Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summer in the Raw - Jeweled Gazpacho and Pugliese Pasta

Today, we're just plain hot. The window-mounted AC in the NK abode groans away, struggling against the pea soup-thick air.  The husband's empty stomach groans in a similar fashion. He looks at me puppy dog-eyed as if to say, where is my meal? I glare back at him. I'm seconds away from heatstroke after a long day at the office. One thing I know; I won't be lighting the oven today. And neither should you.

Photo: NK 

While we don't plan to go the way of Demi Moore, Alicia Silverstone, or any of the other celeb raw-foodists out there, we do enjoy a no-cook meal from time to time. The dog days of summer are ideal opportunity to go raw. Check out our latest fresh from the fridge, au natural dishes:

A Traditional Raw Pasta Sauce called Crudaiola - Hailing from the Puglia region of Italy, this classic style of raw sauce is easy to make. It requires no heat and comes together in minutes, but you do have to be willing to boil up some pasta. 

A Refreshing Classic Gazpacho - A great cold soup to use as a cool veggie side, it's even adaptable as a gazpacho "shot" for guests using our fun and jazzed up veggie ice cubes as a garnish. There's no cooking here, just a lot chopping for a big taste payoff. 

Whole Wheat Pasta alla Crudaiola with Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula
Adapted from The New York Times - Martha Rose Shulman
Serves 2 to 3 
1 Pint Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, halved (or a mix of red & yellow cherry tomatoes)
Ricotta Salata, Photo: NK
1/4 Cup coarsely grated Ricotta Salata or Parmesan Cheese 
Coarse Sea Salt to taste
1 teaspoon finely minced Garlic Clove
1 teaspoon good quality Balsamic Vinegar
1 Cup Baby Arugula or Wild Arugula Leaves
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Pound Whole Wheat short pasta, Fusilli, Penne Rigate, etc

Combine Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes in a large bowl. 
Add Balsamic, Olive Oil, and Garlic.

Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, Photo: NK

Toss gently and season with Salt to taste. 
Let sit for at least 10 minutes.

Crudaiola "Sauce," Photo: NK

Prepare pasta according to the package directions.
Drain and return to pot.
Toss in Arugula and Tomato mix.

Toss ingredients in the Pasta pot, Photo: NK

Plate and top with Ricotta Salata. 
Serve immediately and enjoy!

Finished Pasta Alla Crudaiola, Cherry Tomato, Arugula and Ricotta Salata, Photo: NK

Classic Gazpacho with Gazpacho "Jewels"
Adapted from Ina Garten and Inspired by "Weekends with Friends" by Maxine Clark
Serves 8 to 10

2 Hothouse Cucumbers (English Cucumbers), halved and deseeded, then chopped 
An easy way to deseed cucumbers, Photo: NK
3 Red Bell Peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
8 Plum Tomatoes roughly chopped
2 Red Onions roughly chopped
6 Garlic Cloves finely minced
46 Oz of Tomato Juice (6 Cups)
1/2 Cup White Wine Vinegar
1/3 Cup fine quality Olive Oil
1/2 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Hot Sauce such as Frank's Red Hot or Cholula
1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground Black Pepper


Prepare Gazpacho "Jewels" a day or several hours in advance:
Take a small handful each of cucumbers, red peppers, and red onion and set aside.
Finely mince these veggies and mix them together to form a confetti of sorts.
Place into an ice tray. Pour in water and freeze until solid. 

Preparing the Gazpacho "Jewels" Photo: NK

When ready to serve the "jewels", rinse under cold water to remove the frost. Voila!

Gazpacho Jewels, Photo: NK

Next, prepare the Gazpacho.

Veggies ready to process, Photo: NK

Place each vegetable separately in a food processor and pulse until each is coarsely chopped, taking care to leave some texture and not over-process.

After each vegetable has been processed, combine them in a large bowl. 
Add the Garlic, Tomato Juice, Olive Oil, Vinegar, Salt, Pepper and Hot Sauce.
Mix thoroughly and chilled well before serving. Serve in individual bowls or large shot glasses. Garnish with a Gazpacho "Jewel" both for presentation and to keep the soup cool. Enjoy!

"Jeweled" Gazpacho, Cold and Refreshing, Photo: NK
Photo: NK

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

One Sexy Salad - Grilled Apricot, Burrata, Prosciutto & Arugula

I wasn't planning to feature salads again so soon after my last post, but this salad was begging to be shared. It was totally sexy and very delicious. I am trusting that most food enthusiasts will know what I mean here. Does this salad purr to you like it does to me? 

Grilled Apricot, Burrata, Prosciutto and Arugula with Balsamic Reduction, Photo: NK

Whether you call this a dish or a salad, it's a great accompaniment to a light summer supper. On its own with a few slices of grilled bread, it makes for an impressive light lunch. The best part? It works well with many different fruits and even meats, so you can adjust it to what's in season. This dish is really a perfect example of how a few ingredients of superior quality can conspire to make something so easy that tastes and looks amazing. Enjoy, and get sexy with it. 

What you'll need:

In Season Summer Stone Fruit - Peaches, Apricots, Nectarines or Plums. Pears, though not a stone fruit, are a great option for winter.  I've been loving Apricots lately, so I went with those. 

Burrata Cheese - Burrata is heavenly. It's not the same as buffalo mozzarella or really mozzarella at all. Picture a white ball of soft, cheesy perfection with a runny, buttery inside that tastes rich and light all at the same time. More about the wonders of Burrata: The Uncanny Tastiness of Burrata

Arugula and Radicchio - I like to use Wild Arugula because the leaves have a really striking shape. Baby Arugula would also work well. Radicchio has a bitter taste so adjust the proportions of it to your palate and cut it into very thin ribbons so it doesn't overpower the dish. Radicchio provides red ribbons of color that look gorgeous amid the green bed of arugula, colorful stone fruit, and oozy, creamy burrata. 

Prosciutto or other thinly sliced Cured Meat - Buy imported Prosciutto if you can. 

Balsamic Reduction - Don't skip this easy to prepare, make-ahead component that adds instant wow-factor and a very important flavor that ties the dish together. The balsamic drizzle is also key from a visual standpoint.

The Recipe:

Grilled Apricots with Burrata, Prosciutto and Arugula
Serves 8
Adapted from Food and Wine - Travis Lett

6 or 7 stone fruits of your choice, pitted and halved 
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus more for brushing on fruit before you grill
1.5 Tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice 
Sea Salt and freshly ground Pepper
1/2 a small head of Radicchio, cored and sliced into thin ribbons
5 Oz of Baby Arugula or Wild Arugula
3/4 Lb Burrata Cheese (one or two large rounds work best) cut into chunks
1/3 Lb sliced Prosciutto or other thin sliced cold cut of your choice (Country Ham, Speck)
1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar   


Prepare your Balsamic Reduction - This can be done one or two days ahead if you prefer. Simply bring the 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar to a rapid boil over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally. Continue to boil for 5 minutes or more until the liquid reduces and becomes quite syrupy. Remove from heat, cool, and pour into an airtight container. If not using immediately, refrigerate.

Brush Fruits on the cut side with oil. Set on a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until lightly charred. Set aside to cool.

Mix up Dressing separately in a small bowl - Combine Lemon Juice, Olive Oil, and Salt and Pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.

Toss Arugula with Radicchio in another large bowl. Add Fruit and slowly add dressing to bowl. You may not need to use all of the dressing, so drizzle it and toss salad gently until you have the desired amount. 

To Assemble: Lay the Arugula and Radicchio mixture in small clusters on a large platter. Arrange grilled fruits to your liking around the platter. Dot with Burrata and add slices of Prosciutto that have been rolled up. Drizzle everything with the Balsamic Reduction. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Unexpected Summer Salads - The Perfect BBQ Side

Margaritas, My Official Summer Drink, Photo: NK
With Memorial Day behind us, 
Summer is most definitely in full swing. 

Happily, this means barbecues. 

As etiquette dictates, when I am invited to a barbecue, or any party for that matter, I always defer to the wishes of the host in terms of what I am asked to bring.

Goes kinda like this:

Beer? That's easy!

A side dish? Awesome! Plenty of ideas for that. 

Dessert? Ok, baking's not my favorite, but I'll buy you something really delicious. 

Only one barbecue request makes my heart sink: 


I have nothing against salads, and hey, like I said, I'd never ignore the requests of my hosts. But if we're being honest, the green salad (unlike his more popular cousins, cole slaw and macaroni) is always the biggest loser of the barbecue. You've seen him - he's the dish that's coldly passed over as guests rush to pile hunks of meat and corn on the cob on their plates. 

So how do I overcome salad malaise? I always make sure to choose untraditional salads that are both tasty and unexpected. Below are two can't lose salads that always make a splash with kids and grown ups alike. As a bonus, their use of fruit makes them extra light and refreshing. May you have many BBQ invites this summer, and I invite you to join me in my quest to make salads exciting again. 

Watermelon, Arugula and Ricotta Salata Salad with Mint Dressing
Wild Arugula or Rocket, Photo: NK
Adapted from Robert Irvine
Serves 4 to 6


For the Vinaigrette
2 Tablespoons Champagne Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
3 Tablespoons chopped Fresh Mint
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
1/4 cup Grapeseed Oil

For the Salad
1 large bunch Wild Arugula (Rocket) or Baby Arugula (about 6 oz) washed and dried
1 small Red Onion, sliced very thinly
1 small Seedless Watermelon cut into 1 inch cubes
3 oz. Ricotta Salata or Feta Cheese cut into small uniform cubes

Vinaigrette should be prepared just before use. It will keep for an hour or two if need be, but definitely dress the salad on site if possible.
To make, add Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Chopped Mint, Salt and Pepper into a blender or mini food processor. Blend. Add the Oil in a slow stream or in several pours. Blend until fully incorporated. Add extra Salt and Pepper to taste if needed. Set aside.

Mint, Photo: NK
Seedless Baby Watermelon, Photo: NK

In a bowl, combine the Arugula and Onion and fold in the Watermelon

Watermelon, Arugula and Onion, Photo: NK

When ready to serve, gently add Vinaigrette in small increments and toss until salad is lightly coated but not soggy. 

Ricotta Salata and Mint Dressing, Ready to Assemble, Photo: NK

 Top with the Ricotta Salata cheese and enjoy! 

Finished Watermelon, Arugula and Ricotta Salata Salad, Photo: NK

Next up, an even easier salad that also uses the best fruit of the season and an unexpected green component - basil!

Grilled Pineapple, Basil and Cucumber Salad
Basil, Photo: NK
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 4

1/2 a cored Pineapple sliced into 1/3 inch thick rings
1 small Cucumber peeled and cut lengthwise into half, then thinly sliced into half moons
1/2 cup Basil Leaves washed and dried (torn if large)
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Freshly ground Pepper

Heat a grill pan or grill over high heat. 
Grill Pineapple rounds for about 2 minutes per side until grill marks appear. Let cool fully.

Pineapple cut into fourths, Photo: NK

Toss Cucumber with Basil leaves in a serving bowl. 

Take cooled Pineapple rounds and cut each into quarters, forming 2 to 3 inch half moons.

Fold in the cold Pineapple to Cucumber and Basil. 

Sprinkle Oil over the mixture, toss, and check for seasoning. 

Serve and enjoy! 

Grilled Pineapple, Basil, and Cucumber Salad with Jerk Chicken Breast, Photo: NK
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lemon Lust - Crab Pasta with Lemon and Chive Butter Sauce

I love lemons. Always have,  always will. Even back when I was a little girl, my mother would catch me chewing on lemon wedges the way normal kids might an orange segment. I really have never been "normal." It was just that I couldn't get enough of their super tart flavor, tooth enamel be damned. 

Today, I'm still very attracted to dishes that feature lemon, so while searching for an easy but summery pasta recipe, I was thrilled to come across the Daily Crave's Crab Pasta with Lemon and Chive Butter. Really, who could say no to a lemony pasta with crab and butter? Certainly not me. 

Crab Pasta with Lemon and Chive Butter Sauce, Photo: NK

My adaptation of this recipe uses Backfin Crabmeat instead of Lump Crab. Backfin is cheaper and although the crab chunks are slightly smaller than lump, they are still substantial, sweet and tasty. 

Photo, NK 

The original recipe recommends Meyer Lemons. Meyer Lemons are slightly sweeter and more floral tasting than regular lemons. I couldn't find them in my neighborhood this time around, but I would imagine they would only increase the deliciousness of this dish. 

Photo: NK

Finally, I cut some of the butter down a bit. This is not a light recipe, although it tasted very light once finished and was just as decadent with half the butter. 


Crab Pasta with Lemon and Chive Butter Sauce 
Adapted from The Daily Crave 
Serves 2 as an Entree, 4 as an Appetizer

Half a box of Spaghettini or other thin pasta (8 oz)
1 Lb Backfin Crab Meat, picked over for shells
1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
1/4 Cup Champagne Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar
1 large Shallot, chopped finely
3/4 stick Cold Salted Butter
6 Tablespoons finely chopped Chives
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
1/4 Cup fresh squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup chopped Parsley

Cook Pasta according to the box directions in boiling salted water. 
Drain pasta, reserving about a 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium flame, combine Shallots, Wine and Vinegar. 
Boil until liquid is reduced to just over a Tablespoon. 

Reducing the liquids, Photo: NK
Reduce heat to lowest flame and add Cold Butter, one tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly until all Butter is incorporated. 

Turn off the heat and add 4 Tablespoons of the Chives, Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, and a generous amount of Salt and Pepper to taste. 

Chive, Lemon and Butter Sauce, Ready for Crab, Photo: NK
Next, mix in most of the Crab Meat, setting aside about a 1/2 cup to top the Pasta with later.

Pour the sauce into a large, deep sauté pan and add the pasta. Toss and heat through, adding Cooking Water if needed a Tablespoon at a time to loosen the sauce and pasta. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. 

Plate the pasta and top with the reserved crab meat. Sprinkle with the remaining Chives and some Fresh Parsley. 

Dinner is served! 
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Sunday, June 3, 2012

NK Bakes - Easy Apricot Blackberry Frangipane Tart

There's a first time for everything and today, it's NK's first baking post. 
I've mentioned before that I dread baking. I do it as little as possible. While I marvel at the creations of others, I generally prefer to cook - cooking just seems to me to be more expressive, open to interpretation, and a bit less scientific. That said,I totally admire bakers, especially my best friend who is amazing at it. I've been trying, to no avail, to get her up here for a baking guest post (ahem). When I finally wear her down, you're all in for a real treat. 

Today's tart was inspired by a delicious dessert I enjoyed last week at a very unique restaurant called Dish in Water Mill, NY. Check it out here: Dish Hamptons 

Logo Courtesy of Dish Restaurant, Water Mill, NY
Dish is a tiny little place run by a charming husband and wife team who met while in school at the CIA. The restaurant, an unassuming storefront tucked in a shopping center, gives you the feeling of being in a quaint country kitchen, and their weekly four or five course pre-set prix fixe menus are on par with some of the finest restaurants around. To add to the awesome factor, it's BYOB. Last week's meal was as usual, unbelievable from start to finish, but the Apricot Tart served for dessert was a showstopper. It was then and there that I vowed to find a way to bake a similar tart and by God, I'd find an easy way to do it. 

My baking attempt was successful and easy thanks to in-season fruit and frozen puff pastry dough. Also, I learned how easy it is to make basic Frangipane - or almond cream. Frangipane is often a component used in the best baked goods. It imparts extra richness, taste and overall moistness. 

Easy Apricot Blackberry Frangipane Tart 
Adapted from
Serves 8 - Makes 2 Tarts that serve 4 each

For the Tart
One Package Frozen Puff Pastry Sheets (I used Pepperidge Farm brand which has 2 sheets)
4 or 5 ripe Apricots, pitted and thickly sliced
1 package ripe Blackberries
Raw Sugar (for sprinkling)
1 Egg, optional, for extra browned tart crust

For the Frangipane (recipe adapted from French Food
Almond Meal, Photo: NK
1/2 Cup Ground Almond Meal 
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Egg
3 Tablespoons softened Butter
3/4 teaspoon good quality Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour

Lay out two large sheets of Puff Pastry to thaw for 30 - 40 minutes or according to the package directions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile, prepare the Frangipane by combining all ingredients in a food processor. 

Blend until ingredients create a smooth and creamy paste. 

Frangipane, Photo: NK
Once the Puff Pastry has thawed, lay each piece on a non stick cookie tray or sheet pan.
On the first dough rectangle, carefully fold in the edges by a centimeter or so, pressing them down into the base of the tart to seal them and create a crust. Run your knife ever so lightly around the inside edge of the folded in crust. Repeat on the second dough triangle.

Spread the Frangipane over the inside of each tart crust. It should cover the inside completely but not so much that it spills over the crust edge. 

Assembled Tart, Photo: NK

Next, press your Apricots and Blackberries into the Frangipane. 
Optionally paint the crust edges with Egg White to promote a nicely browned, even crispier crust.

Optional Egg Wash, Photo: NK

Finally, sprinkle the tart liberally with Raw Sugar, and set in the oven to bake.
25 minutes should yield a perfect, golden brown and delicious tart. 
Slice into squares and enjoy!

Painless and Delicious! Apricot Blackberry Frangipane Tart, Photo: NK

Photo: NK

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