simple summer salad

Simple summer salads are the best thing in the world. Produce is at it’s peak, herbs are fresh, and it doesn’t get better than that.

One of my favorite summer salads are fresh tomatoes, a cucumber, red onion, and a combination of Italian flat leaf parsley, fresh dill, Italian basil and a simple vinaigrette. If I have a sweet red bell pepper I will often add that as well.

To make the vinaigrette it is equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small canning jar. Add salt and pepper to taste, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of sugar.

When I make vinaigrette for a mixed greens salad, I will add Dijon mustard to the above mix.

You can see the size I mean in the photo above. You will only use maybe 3 tablespoons of dressing on the salad, but save the rest for regular lettuce salads and just refrigerate.

Peel and cut your cucumber in half lengthwise. If it is not the English hot house burpless variety, remove the seeds.

Toss cucumber into the bowl.

Slice and rough chop fairly thin about half of a large red onion.

Add onion to the bowl.

Take your tomatoes, cut the core out, and slice into large bite-size pieces. Sort of small wedges. Small enough you don’t need to use a knife to cut your salad, but large enough that the tomato doesn’t disintegrate.

Chiffonade the basil leaves. In layman’s terms, that means gently roll up your basil leaves and create thin ribbons by cutting off “slices” of the rolled basil.

Rough chop the Italian flat leaf parsley, and do the same gently with the fresh dill.

Put all the herbs on top of the salad and give one light toss and then add literally 2 to 3 tablespoons of the salad dressing and mix gently and either serve or cover and refrigerate until serving.

And I almost forgot — fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste!

Leftovers are good for a day afterwards, provided you refrigerate.

This is a totally simple, easy to make salad, and it’s delicious! Thank you to my friend Sara for giving me vegetables from her garden. The herbs in the salad came out of my garden!

Bon appétit!

brandywine in black is april 2nd!

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Time to get out those picnic baskets and find the perfect black black tie outfit! It is time for Brandywine in Black!!!

Fabulous and fun doesn’t even begin to describe it!

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Ok so the details: guests wear black and pack picnic baskets and coolers with their favorite foods and drinks, along with table settings  (don’t forget the candles and flowers!) and go to a fabulous Brandywine Valley location, which is kept secret until the day before the event.  There is dinner, dancing, and prizes for best tables. 10897956_1534592770140358_3460803892338082119_n

It’s an indoor pop up event…In black….in black tie and this year the accent color is yellow, but be careful lest you end up a bumble bee!

There are so many black tie events that are ho hum. This is not one of them. This is a wonderful group of people who are as nice as they are elegantly dressed.

So this year’s event:

Brandywine In Black 2016
Welcome to the Third Annual Brandywine In Black – the Brandywine Valley’s most sought after Pop-Up BYO dinner every year as Spring commences.

This year’s event will be held on Saturday, April 2 beginning at 6pm and ending promptly at 11pm. In keeping things ‘secret’ we’ll announce the location of the event on the morning of Friday, April 1. The event will be indoors.

We’re very excited about this year’s event and spectacular venue but most important our beneficiary organization.

10985616_1534593863473582_3655846880359217771_nThis year’s beneficiary is The Young Friends of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. We’re happy to support this local group promoting our open spaces, conservation and an appreciation for the local arts. The group holds several functions each year reaching out into the community to raise funds for various operating programs. You can learn more at http://www.youngfriends.org.

Also this year, we’ve expanded our ticket capacity. 10985616_1534591926807109_8366187536680059867_nAnd, although the dominant color is Black, this year we’ve added the accent color “Yellow” commensurate with Spring. Last, additions to the Silent Auction will bring some exciting new items for individuals and families.

Stay tuned to our Facebook Page for more information and future announcements!

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Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets. Put together a table or join the community table! I suggest if you put together your own table add the extra service table. And it’s not paper plates and plastic glasses, either. Much like Brandywine in White and Diner en Blanc, it’s fine table linens and real dishes, glasses, and decor. The top secret location will be revealed to event subscribers April 1st!

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This is one event you will love.  The photos seen in this post have been graciously provided by the fine folks at Brandywine in Black/Brandywine in White.

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new spin on summer salad staple

 So bean salad is a summer staple. One bean, two bean, three bean and more.

I decided to change it up. I took half a bag each of Goya dried navy beans and pinto beans yesterday and put them in to soak with salt and water overnight. I then cooked them according to directions on their packaging this morning.

While the beans were cooling I minced three large cloves of garlic, chopped fine one large red onion, chopped one fresh red bell pepper, peeled and chopped one fresh cucumber, and tossed into a bowl.

To that bowl I added salt and pepper to taste, 3 tablespoons of white table sugar , a bunch of fresh dill chopped, and a third of a cup of Italian flat leaf parsley chopped.

I mixed the salt and pepper, herbs and spices, along with the vegetables and drizzled olive oil and rice wine vinegar and red wine vinegar over the top of it and stirred some more.  I always add more vinegar than oil to bean salads.

I should’ve measured exactly how much oil and vinegar but I didn’t I’m sorry- you want basically enough that your salad gets coated and sort of pickled  but not enough that it swimming in dressing.

Last but not least I tossed in the beans which I had drained and mixed everything together, as well as adjusted for salt and pepper. I will now chill the salad down until this evening but it looks beautiful and tastes terrific!

coffee talk: gourmesso

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So I am an Espresso maniac. I make it old school in the stove top pot, but I do love my Nespresso machine. I am a purist and I do not drink flavored coffees or espressos. The flavored coffees and espressos leave a metallic taste in my mouth. I like the straight bean varietals.

What I do not like about my Nespresso machine is how expensive the name brand Nespresso capsules are. So I have been trying different brand compatible capsules again. I have discovered yet another brand. It is called Gourmesso.

Gourmesso describes themselves as “Italian passion for coffee, combines with German Ingenuity”. At first that made me giggle as I had visions of an Alpha Romeo with a Mercedes Benz engine. However, I had their espresso yesterday for the first time and oh my, it’s not just good. It’s excellent.

The capsules arrive in little boxes and are vacuum packed in little foil packets, a few to each packet. Yesterday I had “Bolivia Pura Mezzo“. My first cup was a straight shot of espresso (pictured above). It was deep and rich and smooth and flavorful. It had that real espresso taste.

And the Gourmesso capsules fit the machine well. I had a second cup that was more my normal Café au lait or cappuccino style – I admit it I have a milk frother and warmer too- Nespresso Aeroccino Plus. (Normally I only have one cup of coffee, this coffee is good enough to tempt me to two!)

I haven’t decided what flavor I am trying this morning. You can order straight from their website www.gourmesso.com and their capsules are on Amazon.com as well. Their capsules start at around $0.45 per capsule. That is a much better deal than Nespresso brand capsules which start at $0.65 per capsule for the traditional capsules.

Ok well I am off to find coffee! Try Gourmesso and let me know what you think!

Thanks for stopping by!

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summer luncheon

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Today I had a very dear friend over for lunch whom I hadn’t seen in forever. One of my favorite people, she is actually a mom of one of my friends. (And I love that my friend will share her on occasion!)

I wanted to do something special so I had a lot of fun playing with Depression Glass today for my table setting. I have collected this stuff over the years at church sales and flea markets and the Smithfield Barn. The cute napkin rings are a bit of vintage fun and came from Garage Sale Chic Chester County which is now part of Home Eclective in Downingtown.)

Anyway I wanted to make a ladies who luncheon kind of lunch, so I did. I started with Kendall’s Gazpacho, and also served my twist on chicken salad and a new potato salad in a mustardy dressing.

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And yes….approximate recipes are right here:

Chicken Salad with a Twist

Boil 3 bone in chicken breasts in water and sea salt. ( when cooled, I put the broth in small containers and freeze for later use).

When chicken is cooked, allow to cool. Remove skin and bones from breasts and discard. Next chop up the chicken into bite sized pieces.

Then, chop fine: 1 medium sized or small red onion, 3 stalks of celery hearts, fresh herbs (I used dill, tarragon, basil, Italian flat leaf parsley.)

In a bowl whisk together mayonnaise to taste, olive oil, red wine vinegar, a couple dashes of Garam Masala, salt and pepper. Also add a tablespoon of orange marmalade with any peel minced fine. (For me this was easy because my friend Sara had given me homemade orange marmalade that is not dense so I was able to spoon out a tablespoon of the jelly without the peel. The olive oil and wine vinegar is not so much, about 3 tablespoons each and maybe 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. Whisk together.

Combine all in a bowl and toss in a 1/2 cup of black or white seedless raisins. Mix and chill.

 

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Roasted Potato Salad

Roast 1 1/3 pounds of small or new potatoes in a 400 degree oven with 1 head of garlic whole but topped (drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste) for about 30 minutes give or take a few minutes.

You only want potatoes cooked and firm, not super crunchy and overly brown. I picked potatoes large enough to slice in half, did not peel them, and cooked them in a flat baking pan lined with parchment.

Meanwhile cook 4 oz of pepper coated bacon and crumble.(They have this amazing bacon at Pete’s Produce in Westtown that I used.)

Dice three stalks of celery heart stalks, 3 shallots, and one cucumber peeled and seeded. (Some people are cucumber sensitive so I have taken to scooping out the seeds as some have told me they like that better.)

Chop fine a bunch of fresh herbs- I used tarragon, chives, basil, dill, and Italian flat leaf parsley.

In a small bowl put half of the cloves on the head of roasted garlic minced, grainy mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little mayonnaise. Whisk it together and add a little salt and pepper to taste.

Combine everything, toss, and refrigerate.

 

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much ado about chicken

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The humble roast chicken. A backbone of American cuisine. I am one of those people that loves roasted chicken. But I need to spice it up a little and not just roast it in the style of Julia Child all of the time.

So I have been experimenting with marinades that use plain Greek yogurt as a base. My favorite plain Greek yogurt is the Fage brand.

As I am especially pleased with today’s marinade so I thought I would share the approximate ingredients:

1 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
Salt to taste (kosher is best in my opinion)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Dash or two of hot sauce/Tabasco

Combine marinade a greedy ingredients in a small bowl whisk well, taste for salt and set aside.

Take a 4 1/2 to 5 pound roasting chicken and butterfly it – basically you are cutting it in half and spreading it open so it lies flat.

Take butterflied chicken, put it in a large Ziploc freezer bag and dump the marinade on top. Squeeze all the air out of the bag and seal the bag and smoosh the marinade around. I then put this bag in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator for anywhere from five hours to overnight. I periodically smoosh the marinade around in the bag and turn the bag over so it coats evenly.

When ready to cook bring your chicken out of the refrigerator and remove from marinade and lay out flat in a roasting pan lined with onion slices. Discard the rest of the marinade. It has had raw poultry and it so you can’t use marinade for anything else.

The chicken goes into a preheated 350° oven skin side up and flat out for approximately 15 minutes per pound at 350° . I actually use a meat thermometer to check for proper doneness with poultry.

The chicken is delicious when you use a yogurt marinade. I will serve this with something like roasted carrots and a salad, or a wild rice mixture and a salad, or oven roasted potatoes and a salad.

Enjoy!

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my chocolate chip cookies

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I have always loved chocolate chip cookies. I have spent the last 25 years tweaking this recipe, which is mine and not anyone else’s.

My friend Ann asked me to share my recipe. So I thought I would.

It has been a terrific pre-Christmas day I have been baking most of the day, and I also had a visit with my childhood friend and former neighbor Alexandra. We sat and drank coffee and caught up as I baked. She lives in upstate New York now, and comes down periodically to visit her family who live locally.

Truly it was a perfect afternoon. I just love days like this.

Here’s the recipe:

Deluxe Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pre-heat oven to 375° F

2 cups flour
1/2 cup miller’s bran (coarse wheat bran – fluffy and adds fiber)
1 level teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (not sea salt )
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 sticks or half pound sweet butter room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 12 oz bag semi sweet chocolate chips

1 6 oz bag milk or white or extra dark chocolate chips (your choice)

1 cup chopped or crushed pecans (I make my own out of pecan halves – the trick is not big pieces but not ground)

2 crushed Heath bars or Hersheys Skor bars (optional)

Directions :

Measure out your nuts, chocolate chips, and Heath bars (if you are using them) in a bowl by themselves and set aside.

Measure out all your OTHER dry ingredients EXCEPT the bran and mix together in a bowl and set aside.

Get out another bowl for the wet ingredients.

Using your mixer cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and almond extract at low-speed and mix well. Add eggs one at the time at low speed.

Add bran by itself to the creamed mixture

When everything looks creamed not curdled, slowly add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt about a half a cup at a time, mixing it low-speed. You will end up possibly having to mix this with a wooden spoon it may get too heavy for the mixer.

Stir/fold in the nuts, candy, chocolate chips.

Refrigerate dough at least one hour covered so it doesn’t dry out.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Doughballs should be approximately 2 inches apart on the sheet. That means for each cookie sheet you will get 12 cookies.

Bake at 375° for 10 to 11 minutes. Check on your cookies so they don’t over brown on the bottom. If your oven is uneven you may have to rotate your cookie sheets halfway through baking.

When the cookies look slightly brown on the edges but golden and perfect in the center after 10 or 11 minutes, pull them out and allow them to cool for approximately five minutes before removing from the cookie sheet. Put the cookies on a wire rack to cool before putting in a tin.

You must cool cookies properly before placing in a tin because otherwise they will break before they are cool.

Enjoy!