growing them for years and it is one of the highlights of my summer when I grab up a bunch. After making fresh tomato sauce I wanted to make another dish that would continue to feature the shallots. This farmstand is also famous for their fresh broccoli rabe so I decided to do a simple saute to enhance the fresh flavors of the two summer treats with garlic and olive oil.
Broccoli rabe and shallots make a nice combination.
My cooking plan was loose. I started with olive oil in a saute pan, added some sliced garlic, a dried chili and the sliced shallots. I cooked the mixture down till the shallots began to turn golden.

The broccoli rabe is tender and cooks quickly. I added it to the pan and allowed it to wilt down and simmer for eight minutes or so. For extra flavor I poured in the dregs of a bottle of sparkling Rose wine (about 1/4 cup) and then spooned in a couple of tablespoons of the fresh tomato sauce. Allowing the flavors to mingle for a few minutes in the pan will bring this dish together. I started eating it with a fork right out of the pot, but stopped myself before consumng the entire thing to consider how I would serve it as the main part of a meal. Ususally I gravatate towards pasta but this time I opted to bake a potato and serve the broccoli rabe and shallots on top with a few dollops of goat cheese. 

So satisfying and really tasty! The potato is a great vehicle for getting the sauteed greens to your mouth. I really love this improvisational style of cooking where you don't have a specific plan, just some wonderful ingredients and a hungry point of view.

I love your improvisational style of cooking. It always seems to work! Today I did something so simple but was actually quite yummy. Yesterday, I brought leftover brown rice into work for lunch. Nothing in it, just leftover from a Chinese restaurant. I didn't get a chance to eat it. Today, I happened to bring in a perfectly ripe avocado. Not knowing what to eat for lunch today (the avocado was intended to be a snack), I decided to heat up the brown rice and add chopped up avocado and salt. I know, I know. Doesn't sound exactly scrumptious. But guess what? It was pretty good! The avocado melted a little into the hot rice and I was happily satisfied in spite of my hunger pangs. The brown rice filled me up and the fat in the avocado helped! And I felt so incredibly healthy eating this lunch.

I love the Cristalino Rose that Deb used for her dish. This is a Cava - Spain's answer to Champagne. This sparkler is delicious, and about as fine a value that can be found. Typically the Cristalino can be found for about $7.99 per bottle. Cava, like Prosecco, is a great alternative to Champagne. It's perfect for brunches and mimosas. In the shop, we like to recommend it for wedding and baby showers.

Since Deb used this particular Cava for her recipe, I would choose that to sip alongside it. It is not a complex wine, but it has some serious red fruit flavors to it. Makes a perfect accompaniment to appetizers and light dishes like omelets and salads. The Cristalino Rose offers bright strawberry and cherry flavors and is a wonderful summertime sipper.

If you are in a "still wine" frame of mind, I would suggest a new favorite of mine, if you can find it. Chateau Montaud Cotes de Provence Rose - a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. It's $9.99 and is a terrific bargain. The Wine Spectator gave the wine a 90 point rating. If you can source it, it is one to try! And it would be an ideal match for a light, summertime dish like Deb's Broccoli Rabe!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

speaking of tomatoes

Had a chance to make a day trip to Sag Harbor on Long Island this week and I made sure to visit two of my favorite farmstands out there: Zaluski Farms on Scuttle Hole Road in Bridgehampton and the insanely fabulous Marilee Foster's farmstand on Sagg Main Road in Sagaponac.  

I bought lots of tomatoes, naturally, and had in mind another recipe that, like gazpacho, makes use of the wealth of the season. Fresh Tomato Sauce is what I dream of all winter long. It can be made with all the gnarly tomatoes that are not pretty enough to make it into a salad. 
Cut the tomatoes into rough cubes and put them in a bowl with a generous sprinkle of kosher salt. Thinly slice a small onion, or in this case I used a fresh shallot from Zaluski Farm's, and add to the bowl with the tomatoes. Let the onion-tomato mixture marinate together for at least 1/2 hour to allow the juices to flow and mingle as the salt works its magic.

Heat a saute pan with at least half a cup of good extra virgin olive oil and add sliced garlic cloves ( I use one clove per tomato as a rough guide). Simmer the garlic till golden.
Add the onion tomato mixture to the pan and simmer for about 15- 20 minutes until the onions soften and the tomatoes break down.
Finish with some chopped basil. The sauce will have a velvety rich flavor and is DELICIOUS over pasta or as a condiment or sauce for sandwiches, eggs, anything! Soooooo good and it will keep in the fridge for several days, but once you taste it be prepared for it to disappear quickly (then make more!)

In my quest to begin to eat as naturally and as minimally processed as possible, I decided that this summer, I will make huge batches of tomato sauce and freeze it for use throughout the year. Until next summer's fresh abundance of tomatoes. Deb - do you think this is a sauce that would freeze well? It certainly looks delicious! It would also probably be an exquisite topping for a grilled pizza.

Sangiovese is always a perfect choice for anything with tomato sauce. It happens to be an all-around food-friendly wine, but goes particularly well with dishes with tomato-based sauces. Since we pair wines according to sauces rather than the main component of a dish, a Sangiovese would be terrific no matter how you use Deb's recipe - with eggs, on pasta, pizza, or a sandwich.

Sangiovese is the main varietal for such wines as Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano, Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso di Montalcino. "Super-Tuscan" blends also use this versatile varietal, like Tignanello and Sassicaia. When young, Sangiovese will have fresh, fruity flavors of strawberries combined with a bit of earth and spice. The grape can produce quite robust wines, which make it a natural complement to hearty foods as well.

Inexpensive Sangiovese and moderately-priced Chianti are easy to come by. However, Brunello di Montalcino is a Tuscan wine made from the same grape but will be much pricier. Sangiovese is the only varietal allowed to be used for Brunello. Typically a Brunello will offer dark fruit flavors like black cherry and black raspberry, along with chocolatey flavors, leather notes and tar. While delicious, these wines are expensive and I reserve them for special occasions and meals. I wouldn't be enjoying one with pizza....

For a pasta dish, pizza, or sandwich utilizing Deb's sauce, I would go opt for an inexpensive wine such as Di Majo Norante Sangiovese which is delicious and retails for about $8.99. The wine is smooth, lush and juicy and will complement dishes such as eggplant parmigiana, pizza, and grilled vegetables as well.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

like Mama makes

Vegetable gardens are in their glory right now. We are beginning to be bombarded with a plethora of fresh produce choices and, may I ask: what are we to do with it all?
I am so excited about my tiny crop of heirloom tomatoes!
Things have gotten a little overgrown. Treasures await to be uncovered!
I planted these radishes in May and they went right to seed. Now I have a lot of seeds. The pods are pretty, but I don't think edible. Maybe I can use the seeds to grow radishes in the fall. I wonder?

Gazpacho becomes the obvious solution. This cold liquid salad-as-a-soup can absorb all sorts of vegetables and herbs into it's mix and still maintain an identity. The version I make is based on a recipe my mother taught me years ago. Her source was more than likely something she read in Gourmet Magazine back in the 70's. It was the perfect recipe back then for using the brand new cooking gadget on the market - the food processor. I doubt gazpacho would have made many inroads in American kitchens before that. I recall my gazpacho crash course as a young girl when my mother decided to sell cups of gazpacho at our neighborhood street fair (W. 70th Street in Manhattan, circa 1970's. Were you there?) The gazpacho was so popular it was quickly sold out and my sister and I were sent back into the kitchen to crank out more batches all day long.

I retain a fondness for this clever Spanish originated soup to this day. The following recipe is just used as a touchstone for me as I now distort the basic concept to suit my mood and available ingredients. I don't believe even this version is quite authentic, but it tastes great and is fun to make when days are hot and tomatoes are plentiful.

Barbara's Gazpacho
1 clove Garlic
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 green or red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 small onion, quartered
1 cucumber, peeled and coarsely sliced
1 teas. salt
1/4 teas. pepper
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup ice cold water
Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender and puree until desired consistency. 
Chill for 1/2 hour and serve.

Gazpacho has been one of my favorite summertime enjoyments for about 30 years now. I make batches of it all summer long. A well-chilled bowl in hot weather is a delightfully healthy meal. I used to try a plethora of recipes in search of the perfect one. There are so many different ways to make it - but there is a distinct style I prefer, and it is one I have tried to master for years. I finally gave up on recipes, and found my own path. Deb's recipe is very similar to the way I concoct my own version, the main difference being that I add a lot of diced vegetables to the puree. I have a pretty hearty appetite. My reason for making a "chunkier" version is really only to make it a little more filling. As an appetizer, I enjoy the pureed version. As a main course, I add lots of veggies and chopped avocado as well, only to leave my appetite satisfied.

As for wine, I want a crisp fresh white with Gazpacho. To stick with the Gazpacho's Spanish background, I might opt for a Spanish white. Foods from different regions have a particular affinity for the wines from the same regions. Albarino would be a perfect match, especially on a hot summer's day. Albarino is grown in Galicia in northwest Spain. It is typically high in acidity, with stone fruit flavors. Another wonderful option would be one of my favorite white varietals - Godello. Also grown in northwest Spain, Godello produces some very fine wines. Godellos are elegant, with terrific minerality combined with bright acidity, wonderful aromatics, and flavors of peach and melon. A little oak will add to the wine's depth and complexity - but Godello's are not well-suited to a superfluous use of oak. Beware of the over-oaked ones.

Both wines are extremely refreshing. Enjoying either alongside Deb's recipe would most certainly be a welcomed treat during the dog days of summer!

For Albarino, seek out Martin Codax. And for Godello, Val de Sil Montenovo is a moderately priced way to start! Delicious!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

just beyond my own backyard

The weekly email newsletter from The Queens Botanical Garden proudly announced the opening of their new farmer's market. Yippee, I am there! The timing could not be better. Not only have I been yearning for a farmer's market in the hood, but I also had to prepare a tasting for a vegan hors d'oeuvres party this afternoon and could really use some fresh produce for inspiration.
A happy sign! 

The market is located on the corner on Main Street and Dahlia Street (what a great street name!) just outside the gates of the gardens. There were only a few vendors but they had plenty of beautiful things to choose from. 

The surprise hit for me was Tierra Farm from Valatie, NY selling organic nut butters and toasted seasoned organic nuts that were insanely fresh and flavorful. I bought some of their Roasted Cajun Cashews, immediatly opened the container and began eating, much to the amusement of the young vendor. Be forewarned- they are ADDICTIVE!

Back to the vegan hors party. Yes all vegan. And the 100 plus guests will be mostly non-vegan eaters which means they will need some convincing. Black bean cakes with fresh corn relish seems like a crowd pleaser. The corn at the market was so appealing, the husks still pale green and tender- not grey and papery like the corn I am still seeing at the supermarket.

The relish was easy to make and really delish. I didn't need a lot for my sample tasting so I ate the rest myself (!) piling it on top of some roasted vegetables. The  kernels were bursting with sweet corny juice. The relish added a lively bright note to the deeper woodsy flavor of the vegetables and is a perfect foil for the black bean cakes. 

Black Bean Cakes with Corn Relish

for the black bean cakes:
2 cups cooked black beans
1 small red onion finely chopped
2 jalapeño peppers finely chopped
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro finely chopped
1/2 lime zest
1/2 cup gluten free flour
1 cup canola oil

Mash the beans in a large bowl and add the onion, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro and lime zest. Mix well. If this were not vegan I would add an egg. Just saying. Form the mash into 1 Tbs. sized little buttons and press a little depression into the center of each one to form a little cup. Dust each one with the gluten free flour. Refridgerate for 1/2 hour so the cakes don't fall apart (too much) when frying.
Heat the oil in a large skillet till very hot and almost smoking. Fry the cakes in the hot oil in batches so that you don't crowd them and have room to turn them over (carefully). The oil should come to about half way up the side of the cakes. Fry on one side for about 6-8 minutes, then flip and fry on the other side for 5 more minutes. The idea is to get a light crust on the cakes which will act as a seal to hold them together (hopefully)- there will be casualties, don't fret, even the mangled ones taste good.
Carefully remove the cooked cakes from pan and allow to drain on a paper towel.

for the corn relish:
1 cup red wine vinegar or cider vinegar 
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled 
  • 1" ginger cut into rounds
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small red pepper finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh chives

In a small saucepan, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and add garlic, ginger, and thyme. Simmer 10 minutes, until mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup. Remove pot from heat and strain, reserving the reduced liquid. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, red pepper and jalapeño. Cook, stirring, until pepper softens. Stir in corn. Cook 2 minutes longer. Add vinegar mixture to corn mixture; simmer 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature in fridge. Stir in chives.

Hmmmm. A Vegan Hors d'oeuvres party for mostly non-vegan people. Interesting challenge for which to prepare. I would be at a total loss of course. Would love to hear what else was on the menu!  This particular recipe sounds great. It's similar to the black bean burgers I make (which do have egg). I think the corn relish would be the perfect addition to my burgers! Can't wait to try it.

For an hors d'oeuvres party, it is easiest to just pick wines that are very food-friendly in general, and will pair with a large variety of flavors. This is not a type of event where you really have to be too particular about the wines you choose. However, I would typically opt for wines that are familiar to most people. Most are not wine connoisseurs, and I just want the attendees to feel comfortable looking at whatever choices are available. Recognizable varietals are always a safe way to go.

I recommend "crowd-pleasing" wines - wines that will be enjoyable to everyone, whether they are a novice or expert.  Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc are always good options for whites. I choose these for their crisp, light, fresh qualities.  For reds, I suggest Cabernet Sauvignon or a Pinot Noir. Choose simple, straight-forward wines. The crowd is not there to assess the characteristics and complexities of the wines. They are there to mingle, enjoy good food, and have a good time! The wine will certainly not be the focal point of the party. Deb, let us know how it goes!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

when life hands you lemons

Ok, this is not about lemons or lemonade. But it is about what to do when you think you have a dud on your hands and then-AHA!

This HOT holiday weekend brought me to my dear friend's beautiful home in Ellenville, NY. It was a weekend of good eating, good conversation  AND  there was hiking at nearby Minnewaska State Park Preserve in New Paltz. We found a cool path through the woods to a scenic waterfall with not a lot of water falling, but a lovely chill in the air from the cavern of jagged stones.

The bottom of the waterfall at Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

The heat was not universally kind, however and a casualty of the day was my host's tomato plant that had lost all its leaves in the heat wave. Could it be salvaged with a lot of watering? A local resident neighbor assured us it could not. Could we harvest the hard green tomatoes that were withering on the vine? Possibly. Fried green tomatoes live on in folklore and not without good reason. Or so we were willing to find out. We plucked the fruit from the bare branches and sliced them open to see what we had on our hands.

The fruit was bright, juicy and green! Perfecto! A quick dredging in beaten egg and then cornmeal and then sauted in oil till golden. 

We decided to do a zucchini as well. Why not?
The tomatoes were delicious- tender, tart, and filled with a delicate young tomato flavor. Serve with a lemon and herb seasoned  aioli for a simple summer appitizer.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Lemon Aioli

-Cut tomatoes into thick slices
-beat an egg in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper
-put a cup of cornmeal in a small bowl
-dip tomatoes in egg and then in cornmeal, set on a plate or cookie sheet
-heat 1/4 cup of oil in a saute pan and when hot, fry the tomatoes in a single layer for 5 minutes on each side until golden. 
-drain tomatoes on a paper towel.
-serve warm with lemon aioli

Lemon Aioli
-1 cup of mayo mixed with 1 Tbs. Lemon zest, 2 Tbs. lemon juice, 1Tbs. minced chives, 1 or 2 dashes of tabasco sauce
-Mix all together with a whisk
-chill before serving

Beautiful pictures, Deb! Love them! Over the past few weeks I have really been in a "get-together" frame of mind. This past Saturday, I invited a few friends over for an impromptu barbeque. Nothing fancy, just great, inexpensive summertime wines and simple grilled veggies on a beautiful ciabatta that I grilled and coated with homemade pesto and fresh, locally made mozzarella. My stomach is growling in recollection!

This brings me to Deb's recipe for fried green tomatoes. What a perfect recipe to include at one of these gatherings of friends. In a few weeks, I am hosting a "candle party" for a large group of women and you can be sure Fried Green Tomatoes will be on the menu! Deb - is it easy to actually find these under-ripe tomatoes in local markets and shops? I would think they would strive to only show ones already ripened, or on their way to ripeness. I don't have my own garden, so I am hoping I can locate some.

As for wine, I definitely want to drink white with these fried treats. Wines with good acidity tend to go well with most things fried or creamy. So, the tomatoes as well as the aioli will work well with a wine with this quality. I love Muscadet in the summer (I love it all year round, actually, but it has a particular affinity with the warmer weather!). A crisp, white, bright, fresh wine like Muscadet would just pair perfectly with Deb's recipe. And what's great is that you don't have to spend a lot of money to find a superb one. My favorite Muscadets are in the $10-$15 price range.

Two things to keep in mind when finding the perfect Muscadet: First, the best ones come from the area in the Loire Valley in France called the Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine. There are four communes in the region that can put this on the label and so this is always something to look for. Second: the best Muscadet also has "sur lie" on the label. This means that the wine has been kept on its lees (mostly dead yeast and skins) throughout the winter after harvest, before bottling. Since the wine has been allowed to mingle with its lees, it tends to pick up some extra richness. Also, by leaving the wine in the same fermentation tank with the lees, the carbon dioxide released during fermentation gives the wine some extra "zip".

If you are thinking about making Deb's Fried Green Tomatoes - definitely consider Muscadet as your wine of choice! I know that's what I'll be drinking!

Friday, July 2, 2010

a few for the road

Pack up a picnic and hit the outdoors this holiday weekend. The weather is perfect and the days are long. Here are a few salads that can be made in advance and travel well: no mayo, no wilting lettuce leaves.

Brown Rice Salad
The method here is to boil the brown rice like pasta in a large pot of water till the grains have burst open and are tender. I like to add fruits and nuts to this salad with some chives for a little bite. The dressing is a classic vinaigrette (1 part vinegar to 3 parts good olive oil) with the addition of a tablespoon of orange juice concentrate whisked in. I combine the ingredients when the rice is still warm (but not HOT) so the warmth releases all the flavors, then let the salad come to room temp or chill for at least an hour before serving.

For this version I used dried cranberries soaked in hot water for 20 minutes to soften and fresh mango cut into bite sized cubes. I toasted some mixed nuts and roughly chopped them, then added some chopped celery for extra crunch.

Three Bean Salad

Sometimes the old classic are just what hits the spot. Don't be shy about using canned beans. Take a rest, it is a holiday weekend after all!

Bean salad can seem humdrum so be sure to give it a specific point of view. In this recipe I added lots of dill. The classic vinaigrette is sparked up with dried mustard, chopped garlic and dried oregano. Red onion and celery add the crunch to counterpoint the mush of the beans.

Edamame, Corn & Nori Salad
This salad leans towards an asian flavor. I add a splash of soy sauce and a sprinkle of sugar to the vinaigrette made with rice vinegar. I like to saute fresh corn cut from the cob in a little vegetable oil till tender. The nori comes in sheets and I fold them up and cut into ribbons. The edamame I used was frozen and briefly refreshed in boiling water. 

To finish the salad I squeeze fresh lime juice and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds or Japanese rice seasoning if I have any on hand (I did!)

Classic Tabouleh Salad
The classics are classic for a reason. Sometimes you can't improve on what is already perfect. This salad is especially welcome when the mint starts taking over the garden.

Bulgar wheat is brought to life by a simple soak in hot water. Add lots of chopped tomato, fresh squeezed lemon juice and good olive oil. 

Chopped Vegetable Salad
This one is so obvious, but gets no respect. It is perfect when you have to feed a bunch of kids. The can each pick out the vegetables they don't like. Dress it at the last minute with your favorite vinaigrette, but don't stress if it sits for a while and starts to pickle a bit- yum!

The idea is to cut the vegetables into large colorful pieces to entice the vegetable averse to take a bite.

Have a wonderful fourth of July holiday weekend!