Back in the day when books and magazines were all the rage, I used to devour the likes of Gourmet, Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, and my obscene collection of 200+ cookbooks and entertaining books for recipes, pictures and new entertaining ideas. I would wait with bated breath for the next issue or the newest release to discover the latest and the greatest or “what was old is new again” concept.
To some degree, the information overloaded virtual world has taken the pleasure out of savoring the moment of the pure and simple, i.e., a yearly subscription to Food & Wine; gone is the leisure of thumbing through the pages of expertly styled tables, desired meals, fabulous foods and you-can-do-this-too recipes. This almost archaic pastime has fallen prey to the likes photo sites. I’ll admit I’ve given up all my magazine subscriptions for the quick-fix food porn, and tablescape pics on flickr, Pinterest, Instagram and Foodspotting. I love looking at pictures of food, drink and styles of entertaining. I continue to seek out pictures that inspire and arouse my inner Martha I just do it in a different way now.
While reading is a rather independent task, Pinning, Spotting and Posting are very communicative types of activities; one can almost see the natural evolution of print magazine photos to [online] real time picture posting with comments versus tearing out pages of a magazine to share with a friend.
I’ll admit, my favorite sites are Twitter and Instagram. Ironically, I was very late in the game jumping on both bandwagons. I love Twitter because it’s short, sweet and oh so to the point. Instagram, same but with photos. For someone who has a penchant for talking up a blue streak, I certainly appreciate and am drawn to succinctness; I find my opposite most appealing, possibly because I exhaust myself so…..
I met Allison a.k.a. Y’all Taste This at a wine dinner about a year ago. It was then that I started following her on Twitter. Once on Instagram, I found Allison there as well and began to follow her. Allison is what I consider an equal opportunity eater, she and her husband eat out fairly regularly, sharing the food love in and around Miami. But it’s Allison’s (not so) hidden talent for cooking that made me start to pay closer attention to her picture posts. Allison is a fearless and uninhibited home cook with a flair for the whimsy. I began commenting on her meals, with the unimaginative “WOW!” more times than I care to remember, and actually waiting for her to cook something new “this weekend” so I could see what she was up to. What I slowly began to realize was, Allison stirred up some of the old creative juices in me; what I thought was lost and gone forever, was rediscovered with a whole new verve and passion. I started cooking again on the weekends and somewhere out of the blue came the idea for a new segment: The Weekend Kitchen at South Florida Food and Wine.
This week I put out a call for weekend warrior kitchen ninjas and grilling gurus we want to see your food pictures & recipes. I’ve got about six weeks worth of posts but six out of all my followers is a pitiful percentage. So I’m publicly shaming all of you who cook who have not contacted me yet…..you’ll be famous! Now send me your recipes and photos!
I cannot think of a better way to begin this series, The Weekend Kitchen at South Florida Food and Wine than with my inspiration, Allison Riley. Because it’s summer, Allison and I decided to do a salad compilation. Two of her salads are adapted from well known names in the food world and the third salad is an Allison original. All I have to say is, Y’all Taste This
The Weekend Kitchen at South Florida Food and Wine presents Summer Salads by Y’all Taste This
I’m a marketer’s dream. I cannot walk into Whole Foods for lunch without eyeing whatever fresh, seasonal fruit is piled high beckoning me to touch it, smell it, and think about how much I need it. For years, I’d fall for this, buy fruit with the best intentions, take it home, and then I never knew what to do with it. My only ideas were eat it raw, bake a cobbler, or make freezer jam. Then, one day, it occurred to me that I should just use it in salads, and now, that’s my go-to plan for these moments.To say that I use a recipe for these simple summer salads is a bit of overstatement. I’m only making salad for two people most nights, which is generally harder than cooking for a crowd, so instead of a recipe, I’ve developed a basic formula.
- Select your cheese: This is my favorite part of the process. My policy is ALWAYS use a rich, flavorful, high-quality cheese. If you aren’t going to do that, skip the cheese because there’s no point in adding cheese without flavor. I favor parmegiano-reggiano and pungent blue cheeses, but use what you like. Make sure you take your cheese out of the refrigerator before you start so that it has a few minutes to soften before you shave or crumble it into your salad. It will taste better.
- Toast a handful of nuts: I keep walnuts, pecans, and pinenuts in my freezer. I choose one, toss a handful into a small skillet, and toast them. Easy.
- Prep fresh fruit for the salad. My summer favorites are peaches, cherries, and clementines. In the winter, I’ve been known to toss in cubes of leftover roasted butternut squash or beets when fresh fruit isn’t readily available although strawberries are an excellent winter choice here in South Florida.
- Whisk together a vinaigrette in a large bowl that will hold the full salad. Truthfully, I know how to make a proper French Vinaigrette, but I rarely do. I never have a shallot on hand, so it’s generally not a component that makes it into my weeknight dressing. Also, anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I’m not a serious calorie and fat counter, but when it comes to salad, I’d rather use a little more acid and a little less oil. I think it results in better flavor, and as long as you are dressing your greens and serving them immediately, you don’t have to worry about them wilting. Here’s my vinaigrette recipe: 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 tsp Truffle Oil, 1 tbsp Vinegar (sherry, white wine, red wine, balsamic…all good choices and all in my pantry), 1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard, a few grinds of fresh black pepper, and salt to taste.
- Add 5 oz of baby arugula to the big bowl and toss it with the vinaigrette.
- Divide the dressed arugula into two large salad bowls. Top with fruit, nuts, and cheese. Serve.
Oh wait…if you’re me, there is one more step. Roll your eyes when your husband grabs the pepper grinder to add more pepper before he even tastes it. Seriously, I could empty a vat of pepper into the dressing, and he would still add more.
Beet, Tomato and Green Bean Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette by Michael Schwartz, Michael’s Genuine
I fell in love with this salad the first time I tried it at Michael’s Genuine, and since then, it has become a staple salad in my home. It’s perfect in the summer as a light meal. I’ve made it so many times that I don’t even use the recipe anymore, which just proves that it is versatile enough that one can simply throw it together without exact measurement. I generally use a combination of golden beets and red beets to enhance the look and the flavor of the salad, but in the picture, I only used red beets because I had a drawer full of red beets leftover from a juicing binge. The key is to buy the best quality beets, heirloom tomatoes, and haricots verts, and be selective about the blue cheese. (I’m currently obsessed with Valdeon blue cheese from Spain at Whole Foods.) This salad is amazing! Even people who think they don’t like beets try this salad and revel in its flavor.
1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed
1 large red beet, trimmed and rinsed
1 large golden beet, trimmed and rinsed
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup danish blue cheese, crumbled
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook for 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a large bowl. In the same pot of boiling water, add the beets. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes until fork-tender. Transfer the beets to an ice bath. Allow beets to cool in the ice bath for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile make the vinaigrette.
In a small bowl, add the walnuts, onion, mustard, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Whisk together until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Once the beets have completely cooled, rub off the the golden beet skin first with a paper towel. To remove the red beet skin, cover each hand with plastic sandwich bags or rubber gloves to keep your hands from turning red. Cut beets into wedges and add them to the green beans. Add the tomatoes and 1/4 cup of walnut vinaigrette. Toss to coat. Top with blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Store remaining vinaigrette in the fridge up to a week.
Mark Bittman’s Radish Salad
I recently developed an affinity for radishes, and Mark Bittman’s Radish Salad from The Best Recipes in the World has become one of my favorite ways to enjoy them. I like this salad with grilled meats, chicken, or even falafel. It’s a nice refreshing addition to any summer meal. He offers a few options in his recipe. I prefer to use sherry vinegar (he suggests it, fresh lemon juice, or white wine vinegar); I always include orange segments; and I like fresh parsley, instead of cilantro as a garnish. Of course, you can make it your own just like I have.
Combine radishes with salt, and cover with water in a bowl. Let sit 15 minutes. Drain, and rinse. Meanwhile, stir together the pepper and fruit juices.
Toss radishes with dressing and chilies. Taste. Add more salt, pepper or lime juice as needed. Garnish with herb, and serve.