Monday, June 29, 2009

Strawberry Angel-Food Triffle

If you have tasted a strawberry lately, chances are when you bit into it the fruit exploded in your mouth. Strawberries are in their prime so why not take advantage of them by featuring them in an easy dessert that can feed a large group? Store bought Cool Whip and angel food cake make this recipe a snap.

Strawberry Angel-Food Triffle
  • 1 pound frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 store-bought angel-food cake
  • 16-ounce container Cool Whip
  • Mint for garnish

Place the strawberries and sugar in a saucepan. Heat gently until the strawberries are soft and the sugar has dissolved. Allow the juices to reduce slightly, until they have the consistency of a thin syrup. Let cool.

Tear fist-sized pieces from the angel-food cake and use them to line the bottom of a large, clear bowl or trifle dish. Cover with a layer of Cool Whip and a layer of strawberries in syrup, filling in any holes in the previous layer. Add another layer of cake and continue building until all the ingredients have been used, ending with a few spoonfuls of Cool Whip and strawberries and a sprig of mint as a garnish.


Watermelon Gazpacho

Nothing says summer like watermelon. With the 4th of July right around the corner, why not take a Spanish classic and Americanize it a little bit? Gazpacho is always better the second day so I suggest that you make it and let it do its magic overnight. If you want to take it to the next level, add a little feta cheese on top, too.

Watermelon Gazpacho

  1. 6 1/2 pounds tomatoes, cored
  2. 2 pounds seedless watermelon, peeled—2 cups coarsely chopped, 2 cups diced
  3. 2 pounds cucumbers, peeled and seeded—2 cups coarsely chopped, 2 cups diced
  4. 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  5. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  6. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  7. 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  8. 2 jalapeƱos, seeded and minced
  9. 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  10. 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  11. 1/2 cup minced chives, for garnish
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the tomatoes and blanch until the skins are loosened, about 30 seconds. Transfer the tomatoes to a large rimmed baking sheet and let cool.
  2. Peel the tomatoes and halve them crosswise. Working over a coarse sieve set over a large bowl, squeeze the tomato halves to release the seeds and juices. Press on the seeds; you should have about 2 cups of tomato juices in the bowl. Coarsely chop enough of the tomatoes to make 4 cups. Cut the remaining tomatoes into 1/2-inch dice.
  3. In a food processor, puree the coarsely chopped tomatoes with the reserved tomato juice and the 2 cups each of chopped watermelon and cucumber. Transfer the soup to a large bowl. Stir in the diced tomato, watermelon and cucumber, the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the scallions, jalapeƱos, cilantro and lime juice; season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle the chives on top. Pass the scallion relish at the table.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Basil Vinaigrette

Nothing beats tomatoes in the summer time. Especially heirloom tomatoes.

My office is located south of San Francisco and there is a farmers market every Thursday from 4pm-8pm. This is a huge bonus. Farmers markets in the city are usually done and gone by the time I get back to the city and everyone knows that the Ferry Building on Saturday's is a zoo. Now, I have my very own farmers market in the cute small town where I work that I can shop at once a week. Yes!

Last week, I wet straight for the heirloom tomatoes. Drew is a tomato fanatic so I figured I would buy a bag of them and make a nice salad for dinner. I made this basil vinaigrette and served it with the sliced tomatoes and added burrata cheese and some sliced radishes. It was AMAZING.

Basil Vinaigrette
  1. 1 small garlic clove
  2. 1 cup packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  3. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  4. 1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  5. Pinch of crushed red pepper
  6. Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a food processor, pulse the garlic until chopped. Add the basil and pulse until finely chopped. Add the oil, vinegar and crushed red pepper and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Taste of Howell Mountain, June 20

Tomorrow is the big event! Get you tickets NOW!

2:30 – 5 pm
Wine Tasting - 30 Wineries Pouring
Silent Auction & Fabulous Food
5 pm - 7:30 pm
Live Auction
Wine Collections, Large Format Bottles
& Wine Lifestyle Events
Delicious Dessert
Auctioneer – Greg Quiroga
All auction proceeds benefit the
Howell Mountain Elementary School.
$95 per person

Tickets available at the door
or by calling 707-252-6229


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Grilled Salmon and Asparagus Salad

My best friend is rounding into her third trimester of her first pregnancy. She’s moving a little slower, requiring a lot more rest and has been told to eat better. That’s where I come in. See, my best friend is not a huge cook but, like most people, she appreciates a good meal. With maternity leave on the horizon and much more time at home, she has decided to take cooking head-on but on her own terms. People like her want something easy, healthy and delicious and I have been tasked to post recipes to help her on her journey.

I know a lot of my readers don’t just cook for themselves but for their friends, family and more. With the chaos that is life, simple and delicious recipes are a necessity. So, dear reader, here is an approachable recipe for cooks just like my friend that can be made with ease.

Grilled Salmon and Asparagus Salad

Maple-Dijon Dressing
1/3 cup maple-flavored syrup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 lb salmon fillet (1/2 inch thick)
1 lb fresh asparagus spears
4 cups baby salad greens
1 cup shredded carrots (about 1 1/2 medium)
1 hard-cooked egg, cut into 8 wedges

Heat gas or charcoal grill.

In small bowl, mix all Maple-Dijon Dressing ingredients with wire whisk.

Cut salmon crosswise into 4 pieces. Brush salmon with 1 tablespoon of the dressing. In large bowl, toss asparagus and 1 tablespoon of the dressing. Place asparagus in grill basket (grill “wok”).

When grill is heated, place asparagus and salmon, skin side down, on gas grill over medium heat or on charcoal grill over medium coals; cover grill. Cook asparagus 7 to 10 minutes and salmon 10 to 15 minutes, shaking grill basket or turning asparagus occasionally, until asparagus is crisp-tender and salmon flakes easily with fork.

Slide pancake turner between salmon and skin to remove each piece from skin. On 4 plates, divide salad greens, carrots and egg. Top with salmon and asparagus. Sprinkle with pepper. Serve with remaining dressing.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese and Peppered Honey

My little sister worships figs so when fig season rolls around it's safe to say she has a hefty stash going at all times. And why not? They are a great snack, delicious in salads and even better when used in desserts. Maybe she's on to something.

I came across this recipe in Bon Appetit and it got me excited for summer. Honey, goat cheese and figs are a classic combination that always please the palate. Do yourself a favor and go buy some local honey. If you are using that stuff in the plastic bear you should be shot. Go to a farmers market and do a honey tasting. Better yet, buy some honey sticks. You can usually get 3 for a dollar and they are the best little treat. If you want to bulk up this dish add some arugula and prosciutto.

Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese and Peppered Honey
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 fresh figs
  • 1/4 cup soft fresh goat cheese

Combine honey and pepper in small pitcher; stir to blend. Starting at stem end, cut each fig into quarters, stopping 1/2 inch from bottom to leave base intact. Gently press figs open. Spoon 1 teaspoon cheese into center of each. Arrange figs on platter; drizzle with peppered honey.


Friday, June 5, 2009

Herbed Balsamic Chicken with Blue Cheese

Since the economy tanked, we've been eating lots and lots of chicken. It's cheap, you can freeze it and there a million and one things you can do with it. This recipe is super simple and just requires a little marinade time and some stinky cheese. I love arugula but you can really serve this with any kind of lettuce or spring green. If you don't have a grill, you can bake or broil the chicken instead but using the grill gives it great flavor and adds texture. I like to reserve the marinade and brush it on the chicken while it grills.

Herbed Balsamic Chicken with Blue Cheese
  • 6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (5 to 6 ounces each)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence*
  • 1 3-to 4-ounce wedge blue cheese, cut into 6 slices

Place chicken in large resealable plastic bag. Whisk vinegar, 3 tablespoons oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in small bowl. Add to chicken; seal bag. Chill 2 hours, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush grill rack generously with oil. Arrange chicken on grill. Sprinkle with herbes de Provence, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Grill chicken until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer to plates; top each with slice of cheese.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wolfy's Northbrook

Attention Chicago!!!

Wolfy's Northbrook opens tomorrow at 11am so round up your friends or kids and go grab a bite that everyone will love that won't break the bank. Some menu items to be excited about are:

· Fresh Salad Bar with everything you might want to please your healthier side
· Fresh brisket and chuck burger made daily by the most famous butcher in Northbrook - served on a hand baked Challah roll (yum)
· Polish’s done right like we’ve come to love on Maxwell St
· Grilled Salami sandwich that emulates Poochie’s with grilled onions, on soft French bread, and a dab of brown mustards
· Real Merkt’s cheddar for your dogs, fries, and burgers
· Vienna products across the board of course!!
· An amazing gyros (pita-meat-sauce-meat again-onion-tomato)
· Awesome Chicken pita sandwich’s marinated overnight
· Kick ass fries to round off your meal!

Location is in the little strip mall on the southeast corner of Dundee and Sanders.
873 Sanders Rd., Northbrook, IL, 847-272-1177)

Make sure to say hi to Josh Kaplan, my good friend and fellow foodie. Also, check out Wolfy's video on YouTube:

See you there Kaplan Brothers!