Arugula Salad with Peaches, Avocado, Feta, Nuts


This is a celebratory salad.

It’s for those times when something exciting happens–Germany wins the World Cup AND you now own a couch AND a patio table, all in one weekend. Or, it’s for those times when it’s too hot to cook and you just want, no, need, something light and cool on your table, something quick but filling, and full of good-for-you things.

Four months in, our apartment is almost a home now, in time for both our families to visit in the next few weeks. Having a couch makes the living room feel like it should, though, I’ll admit, I’ve still been cuddling with pup on her dog couch/futon mattress, especially as she recovers from anesthesia and a tooth extraction. We purchased the IKEA Ektorp sofa in black because of the dog hair, but also because the fabric was on clearance so the couch was significantly cheaper. Have you ever wondered what a couch from IKEA looks like before it’s assembled?

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Molly Wizenberg’s Bread Salad with Cherries, Arugula and Goat Cheese


Books are piling up on the shelf and beside my bed again this summer. It’s nice–I’ve missed them. Many are related to food, others are thriftstore finds, and two are quick picks meant to fill the hours on my recent cross-country flight to visit my family for the Fourth.

My favorites so far–and if you’ve read them, you’ll understand–are Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life and the just-published Delancey, which chronicles the birth of their Seattle pizza restaurant. Recipes mix with stories of family, love, challenges and of course, food. So many pages are now dogeared, but the first recipe I tried was a simple one, a mealtime salad, one that reaffirms that salad shouldn’t be a swear word. “It’s handsome, delicious, and a little messy, like most good things in this life.”

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Fresh Corn Custards

Corn on the cob in the middle of summer is sweet and juicy and perfect. I like it best simply prepared, just grilled in the husks for 10-15 minutes, until the outside starts to get brown and the kernels get steamed. Good corn may not even need butter or seasonings. But I’m also a big fan of corn cooked with milk and eggs into individual custards.

Here’s a great recipe from Cooking Light that my mom has used for years, and that I always look forward to enjoying 🙂

Fresh Corn Custards

  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels (about 6 ears), divided
  • 2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten $
  • Cooking spray
  • Fresh chives (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Bring 2 cups corn and milk to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat; cook 20 minutes, and cool. Pour corn mixture into a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Strain mixture through a sieve over a large bowl. Discard solids. Add salt, pepper, and eggs to corn mixture; stir well with a whisk.

Divide remaining 1 cup corn evenly among 6 (6-ounce) ramekins generously coated with cooking spray, and top each with 1/3 cup corn mixture.

Place the ramekins in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan, and add hot water to pan to a depth of 1 inch. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until the center barely moves when the ramekin is touched. Remove the ramekins from pan, and cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Invert custards. Garnish with fresh chives, if desired. Enjoy!

Gazpacho: cool soup for hot days

Walking the hot streets of Madrid and Valencia on my family’s trip to Spain last summer, all we could think about was drinking something cool — or eating it. While I just wanted to stop at every “100 Bocaditos” cerveceria we saw for huge 2 euro mugs of “tinto verano” (basically red wine and sprite, already mixed on tap), my dad was often on the hunt for a good gazpacho, a Spanish specialty, for good reason during the summer heat.

The cool bowls of healthy tomato and cucumber soup would offer a refreshment like no other. I wasn’t quite sure what I thought of the dish last summer, but a co-worker brought in a batch to work one day recently. He’s a great cook — and I was hooked.

After I made a batch for myself last week, I asked my dad about why he liked gazpacho so much. Here’s what he wrote back to me:

I first had gazpacho in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico back in high school in the ’70s. We went there to see the Mayan pyramids and ruins. Like Spain, it was also very hot there in the summer. Went out to dinner with Mom and Dad and had wonderful gazpacho, so cooling to drink that cold soup on a hot night. Along with Mexican and Spanish fare, there was a lot of Turkish food because the area grew hemp for ropemaking and Turks came over to make rope. So I remembered having gazpacho, shish kabobs (I think) and wonderful Turkish coffee in little cups full of grounds. The restaurant was built around a central open patio to help with cooling (no AC) and we dined outside on such a hot night. Dad lived a pretty simple lifestyle but he loved to travel and see new places and especially enjoy unique restaurants along the way. I’ve had quite a few gazpachos since then but none as good as the one in Mexico.

Here’s the recipe I used from my co-worker (and frequent restaurant reviewer). It’s from Cook’s Illustrated, and is quite simple once you chop up all the fresh veggies. Tomato juice creates a good base, offering more flavor than just the tomatoes on their own.

from Cook’s Illustrated (makes a lot! You may want to halve the recipe if you’re cooking for fewer) 

  • 3 ripe medium beefsteak tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • 2 small cucumbers (about 1 pound), one peeled and the other with skin on, both seeded and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 small sweet onion (such as Vidalia, Maui, or Walla Walla) minced or chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1/3 cup sherry vinegar
  • Ground black pepper
  • 5 cups tomato juice Cook’s recommends Welch’s
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
  • 8 ice cubes
  • Possible garnishes: chopped avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, chopped olives, croutons, hard-boiled egg

Combine the tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic, salt, vinegar, and pepper in a large (at least 4-quart) nonreactive bowl. Let stand until the vegetables just begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato juice, hot pepper sauce, if using, and ice cubes. Cover and refrigerate to blend flavors, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.

Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper and remove and discard any unmelted ice cubes. Serve cold, drizzling each portion with about 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil and topping with the desired garnishes.

What else do you like to do with tomatoes? Here are some ideas and a recipe for green bean and tomato salad with goat cheese.

Can you can?

My mom’s always had us help make strawberry and peach jam, along with canned peaches. But really being on my own for the first time has made me appreciate local produce that I can pick up at the farmers’ market down the street. I want to be able to enjoy these things once summer ends and temperatures drop, so I figured I’d give canning a shot.

Here’s a sneak peak of one of the things I’ve made this week. Come back for a full post on what recipes I’ve tried, and to find out how many pots I had simmering on my stove top all at the same time!