Plenty was a highly anticipated cookbook released in 2010 and has become one of my favorites. This recipe with its first-rate ingredients, combines a beautiful array of herbs, cheese and fruit. Pairing creamy buffalo mozzarella (do not substitute) with the interesting flavors of toasted fennel seeds, oregano, basil, garlic and lemon zest, plus juicy ripe (peak-season) tomatoes, creates one of my all time favorite recipes to share with you. Last summer I came upon this recipe at the end of tomato season and waited to post until the markets were once again overflowing with those fresh-off-the-vine fruits. Well here it is… enjoy this appetizer for your summer entertaining.
Marinated Buffalo Mozzarella Salad (adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
grated zest of 1 lemon
15 basil leaves, shredded
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 garlic clove, minced
4 teaspoons best-quality extra virgin olive oil
1 pound buffalo mozzarella
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges (or a handful of cherry tomatoes)
Salt and pepper
Make the marinade by combining the fennel seeds, zest, basil, oregano, garlic and olive oil in a medium bowl or plastic bag. Break the mozzarella into large chunks with your hands and add it the bowl with the marinade. Smear the mozzarella with the marinade until well coated. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge. Serve by arranging mozzarella on a large serving platter, along with marinade. Scatter tomatoes across the platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread.
Now…while most seafood is available during any season, the highly anticipated soft shell crabs remain seasonal. They are only available from late April thru summer when the Blue Crabs shed their shells in preparation to grow new ones. Harvesting the crab before the hard shell arrives makes every inch of my favorite crustacean edible. These culinary delights are briny yet sweet with a gentle crunch and their unique flavor calls for a simple preparation. In honor of Paul Kahan and his newly crowned James Beard Award for “America’s Most Outstanding Chef,” this is his favorite way to serve these culinary delicacies.
Soft-Shell Crabs with Aioli Sauce and Sweet Onion (from Paul Kahan)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 small Vidalia or other sweet onion, cut into thin rings
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups rice flour
8 soft-shell crabs, cleaned and prepped (thank you Diamond Seafood!))
*(See Note): Capers, fried (cook in canola oil for about 5 minutes)
Baguette slices, lightly toasted
In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the shallot and 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Add the onion rings, season with salt and pepper and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the lemon zest and juice. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate the aioli until chilled.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Spread the rice flour in a shallow bowl. Lightly dust the soft-shell crabs with rice flour and fry over high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain the fried crabs on paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the marinated onion rings to a serving platter. Top with the fried soft-shell crabs and serve with the lemon aioli.
Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert that literally means “cooked cream.” Requiring only a few ingredients and just minutes to make, this is an easy ending to your meal that will always impress. When Randy heard balsamic vinegar he was a bit skeptical, however, adding a tablespoon of sugar and a touch of pepper softens the flavor while giving it a little kick. He is now a convert! I promise this silky, smooth panna cotta will be your go-to dessert with all its creative options for toppings and plating.
Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries (adapted by Ina Garten)
1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 packet (1 teaspoon) unflavored gelatin powder
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
2 pints (4 cups) sliced fresh strawberries
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated lemon zest, for serving
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on 1 1/2 tablespoons of cold water. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to dissolve.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of the cream, the yogurt, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds. Heat the remaining 3/4 cup of cream and the 1/3 cup of sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Off the heat, add the softened gelatin to the hot cream and stir to dissolve. Pour the hot cream-gelatin mixture into the cold cream-yogurt mixture and stir to combine. Pour into 4 (6 to 8-ounce) ramekins or glasses and refrigerate uncovered until cold. When the panna cottas are thoroughly chilled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Combine the strawberries, balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, and pepper 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving. (You don’t want the strawberries to get too soft.) Set aside at room temperature.
To serve, run a small knife around each dessert in the ramkein and dip the bottom of each ramekin quickly in a bowl of hot tap water. Invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate and surround the panna cotta with strawberries. Garnish with mint or shredded basil leaves (delish!) and freshly grated lemon zest (ooops… forgot to zest before the photo, but imagine the how pretty). Serve.
How do you feel about rhubarb? Well…I enjoy the tart flavor and like the idea of paring these vibrant pink stalks with the fragrant herbal notes of rosemary. The woodsiness of the herb cuts the tartness of the rhubarb while the lemon cuts the sweetness. So, if you like rhubarb and you like rosemary, take the leap! Randy votes on mixing the syrup with Rum and making a Mojito. I like the idea of a martini and/or Prosecco. (Since this is my blog…I win!) Of course, for a non-alcoholic version… just add soda water. This cocktail is perfect for the season of bridal showers, baby showers, Sunday brunch or what’s wrong with Tuesday?!!!
Rhubarb Rosemary Martini OR Spritzer (Adapted from Simple Recipes)
Makes about 3 cups
1 pound rhubarb, cleaned, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons rosemary leaves, chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons), plus more if the syrup is too sweet
Vodka or Gin or Rum (add 2 ounces of gin or vodka, 2 tablespoons of syrup, and a splash of soda as a guide)
Soda water or carbonated water
Place rhubarb pieces, water, sugar, and rosemary leaves into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Rhubarb pieces will disintegrate. Remove from heat. Strain out the solids with a fine mesh strainer. Add lemon juice. If you feel it is too sweet, add a little more lemon juice. Chill until ready to serve. To serve as a martini, fill one-third of the glass with syrup and the rest with vodka or gin. (Then mix in a shaker.) To serve as a spritzer, fill a quarter to a half of the glass with rhubarb syrup, and the rest with soda water. Another idea is to use the syrup and add sparkling wine. Garnish: rosemary sprig and lemon twist.
Honestly, I’m using Cinco de Mayo as an excuse to plate up some spicy fish tacos. This is a healthy entree for your weekday fare using pan-fried fish and a yogurt based sauce. The marinade gives the fish a spicy, smokey flavor but you are quickly cooled down with the tangy avocado sauce. Who needs a holiday for this easy, festive dinner? If you plan on having a fiesta you might want to add a few of these sides to your menu planning. Beans and yellow rice, grilled Mexican corn, guacamole/chips, Mexican chocolate cupcakes……oh, and of course Lime Margaritas and ice-cold Coronas!
Mexican-Style Pickled Onions Adapted from Epicurious
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic
1 tsp oregano
Blanch the onion slices in a large saucepan full of boiling water for 1 minute, then drain.
Return the onions to the pan, along with cider vinegar, salt and add as much cold water as needed to barely cover. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute.
Pour onions and brine into a container. Smash the garlic clove, and add to the container along with the oregano. Chill in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours before serving.
Pickled onions will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator – they make a great condiment and can also be used on your favorite sandwich or with chicken.
Need a new twist for an old snack idea? Popcorn… healthy popcorn. Who doesn’t love these crunchy, puffed, pieces of goodness? Skip the butter bath and try these ingredients for an outrageous combination of flavors…which are always on hand in my home. Pair these earthy, herbal little kernels with a crisp white wine. Happy… Happy Hour!
Oh, did I mention how healthy this snack is??!! Popcorn: (Air popped), 31 calories per cup, whole grain, fiber, low-fat, heart smart, full of healthy nutrients. Rosemary: phyto-nutrients, anti-oxidants and essential acids. Olive oil: healthy fat, anti-oxidants, Vitamins E and K, Omega 3-6 fatty acids, Lemon Peel: Vitamins C, minerals. Black Pepper: “King of Spice”- Good amount of minerals, Vitamins C, A. Parmesan: even though the cheese is high in fat (this recipe only calls for 1 T), it’s an excellent source of protein, calcium and provides almost all of the essential vitamins and minerals. Salt: Well, we need to limit our intake. SIGN ME UP!!!!!!
Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn (adapted from Taste, Love and Nourish Blog)
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 paper lunch bag
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
Cracked pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon Parmesan, freshly grated
Zest of 1 lemon
In a paper lunch bag, add 1/2 C. popcorn kernels and fold the top of the bag a couple of times. Place in your microwave and cook on high for about 2 minutes and 30-40 seconds. Keep a watchful ear as to not burn the popcorn. While the popcorn is popping, combine the olive oil, rosemary, sea salt and pepper in a small bowl. Place popcorn in serving bowl, drizzle with the olive oil mixture, then grate the Parmesan and the lemon zest over top and mix.
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup good-quality cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Heat the oven to 300 degrees.
Combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low until mixed. Add the butter and mix on low until the mixture starts to come together in small clusters. Spread the crumbs on a parchment covered sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Let the crumbs cool completely before using.
**The following instruction for Chocolate Crust is NOT used for the shooters. Use the crust recipe if you are making a pie.
**Chocolate Crust (makes 1 10-inch pie crust)
3/4 of the chocolate crumb recipe above
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons of melted butter
Break up the chocolate crumbs into a bowl. Add sugar and 1 tablespoon of the melted butter to start. With your hands, knead until it is moist enough to form a ball. If it isn’t moist enough, add another tablespoon of melted butter. Press the crust firmly into the pie plate, making sure the bottom and sides are evenly covered.
2 very ripe bananas
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
2 gelatin sheets (or 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon yellow food coloring (I did not use food coloring….looks lovely without)
3/4 cup heavy cream (plus more for topping, about 1 cup)
1 cup powdered sugar (I used 3/4 cup)
1 just-ripe (yellow) banana, diced
Additional Whipped cream for topping/slightly sweetened with powdered sugar
Combine the ripe bananas, 1/3 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 cup milk in a blender & puree until totally smooth. Add the next section of ingredients–the sugar, cornstarch, salt, & egg yolks and blend. Pour into a medium saucepan. Clean out the blender. Bloom the gelatin. (To bloom sheet gelatin, soak it in a small bowl of cold water for 2 minutes. Gently squeeze to remove any excess water before using. To bloom powdered gelatin, sprinkle it evenly onto the surface of 2 tablespoons of cold water in a small dish or cup. Allow to soften for 3-5 minutes.)
Whisk the contents of the pan and heat over medium-low heat. As the banana mixture heats up, it will thicken. Bring to a boil and then continue to whisk vigorously for 2 minutes to fully cook out the starch. The mixture will resemble thick glue, bordering on cement, with a color to match. Dump the contents of the pan into the blender. Add the bloomed gelatin and butter and blend until smooth and even. Transfer the mixture to a container & chill in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes or until completely cooled.
Using a whisk or a mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the cream and powdered sugar to medium-soft peaks. Add the cold banana mixture to the whipped cream and slowly whisk til combined. (Stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container, this will stay fresh for up to 5 days.)
To Assemble Shooters: Use a pastry bag. Start with a dollop of banana cream/ diced bananas/banana cream/chocolate crumb. Repeat as many times as your vessel allows. End with whipped cream. Toppings: toasted coconut or chocolate crumb.
Note: I assembled the shooters 4 hours before I left for the party. Make sure you place the diced bananas in between the creme layers so not to brown. Keep in fridge until you serve them.
To Assemble Pie: Pour half the banana cream into the chocolate pie shell. Cover with a layer of sliced banana and then cover that with the remaining filling.
Celebrate the season with strawberries and spinach. This salad may have had its hay-day in the 80′s…but really, it’s timeless. We all need this recipe for our go-to pot luck dinners. Perfect accompaniment with grilled chicken or pork. I’m pairing this with quinoa for a vegetarian/gluten-free option.
Strawberry Spinach Salad
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon red onion, minced
10 ounces baby spinach, rinsed
1 quart of strawberries, rinsed, hulled, sliced
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Blue cheese or goat cheese crumbled (optional)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and onions. (This dressing is the star of the recipe!) Cover, and chill for one hour. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Serve immediately. This salad tends to wilt quickly.
Halibut is a fairly dense fish with a firm texture which allows it to stand up to heat well. This is an ideal fish for pan roasting. Good fish tastes best with minimum fuss. How about a 10 minute entrée using 6 ingredients and 1 pan?!! Randy (a.k.a. my dishwasher) just fainted!!!!
2 halibut fillets
Kosher salt/ pepper
Garnish, lemon and fennel fronds
Let fish stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Season both sides of fish with salt and pepper. Add some canola oil to a non stick pan and heat over high heat until sizzles. Add halibut to pan, lower the heat to medium and cook for about 6-8 minutes, until the bottom is golden. Lower the heat and cook for 2 minutes. Flip the fish and cook for 1 minute or until cooked through. Drizzle with olive oil.
6 asparagus spears, trimmed
1/4 bulb of fennel, fronds for garnish
1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black, to taste
1/3 cup micro-greens, optional
Shave asparagus into long thin strands using a vegetable peeler or mandolin. Thinly slice the fennel with a mandolin. Soak the strands of asparagus and fennel in a large bowl of ice water for one hour. Drain well and dry with paper towels. To make the dressing combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Whisk until blended. Immediately before serving, pour the dressing over the asparagus/fennel and toss well. Arrange on plate and top with halibut.