A Toast to Summer

The summer solstice has finally arrived, lagging a few weeks behind the blazing heat this year.  The good news is that the abundant sunshine and warmth have the garden in full bloom ahead of schedule.  The small storage space where my water heater lives is doing double duty as an herb drying cabinet and is already full of fragrant bundles of chamomile, mint, rosemary, thyme, and sage.

To celebrate the official arrival of summer, I’ve brewed up a pitcher of fresh herbal iced tea.  There’s something wonderfully magical about being able to walk through your own garden and pick fresh ingredients to suit your own tastes. Since I can’t share a glass with you, I can at least share my recipe.  Have a blessed Solstice and wonderful summer!

Solstice Celebration Tea

1/4 cup fresh chamomile flowers
1 small sprig peppermint
3 leaves lemon balm
1 stevia leaf

Bring two cups of  water to a boil.  Rinse other ingredients in cold running water and place in a large mug or bowl.  Cover with boiling water and let steep at least ten minutes.  Strain the tea and dilute with additional cold water until desired taste is obtained.  This tea will be light with lots of floral notes punctuated by the cool mint and a hint of citrus flavor.

A note on sweetness: You can add additional stevia leaves if you prefer a sweeter tea or use a stevia based sweetener.  If you prefer cane sugar, you can add to taste while the tea is still hot (or use a simple syrup to sweeten).  Honey can also be used.

Categories: Cooking | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Culinary Creativity One Grill + Three Sweet Potato

Am I the only one who gets bored in the kitchen, peruses through her cookbooks to no avail, and then promptly throws together something off the top of her head?

It happened again this week to me.  I was craving a sweet potato salad from a long-since defunct store in a town where I used to live.  Unable to find anything that even vaguely resembled what I was craving, I dug in my culinary heels and went ten rounds in my kitchen until I had something that, while not the original, was good enough to satisfy my cravings.

Note: When I say sweet potato, I mean the brown-skinned, orange bodied potato.  Some people call them yams, but they technically aren’t the same thing.  Whole raw sweet potatoes can be found in the produce section of most major grocery stores here in the States.  Do not, whatever you do, try to substitute the canned or frozen varieties or you’ll be cleaning a sweet, sticky mess off your BBQ grill.

Grilled Sweet Potato Salad

3 medium fresh sweet potatoes
Sea salt
Olive Oil
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 apple, cored and cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 tablespoons diced red or orange bell pepper

3/4 cup mayo
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fresh minced coriander leaves
1 or 2 finely minced fresh basil leaves
Dash of cayenne pepper (can substitute black pepper)

Leaving the skins on, slice sweet potatoes 3/4″ thick and place in a pot of boiling water.  Cook until they just start to become tender, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.  Remove from water and let drain thoroughly.  Let cool until they can be comfortably handled with bare hands.

In the meantime, mix together all of the dressing ingredients and place in a covered container in the fridge.

When the sweet potatoes have cooled, remove the skins but leave the slices intact.  Brush potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Place on a hot grill and cook for approximately 3 to 5 minutes per side. Cooking time may vary depending on your grill.   Potatoes should be cooked through, but firm enough to hold together when handled.  Remove potatoes from the grill and let cool completely.

Cut the potatoes into 1/2″ cubes.  Mix the cooled potatoes, celery, apple, and bell pepper in a bowl.   Add dressing and toss to coat.  Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.  Best when served the same day.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Categories: Cooking | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Culinary Creativity Comes Full Circle

I had lunch today at my favorite local joint, Early Girl Eatery, and as I tucked into a plate of their fabulous spinach potato cakes, I began to think about culinary creativity. In a fast-food world where some kitchens are virtually abandoned rooms, cooking beautiful, interesting food may be in danger of becoming a lost art. My faith in humanity’s ability to differentiate between mass-produced food and fresh, tasty cuisine is restored whenever I visit places like Early Girl.

In the search for culinary perfection, I am constantly experimenting with recipes and trying new combinations. Any recipe that comes into my kitchen is in danger of being “tweaked” if not entirely revamped. I love looking for ways to make a good dish rise to the level of perfection. Sometimes, I even manage to come close.

There are other times, however, when there’s nothing more to be done to a recipe. For years, I’ve collected various recipes for making fried green tomatoes. Nearly everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line has a preferred method for coating and seasoning these tart green gems. I’ve tried a dozen different methods, tweaking as needed, in search of that perfect combination of crisp crust and tart tomato goodness. I’ve battered, breaded, egged, herbed, and cheesed green tomatoes searching for just the right combination of ingredients.

In the end, I realized that no amount of tweaking or alternative methods can, at least for me, make a better green fried tomato than my grandmother’s. Simple and easy, I inherited this method among her recipes when she died. They’re an early childhood memory for me and let’s face it, nothing is better than the food we grew up with.

So here it is, my idea of the perfect green fried tomato, courtesy of my grandmother:
Slice green tomatoes 1/4″ thick. Dredge in flour, shake off excess. Dip in milk and then dredge in cornmeal. Fry in hot oil until golden, turning once. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt & pepper before serving.

Yep, it’s that simple, no additional creativity needed. 🙂


(Photo credit: rachel is coconut&lime on flickr)

Categories: Cooking | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Blog at