Monday, July 30, 2012

Arugula, nectarine, and blueberry salad


It's hard to beat the fruit at this time of year, isn't it? Although I'm tempted by pretty much everything the market has to offer, blueberries, peaches, and nectarines are the staples that I buy every week. Usually I eat the fruit plain, but today I decided to use it in a nice summery salad. I used arugula for the base because I like how its peppery bite pairs with sweeter ingredients, and threw in a handful of blueberries. I decided to add nectarines which weren't quite ripe because I wanted them to be a bit crunchy, with a sweet-tart flavor. Blue cheese complemented the fruit perfectly, and toasted walnuts added some crunch. With its combination of sweet and savory flavors, this salad was a nice addition to our dinner and really took advantage of the gorgeous summer fruit and greens.

Arugula, nectarine, and blueberry salad
Serves 3-4

Feel free to adjust proportions to your preference, and to substitute other fresh fruit for the berries and nectarines if you'd like.

1 bunch arugula (about 4.5 oz.), stems removed, leaves torn into medium pieces
2 medium nectarines (use nectarines that are just shy of ripe and are still slightly crisp), cut into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup blueberries
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts

For serving: good quality extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Toss all ingredients together in a salad bowl. Separate into individual portions and drizzle each bowl with olive oil and balsamic vinegar just before serving.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grilled summer squash with garlic, anchovies, and capers


I went to New York City last weekend to visit some family and friends. Before I left, I grabbed a tupperware of leftover pasta, and at the last minute, added some of this grilled summer squash to the container. Let me tell you, I was pretty excited about the gourmet lunch I was going to eat on the bus ride to the city. However, as soon as I boarded the bus and settled in my seat, I realized that while my lunch would certainly be delicious, it was also the smelliest possible thing I could have chosen to bring with me on a bus. Garlic and anchovies? Seriously, what was I thinking? I didn't dare open the container while I was on the bus and ended up waiting till about 3pm to eat it. Not all food is bus-appropriate - lesson learned.

Anyway, as long as you're not planning on eating this in an enclosed space with very little air circulation, you should give it a try! It's delicious, and would make a perfect side dish for a summer party or cookout. I love the flavor of grilled vegetables, and the dressing here makes this something special.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grilled vegetables with Malaysian vinaigrette


My cast iron grill pan has been getting a lot of use this summer. We don't own a real grill, so we have to make do with the grill pan until we move somewhere with outdoor space. Luckily, the grill pan makes nice grill marks and actually imparts a pretty decent smoky flavor. It's perfect for recipes like this (although of course, if you have a real grill, you can definitely use it!). Here, eggplant, corn, and green beans get grilled to perfection and tossed with handfuls of herbs and a zingy Malaysian vinaigrette. The dish is simple and super flavorful, and takes advantage of summer's wonderful fresh veggies and herbs.


p.s. My blog turns two years old tomorrow! Unfortunately, I don't have my act together enough to plan and write a special post for my blog's birthday. So I'll just say yay! Happy birthday to Four Seasons of Food! Thank you to everyone who has stopped by, commented, or tried one of my recipes. You keep me motivated to continue posting, and I hugely appreciate your support.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Beet and coconut soup


What are your thoughts on eating hot soup in the summertime? I know some people stay away from soup when the weather gets hot, but I actually don't have a seasonal preference for soup. Frankly, I don't eat soup that often, no matter what season it is. I generally only make soup when I come across a recipe that I can't resist - this one is a perfect example. I found this recipe in The Accidental Vegetarian and tagged it immediately. I've had it in the back of my mind for weeks, but today was the first time that I had beets in the fridge and time to try a new recipe. This soup combines roasted beets with coconut milk, cumin, lemongrass, garlic, chiles, and ginger - I've never combined beets with those ingredients before, but the idea appealed to me right away. The beets work beautifully here, contributing a nice earthy note to the otherwise Asian-inspired soup. The beets also contribute their color, turning this soup a shocking magenta color, which is a little weird, but mostly awesome. In spite of the kooky color, the soup is actually quite elegant - the flavors blend well and if you go through the trouble of sieving the soup, the texture is silky smooth. It is spicy though, so reduce the chiles if you are sensitive to heat. I'm really glad I finally got to make this recipe. It's such a fun new way to use beets - definitely a soup worth trying in any season.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Turkish-inspired zucchini-yogurt spread


Andrew and I returned home on Saturday after two truly wonderful weeks in Turkey. Before this trip, we hadn't taken a trip together that was longer than 4 days in the last several years (including our honeymoon, or "minimoon" as I like to call it). So we knew that we had to do something special during my time off after graduation! We spent 5 days in Istanbul, saw the ruins at Ephesus, then spent some time on the coast in Fethiye and Antalya. I still can't get over how warm the water in the Mediterranean is!


Of course, the food was a big highlight of the trip. We ate freshly caught fish, grilled and dressed with nothing but a squeeze of lemon, accompanied by Turkey's national drink, raki (anise-flavored liquor). We tried countless versions of kebabs, and enjoyed one particularly memorable meal of pide (Turkish pizza). We loved the Turkish breakfast that we had every day - bread, fresh cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, fruit, yogurt, eggs, served with honey, butter, and jam. In the afternoons, we often stopped to re-energize with a Turkish coffee. We indulged in sweets - Turkish delights and baklava - and fast food too, like fried mussels and doner (meat cooked on a spit) sandwiches. We saw fruit trees everywhere, and ate fresh oranges, apricots, peaches, watermelon, and cherries.


Personally, there were two aspects of the cuisine that I found very inspiring - mezes and yogurt. Mezes are small plate dishes, usually served as starters, and they are often vegetable-based and served cold. The main dishes were heavy on the meat, so I got most of my vegetables through the mezes. Even the most simple ones, like green beans in olive oil, were delicious, and I loved trying a sampling of what each restaurant had to offer. You can count on seeing a number of meze recipes appear on the blog this summer, using plenty of local produce. As for yogurt, it was great to see the number of ways that it was used - mixed with vegetables or herbs in mezes, served alongside tomato sauce on top of sliced meat and bread, and used as a sauce for stuffed pasta - all so good! I love yogurt, and I am definitely going to expand the number of ways that I use it now.

The recipe that I am sharing with you today is a meze that includes yogurt. I found a great blog of Turkish recipes and I made a variation of a zucchini-walnut dip I found there. I'm not really sure if what I made counts as traditional Turkish, so I'm just calling it Turkish-inspired. It's great served with pita or other bread, especially when it's hot out!