Summer Pizza with Squash Blossoms and Sweet Peppers

Decorate your summer pizza with flowers – squash flowers, that is:

Grilled Pizza with Squash Blossoms

Squash blossoms might make this pizza sound pretty fancy, but it really isn’t. Delicate squash blossoms are everywhere at the farmers market at this time of year. I’ve been eyeing them, and contemplating ways to easily incorporate the floppy, sunny flowers into a meal. I’ve eaten blossoms fried and stuffed, but to be honest, I find them time consuming to prepare and often oily and rich. So I decided to simply layer them, with no other preparation, on a white pizza – or a pizza with no red sauce – and see what happened. The results were resoundingly good and a unanimous hit at the dinner table. The flowers shriveled and crisped while cooking, which concentrated their subtle and nutty flavor, which was nicely rounded out by sweet Jimmy Nardello peppers, onions, and a kick of heat from crushed red chili flakes. These fragile squash blossoms may be delicate, but it’s clear that they are no shrinking wall-flower.

For this recipe, you can make your own dough or purchase a good quality fresh dough from your supermarket, which is a simple shortcut for an easy meal. This recipe stretches one pound of fresh dough into a large rectangle, but you can also shape it into 2 smaller pizzas.

Squash Blossom Pizza with Sweet Peppers, Onions and Pecorino

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Makes one (10 x 15-inch) pizza

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt
1 pound homemade or prepared fresh pizza dough
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet red peppers, such as Jimmy Nardello peppers
8 squash blossoms, quartered lengthwise
1 (8 ounce) fresh mozzarella ball, patted dry and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the grill for indirect cooking over high heat (about 500°F for a gas grill) and preheat a pizza stone for at least 15 minutes. (Or preheat the oven to 500°F. Place a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack and preheat for at least 15 minutes).
2. Whisk the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
3. Stretch the dough out as thinly as possible and lay on large pizza peel (or rimless baking sheet lined with parchment). Lightly brush with the oil. Sprinkle half of the Pecorino over the pizza. Top with the onions and peppers. Arrange the squash blossoms over the vegetables, and then place the mozzarella around the squash. Sprinkle the oregano, chili flakes and pepper over the pizza and lightly season with salt. Top with the remaining Pecorino.
4. Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone. Close the grill lid and grill until the pizza is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove and brush the crust with some of the oil. Drizzle any remaining oil over the pizza. Cut into serving pieces and serve immediately.

Quinoa Bowl with Tomato, Corn, and Avocado

Summer Salad Tomato Corn Avocado

When it’s too hot to cook, try serving a big summery salad for your main meal. Not just a simple garden salad, but a satisfying bowl layered with crisp veggies, grains or legumes, and fresh herbs. The combination is fresh, filling, and light – guaranteed to hit the spot on a warm day. This salad bowl includes the classic summer veggie trio of sweet corn, tomato, and avocado – tumbled together with protein-rich quinoa and mounded over a bed of kale. No need to cook the corn – summer corn is juicy and naturally sweet, and it’s crispness adds great texture to the quinoa. As always, you can tweak the ingredients to your taste. Feel free to substitute another grain for the quinoa, such as wild rice or bulgur. As for the kale, a quick rub of the hardy leaves with oil and salt helps to soften them and coax out their flavor. Alternatively, choose another more tender green, such as arugula or spinach, and skip the rubbing step.

Tomato, Corn, and Quinoa Bowl with Kale and Avocado

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

Dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 

Salad:
1 small bunch Tuscan/Lacinato kale, ribs removed, torn into bite-size pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
3 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
2 ears of corn, uncooked, husked, kernels cut from the cobs
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup tricolor or red quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 small handful Italian parsley leaves, chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 small handful cilantro leaves, chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 ripe but firm avocado, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1. Whisk the lime juice, vinegar, garlic, mustard, honey, salt, black pepper, and Tabasco in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.
2. Place the kale in a large bowl. Drizzle 1 to 2 teaspoons oil over the leaves and season with a generous pinch of salt. Rub the leaves until thoroughly coated (this will help to soften them).
3. Combine the scallions, corn, peppers, tomatoes, quinoa, parsley, and cilantro in a separate bowl. Pour about 1/4 cup of the dressing over the salad and gently stir to combine. Mound the salad over the kale. (Or divide between individual serving bowls.) Top with the avocado and drizzle with additional dressing to taste.

A Summer Salad for Meat Lovers (it has something to do with bacon)

BLT Salad with Bacon Ends and Avocado

A big refreshing bowl of salad is a great dinner in the heat of summer. Too veggie, you say? No worries, there is a happy meaty answer to that: Bacon ends. Yep, contemplate that. I did my own contemplating when I spied a bag of bacon ends for the first time at the farmers market and had to examine them. The bag was hefty, lumpy, and thick with triangular hunks of bacon jumbled in vacuum-packed togetherness. It was bacon indeed, but not the typical neatly fanned slices I usually buy in the deli department. After asking a few questions, I learned that when those tidy pre-sliced bacon packages are created, all of the irregular hunks and ends are discarded in order to produce supermarket-packaged perfection. I knew I was onto something revelatory, so I snagged a package. Now I am here to tell you that you want those ends. They are veritable chunks of heaven for bacon lovers, evoking salty pork-induced delirium.

I find the best way to cook bacon ends is in the oven or on a grill. While the ends cook, their fat renders, leaving behind crispy chunks of meaty bacon you can sink your teeth into. Honestly, they are addictively good. The danger is gobbling them all up in one go (not recommendable, by the way – just saying). So try to exert some restraint (after taste testing a few pieces, of course, as any cook should), and add them to salads, pasta, eggs – goodness, wherever you want your bacon. I like the salad option, as the fresh vegetables and leafy lettuce nicely balance out the hunks of salty meat. I call it a deconstructed BLT in a bowl and toss it with homemade croutons, brushed with the rendered bacon fat and toasted on the grill. Got your attention, right?

As for finding these ends, ask your butcher or the nice people in your supermarket’s meat department if they have a stash. You can be sure they know exactly what you are asking about – they just might not want to share.

BLT Salad with Bacon Ends and Avocado

Serves 4 as a main course salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Grilling Time: 30 minutes

1 1/2 to 2 pounds bacon ends, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups coarsely torn bite-size pieces of country or sourdough bread

Dressing:
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1 large head lettuce, leaves washed and torn into bite-size pieces
4 small vine ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
Corn kernels cut from one ear of corn
1 large Hass avocado, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1. Prepare the grill for indirect medium heat (about 400°F for a gas grill). Trim any excess fat from the bacon ends. Cut the ends into 1 inch chunks and arrange  on a grill rack (or grate) set over a grill pan to capture the rendered fat. Grill until the fat is rendered and the ends are crispy golden, about 25 minutes. (You can do this in the oven with a broiler pan, if you like.) Transfer the ends to a plate.
2. Toss the bread in the rendered fat. Spread the bread on a grill pan or the grates and grill until golden and crisp, turning as needed, 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.
3. Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.
4. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add the bacon, half of the croutons and dressing to your taste and toss to combine. Garnish with the remaining croutons and serve with any remaining dressing.

Hot and Sweet Pepper Crostini

crostini peppers

Late summer reaps brimming bushels of peppers in a kaleidoscope of color and shapes. I shop with my eyes, because the first thing I do when I get home is pile my peppers into a bowl where they do double-duty as a decorative centerpiece. Gnarly basques, pristine cherries, sturdy pimentos, and pert jalapeños vie for my attention, and I slowly pick away at my psychedelic pile of peppers as I cook throughout the week, adding them to salads, stews, pasta, and pizzas.

This simple recipe showcases a colorful assortment peppers on crostini and makes a great starter to a meal. I like to use a mix of sweet and hot for more complex flavor. When using hot peppers, such as poblanos, serranos, and jalapeños, remember that they can vary in heat, so take a small bite to test their strength. The heat is concentrated in the ribs and seeds of the pepper, so remove as much as desired with kitchen gloves or the tip of a paring knife to protect your fingers from the oils.

Hot and Sweet Pepper Crostini with Mozzarella

Choose a variety of peppers to your taste – for this recipe I used poblanos, hungarian pimentos, and gypsy peppers. Makes 12 large crostini.

Crostini:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
12 slices baguette, cut on the diagonal, ½-inch thick

Peppers:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound sweet summer peppers, stemmed and seeded, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish

8 ounces buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
¼ cup basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Make the crostini:
Heat the oven to 375°F. Whisk the oil, garlic, and salt in a small bowl. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and lightly brush with the oil. Transfer to the oven and bake until the bread is lightly toasted, 12 to 15 minutes.

Saute the peppers:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and saute until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and black pepper and saute 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Arrange a slice of mozzarella over each crostini. Top with some of the peppers. Broil in the oven until the cheese begins to melt, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and  garnish with fresh basil.  Serve immediately.

5 Salads for your Memorial Day Grill Menu

It’s Memorial Day weekend, which not only is the gate to summer, but an excuse to get outside and grill. Here are 5 fresh salads to see you through the upcoming BBQ season, perfect to accompany any grill menu.

pepper potatoes tastefood

No -Mayo Peppery Potato Salad – hard to believe there’s no mayonnaise in this creamy salad, chock-a-block full of peppers, chiles and onion.

fava green saladMixed Greens with Fava Beans and Mint – the essence of late spring on a plate.

Corn Tomato SaladCorn and Tomato Salad – this classic summer salad is sweet, juicy and fresh with the kick of poblano chiles and crisp red onion.

mustard blue potato tastefoodBlue Potato and Mustard Salad – another no-mayo potato salad, napped with olive oil and spiked with fresh mustard leaves. Use blue potatoes if you can find them for color value. Otherwise, yellow potatoes will work too.

fattoush salad tastefoodFattoush Salad – a hearty and fresh Middle Eastern salad fragrant with mint and coriander, composed of crisp greens, crumbled feta and grilled pita bread.

 

Tomato Bruschetta

tomato bruschetta tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

When I make tomato bruschetta, my family always says, “Summer food!” And so it is – especially when it’s made on the grill. Everything happens on our grill year round, I mean, during the summer. For this recipe slices of baguette get all toasty and charred on the Weber. Believe me, it’s worth the step for the flavor and saves you from the heat of the oven broiler. The grilled bread is then smothered with fresh chopped tomatoes infused with fresh basil from the garden, garlic and a glugg of olive oil. So simple, so good. If you could have summer in a mouthful, this would be it.

Tomato Bruschetta

I like the rustic presentation of halved baguette sections. Alternatively, slice the baguette on the diagonal 1/2-inch thick. Serves 4 to 6.

1 1/2 pounds vine ripened tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in small pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 baguette

Cut each tomato in half, and scoop out the juices and seeds with your fingers or a small spoon. Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice and place in a bowl. Add 1 minced garlic clove, the olive oil, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Gently stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If you don’t have super sweet tomatoes yet, a pinch of sugar may be added.

Cut the baguette crosswise into 3-inch sections. Halve each section lengthwise.
Grill the bread slices until toasted, turning once. Arrange on a platter cut-side up. Peel 2 garlic cloves and slightly crush with a knife. Rub the garlic cloves over the bread.

Sizzling Fourth of July Grill Menu

We are wilting under the shroud of a spectacular heat wave here in the Bay area. Stifled by the temperature, nothing is moving – even the leaves are too warm to rustle. It’s so hot right now, it’s impossible to cook. In fact it’s so hot right now, it’s impossible to even write about cooking. So, let me treat you to a photo round up of a sensational summer grill menu in preparation for the fourth of July. Keep cool.

Blackberry Spritzer tfBlackberry Spritzer and Mojitos

gazpachBeat the Heat Chunky Gazpacho

fattoush salad tastefoodFattoush Salad

ribsSummer Solstice BBQ Baby Back Ribs

marinated chicken skewers tfGrilled Chicken Skewers with Sriracha Marinade

quinoa kale slaw tfRed Quinoa and Kale Slaw

apricot bruleeCaramelized Apricots on the Grill with Yogurt and Honey