Root Beer Float x 2

by Lisa

We have a great debate going in our house: which goes in a root beer float first, the ice cream or the soda?

This has been an ongoing experiment all summer long, since we discovered Trader Joe’s has a good bottled root beer (& a caffeine free cola that’s pretty terrific, too.) We don’t drink bottled soda as rule around here (although we do indulge in homemade kidtinis), but I’ve been making an exception lately and I keep a few bottles of this soda on hand for fun and nostalgia.  It’s great for a weekend cocktail and floats make for an easy, fun dessert in the hot weather.  Especially for guests and grandparents.  Lately, about once a week Ella will mix up a cherry coke before dinner or we’ll have root beer floats after dinner.

In our effort to settle the ice cream/soda debate, we stumbled upon Bobby Flay’s adult version, which includes bourbon and is pretty much the perfect end to a barbeque if you’re a grown-up.

To wit, our method is this, and involves floating the ice cream on the soda. But you put the ice cream in first and get a slightly creamier drink.

Fill a large frosty mug with root beer (and a little crushed ice if you like. It’s nice if it’s colder, but it also gets in the way).  Float 1 scoop vanilla ice cream on the soda.  If you’re an adult, add a up to a shot of bourbon over the ice cream. Top the ice cream with fresh whipped cream.

For adults only

Sweet Corn and Pepper Cheddar Pizza

by Lisa

We make pizza often–close to once a week and usually on the grill, usually with more or less traditional italian toppings. But this pizza was one of those dishes that came together because of what we had on hand:  1/2 a red pepper, a few ears of corn, a bag of herbed pizza dough from Trader Joe’s, and a good Irish cheddar.  It has become one of my new favorite pizzas. Afterwards I discovered that my creation is not unusual, but that’s all the more reason for you to try it. It’s a  fast and easy pie full of late summer’s bounty: sweet white corn, bright red peppers, fresh herbs layered over a not-too-sharp cheddar cheese.  It’s deliciously savory pie, tempered by the sweetness of the corn and peppers, and the colors are beautiful. It’s a perfect way end to these days that hover lovingly between summer and fall.

Of course, you can do this with any dough, but an herbed dough works especially well.  Try adding oregano, basil, marjoram, etc. to your own, or find a premade one that you love.

  • 1 recipe herbed pizza dough
  • 2 ears sweet white or yellow corn
  • 1/2 red pepper, very thinly sliced
  • polenta or coarse corn meal for sprinkling pan
  • a few ounces, to taste, white cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cook the corn for about one minute in boiling water, then turn off the heat and let the corn sit for 5 minutes. Cool and then cut the kernals off the cob.

Lightly sprinkle cooking surface (pizza stone or cookie sheet) with corn meal or polenta.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, then transfer to pizza stones or cookie sheet.

Top with a light layer of cheddar cheese, sliced red peppers and corn. Be careful not to add too much cheese–you want the cheese to blend the ingredients, not overpower them.

Bake at 450 degrees until cheese is melted and crust is nicely crisp and brown.

Salads, fast

by Lisa

Summer makes it easy to feed your family fast, fresh, healthy food that also should be really good-tasting.  It makes it easy to offer your kids a pre-dinner snack or an appetizer masquerading as a snack.  It’s become nearly ritual here, as I finish the “main” part of dinner, for the kids to sit at the bar, where we often eat, and tuck into the salads, which I prepare beforehand (sometimes at lunch, or right after school, or any fifteen minutes I have to wash and chop and toss the produce with some kind of dressing….) and set out in mini-bowls.

In summer, we like a lot of variety. Small dishes, lots of variety. This makes our market haul last longer, gives the kids a sense of choice and power and just looks prettier on the table. Last Sunday, I set out three side salads, which took maybe ten minutes to prepare, total:

White bean with olive oil, salt, fresh garlic, fresh sage

Cucumber with olive oil, salt, white balsamic, sugar, fresh dill

“Caprese” with baby tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil, salt, balsamic

We had a large green salad, dressed with my go-to mix of olive oil and white balsamic and lemon pepper, to which I’ve been obsessively adding basil and cilantro. I think cilantro is the new tarragon.

These were to go with a few links of grilled wild boar sausage (Thank you, thank you Holding Ranch! ) and grilled italian bread grilled with olive oil and salt.

All you need to keep on hand to make a range of salads are some

  • good olive oil
  • different salts (herbed, hawaiian, kosher, sea, black, etc.)
  • a range of vinegars (red wine, white balsamic, balsamic, rice wine, anything fancier that you like)
  • mustards (yellow, dijon, country..)
  • lemons and meyer lemon
  • fresh herbs
  • fresh garlic

Keep a light hand with salt, don’t pepper everything, mix acids to oil in about a  1 to 2 ratio (as in 1 part vinegar to 2 parts olive oil) and experiment.

Lemony Zucchini Muffins

by Caroline

I’ve written here before about the food my family takes to travel, the food we’ve eaten on journeys, even the food that has greeted us on our return, but not yet about this particular food/travel issue: cleaning out the fridge before leaving on the trip.

Tonight, on the eve of our 2+-week vacation, and with friends coming to stay in our house ten days from now (and so a week before we get home), I had to think carefully about what we should use up and what could stay put. When the eggs ran out late last week, I didn’t replace them; that half loaf of sandwich bread goes in the freezer, as does that end of baguette, sliced into cubes for croutons and tossed into a bag. We’ll use up the milk in the morning, but the last stick of butter will be fine. It’s the produce that’s trickier, of course. Tonight I found myself adding lots of vegetable sides to our pasta dinner: green salad with shredded carrots; roasted zucchini; roasted potatoes; fresh snap peas. The meal looked a bit like this, the kids ate a ton, and the crisper was nearly empty.

Nearly! I still had a bunch of beets to deal with, so quickly pickled them using the recipe recommended by a reader (my sister!); the recipe was fast, and the pickles will keep until our friends arrive.

Last up: zucchini, which our CSA has been providing at a rate faster than we can handle. I’ve made them into pancakes, fritters, and soup; shredded them into salads or tossed them, roasted, onto pasta with walnuts. Tonight, running out of steam, I grated four cups and stuck it into the freezer for a future soup. Then finally, because I always have time to make muffins, made these lemony zucchini muffins from the fabulous King Arthur Cookbook:

2 c flour (I use a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flours)
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 scant T baking powder
1 t salt
grated peel of 2-3 lemons (the recipe calls for the peel of just one lemon, which just isn’t enough for me)
1/2 c chopped, toasted walnuts (optional)
1/2 c raisins (optional)
2 large eggs (I’d run out of eggs, but luckily still had egg replacer from when my vegan niece lived with us last year!)
1/2 c milk
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 c shredded, unpeeled zucchini

Preheat the oven to 400.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon peel in a large bowl. Stir in the walnuts and raisins.

In a 2-cup liquid measure, combine the milk, oil, and eggs. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until just barely combined. Fold in the zucchini.

Spoon batter into a 12-cup muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out of the pan to finish cooling.

Some of the muffins will come to the airport with us tomorrow, and the rest will wait in the freezer for our friends, because if we can’t greet them ourselves, at least we can greet them, in absentia, with muffins.

Salmon Backs, Redux

by Lisa

I’ve written about salmon backs before, twice, actually, but they’re so good, and fast and economical they deserve more notice. If you can get salmon backs from your fishermonger, or counter, or farmer’s market, BUY THEM. Don’t be afraid, even though they’re weird looking and long and bony and flat and will appear to be the opposite of what you want in a good piece of fish.  But they are full of flavor, and easy to fix.  They will likely not be on display. ASK if you can get them.

Then, you can add this to your ways of preparing them:

  • sprinkle with salt
  • drizzle with white wine
  • Rub with a grainy, country dijon
  • fold over lots of leafy ferns of fresh dill

Refrigerate, covered, or in a bag for as long as you have.  Grill or bake at high heat (425 degrees) for 5 minutes.  Let cool slightly, and with a fork, flake the meat off the bones. This is easy.  Serve immediately, or later at room temperature.

This is what they look like before cooking:

Salmon backs go beautifully with grilled bread, a side pasta dish, crackers of all sorts, eggs and bagels for a fancy brunch. They also make a really mean fish taco.  Last night, Finn ate three.