Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: watermelon

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The desserts below are perfect for summer. They are refreshing and keep well in the freezer. I like to make these types of desserts to have on hand in the freezer for family and company. They can be made on cooler days and they taste so good on a hot day. Of course, what could be better than a cookies and ice cream combination.

Watermelon Basil Sorbet

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3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 cups yellow watermelon cut into small cubes (outer skin and seeds removed)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large sprig of fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons meringue powder plus 2 tablespoons water

Directions

Cut up the melon and place in a big ziplock bag. Freeze overnight.

Whisk together the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium/high heat until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from the heat, add the basil and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Remove the basil and chill the syrup.

In a small bowl, whisk together the meringue powder and water. Whisk until you create a lot of foam.

This is an egg white substitute. You could use egg whites if you prefer, but since they are not cooked in this recipe, it is safer to use the substitute. This adds a creamy texture to the sorbet.

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In a food processor, combine the frozen fruit, chilled syrup and egg white mixture. Blend just until smooth.

Sorbet is ready to serve right out of the food processor. If you don’t plan to consume it right away, be sure to store it in the freezer.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Rounds

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32 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup finely ground pecans (pecan meal)

Directions

Heat to oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar.

Add the remaining ingredients. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Place a large piece of plastic wrap on the kitchen counter. Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap. Form the mixture into a log on the plastic wrap.

Wrap the dough in plastic and roll the dough a few times to make an even log. Refrigerate for an hour.

Cut the log into ¼ inch slices and place on the prepared baking pans an inch apart.

Bake the cookies 20 minutes, switching the pans on the racks after 10 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the pans ten minutes and then remove them to a cooling rack.

Easy Oatmeal Cookies

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Makes 18 large cookies

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries)

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour through fruit) in a large bowl.

Combine the wet ingredients (butter through egg) in a measuring cup.

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Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until combined using a wooden spoon or spatula.

Using a small muffin scoop or 3 tablespoons for each cookie, form into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten the cookies slightly.

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Bake 10 minutes, switch the pans on the racks and bake for 10 more minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Peach Almond Sundae

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vanilla frozen yogurt, softened
  • 2 cups chopped peaches, peeled 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 8 amaretti cookies, crushed
  • 1 cup whipped cream

Directions

 Cut the peaches into 1/2-inch-thick slices and cut the slices in half.

In a mixing bowl, combine the peaches, brown sugar and amaretto. Cover and chill until serving time.

In each of four dessert dishes, layer the ingredients in the following way: 1 cup frozen yogurt, ¼ of the peach mixture and 1/4 cup whipped cream. Sprinkle a crushed amaretti cookie on top. 

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Summer is a great time for tomatoes. This is when they are at their best – deep red, juicy and intense in flavor. There are Beefsteak, Roma, Vine-Ripened, Grape, Cherry, Heirloom and so many other types of tomatoes. Each has their own flavor and each can be used in multiple ways.

Perhaps you grow tomatoes, or you are the lucky recipient of someone who has too many to use or maybe you are indulging in the bounty at the farmers’ market. However, you come by your tomatoes, now is the perfect time to try new and exciting things with them. Of course, you know, you can use fresh tomatoes to make tomato sauce, salsa or bruschetta and, you know, they taste great in salads and sandwiches. Below are a few different ways to use up some of your tomatoes.

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Tomato, Watermelon and Feta Appetizer

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen skewers

Ingredients

  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups 1-inch watermelon cubes
  • 4 ounces whole feta cheese, cut into 18 cubes
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 18 (3-inch) wooden skewers
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

In a large bowl, place the tomatoes, watermelon, lime juice, mint, salt and pepper. Gently toss the ingredients, cover the bowl and chill 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Thread 1 tomato piece, 1 watermelon cube and 1 feta cube onto a skewer and place on a serving platter. Repeat with remaining skewers.

Drizzle with the remaining marinade in the bowl and a little olive oil. Serve immediately.

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Chilled Green Tomato Soup with Crab Meat

Have green tomatoes? Here is something to make instead of fried green tomatoes.

Makes about 3 quarts

Ingredients

  • 1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 pounds firm green tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 14 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, stems removed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 2 small hot peppers, seeded and sliced
  • Lump crab meat

Directions

Melt butter with oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; add onions and cook, stirring often, 15 minutes. Add celery and chopped green bell pepper; cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes are tender. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Stir in arugula, basil and parsley. Let cool 30 minutes.

Process soup with an immersion blender in the pot or, in batches, in a food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and hot sauce and add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours.

Ladle chilled soup into serving bowls and top each serving with some crab meat and a few slices of hot peppers.

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Fresh Mozzarella, Corn and Tomato Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 4 ears corn-on-the-cob, in the husk
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 lb (8 oz) plum (Roma) tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes, optional
  • 10 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 5 cups baby arugula, spinach or romaine lettuce for serving

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Soak corn in the sink or in a bowl filled with cold water for 15 minutes.

Prepare vinaigrette by whisking together oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, chives, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Once the corn has soaked, place it on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 25 minutes or until the corn kernels are tender.

Cool to room temperature; then discard husks and silks. Cut the kernels off the cobs and put them in a large serving bowl. Add mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, avocado, if using, and basil.

Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Toss gently to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed, and serve over a bed of greens.

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Fresh Tomato Cheese Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes (You will need enough to make 2 layers)
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine bread crumbs, flour, butter and salt in a food processor until dough comes together.

Using your hands, press the dough into a 10-inch tart pan or pie plate. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.

Slice the tomatoes thinly and place on paper towels. Lightly sprinkle the tomatoes with salt so they can release their juices and set aside.

In a food processor, combine ricotta, mozzarella, eggs and basil leaves just until blended.

Top the baked tart shell with a layer of tomatoes followed by the cheese filling.

Top with another layer of sliced tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake the tart until golden brown and set in center, 45 to 55 minutes.

Let rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting.

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Pasta with Hot Italian Sausage and Fresh Tomatoes

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound(12 oz) farfalle (bowtie) pasta or your favorite short pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves torn into pieces
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved or shredded
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and toss with the olive oil. Set aside.

Preheat a large skillet. Cut the casing off the sausage and add it to the pan, crumbling it into small pieces.

Add garlic and cook until the sausage is browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes.

Add cooked sausage to the pasta with the basil, tomatoes, cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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I always grow way too much basil. As soon as the weather is hot, these plants grow like weeds. I don’t like to see the leaves turn brown and wither, so I am constantly thinking of ways to use this wonderful scented herb. Of course, there is always basil pesto in my refrigerator or freezer, of which I make plenty. It is wonderful in the winter on spaghetti. But just using basil for pesto all summer gets boring.

Basil is the perfect complement to tomatoes, olives, olive oil, capers, garlic, cheese and summer vegetables. Serve it slivered over thick tomato slices with a drizzle of olive oil or serve it sandwiched between thick slices of fresh mozzarella and fresh tomato with a sprinkling of pine nuts, capers and a drizzle of olive oil.

Here are some of the ways I try to make use of this flavorful herb.

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Fresh Tomato and Basil Dressing

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Serve this light dressing over a fresh green salad with a slice of warm garlic bread on the side.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

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Tomato, Watermelon and Basil Appetizer

:6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) watermelon, cut into 32 (1 1/2-inch cubes)
  • 32 small basil leaves (or torn larger leaves)
  • 16 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 16 (6-inch) skewers

Directions

Combine the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

Starting with the watermelon squares, push the watermelon to the very tip of the skewer, then skewer a basil leaf; then a tomato half. Continue with another watermelon, basil leaf and tomato half. Place the skewer on a serving platter so it stands upright, using the lowest watermelon square as a base. Continue with the remaining skewers.

Drizzle the skewers with the reserved balsamic syrup and the olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Serve.

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Chilled Basil Melon Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chopped honeydew
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup lime juice, plus more to taste

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a blender and purée, stirring often, until very smooth. Transfer to bowls and serve. Alternately, transfer to a container, cover and chill before serving.

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Basil, Olives, and Fresh MozzarellaSpaghetti with Tomatoes, Basil, Olives and Fresh Mozzarella

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives, halved
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 6), chopped
  • 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch cubes, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped fresh basil

Directions

In a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes with the mozzarella, basil, olives, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until just al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain, add to the tomato mixture and toss.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour the oil over the pasta and toss again. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

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Brown Rice Salad

This salad makes an excellent side to grilled fish or meat.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups cooked long-grained brown rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped seedless cucumber
  • 1/2 cup sliced radishes
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup frozen and thawed peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a jar. Shake vigorously. 

Put the cooked rice and vegetables into a large serving bowl and toss gently to combine. Add the dressing and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.

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Steak with Italian Salsa Verde

Serves 4 to 6

You’ll have some salsa verde left over, so enjoy it on chicken, fish or vegetables as well as the beef in this recipe. This is a sauce you will want to have on hand, so I would even double the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 anchovy fillet, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak
  • 5 cups baby field greens

Directions

In a food processor, purée the parsley, basil, garlic, capers and the anchovy fillet. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the olive oil, pulsing until completely combined. Add lime juice and pepper. Process until blended and the sauce is smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. The anchovy will contribute salt, so additional salt may not be needed. Set sauce aside.

Season the steak with salt and pepper and grill, broil or pan fry to your liking. Slice it thinly and drizzle with salsa verde. Serve over greens.

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Lemon Basil Sherbet

Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 1 cup half-and-half or light cream
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Juice of 3 lemons, chilled
  • Pinch fine sea salt

Directions

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the half-and-half, sugar, honey and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and add 4 whole basil leaves. Using the back of a large spoon or ladle, bruise the basil leaves against the bottom of the pot. Cover and let steep 15 minutes.

Remove the basil leaves and discard, then whisk in the milk. Place the mixture in an ice-water bath or refrigerate until completely chilled.

Slice the remaining 4 basil leaves in very thin strips. Whisk the lemon juice into the chilled sherbet base, add the sea salt and stir in the sliced basil. Taste for sweetness; adjust by adding an additional tablespoon or two of honey, if needed.

Freeze the sherbet mixture in an ice-cream maker, following manufacturer’s instructions. For optimal flavor and texture, freeze the sherbet for a couple of hours before serving.

 


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Looking for a quick snack or an easy dish to make for a picnic, barbecue or party, fruit salad is a great option.

A few additions to a fruit salad can go a long way in adding color, flavor and uniqueness. A squeeze of fresh citrus juice prevents browning in some fruits and adds a bright flavor that will help balance out the sweetness of the fruit. Similarly, a chiffonade of fresh herbs (like mint, basil or cilantro) elevates and enhances a dish of fruit.

When making a fruit salad think about flavors that will complement and balance the sweetness (or sourness) of the fruit you are using. Smoky, spicy and salty flavors work well with very sweet fruits like berries or melon. A homemade simple ginger syrup complements tart fruits like pineapple.

To make the ginger syrup:

Bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add 1 piece (about 4 ounces and 10 inches long or use several small pieces) of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin rounds. Bring to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let steep 30 minutes. Pour syrup through a fine sieve into an airtight container; discard ginger. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

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Fruit and Herb Salad

For the salad:

  • 1 pint strawberries, stemmed and halved
  • 1 half-pint raspberries
  • 1 half-pint blueberries
  • 2 oranges, peeled and cut into sections
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup cantaloupe or honeydew melon chunks
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, julienned, for garnish

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Directions

Combine all of the fruit in a large attractive serving bowl. Refrigerate.

For the syrup:

Bring the water to a boil, add the sugar and then the mint. Boil until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes.

Strain through a colander into a bowl. Let the syrup cool.

Gently combine the cooled syrup with the fruit just before serving.

Garnish with mint and serve immediately.

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Wine Soaked Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • 2 cups rosé wine
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups strawberries, tops removed and halved
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • Mascarpone cheese for garnish

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, Grand Marnier and both wines. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Next, add in all of the fruit, making sure that all the pieces are submerged in the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To serve:

Use a slotted spoon to remove the wine soaked fruit to individual dessert bowls. Top with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and serve.

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Basil Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (4 cups)
  • 3 cups seedless green grapes, halved
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

In a large bowl combine the watermelon, grapes, blueberries and basil.

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar and honey and drizzle over the fruit. Stir gently to coat.

Cover and chill for up to 8 hours.

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Melon, Berry and Cheese Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced preserved lemon peel or lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 honeydew melon (about 1 1/4 pounds)—halved, cut into wedges, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cantaloupe melon (about 1 1/4 pounds)—halved, cut into wedges, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 2 ounces ricotta salata, parmigiano-reggiano or feta cheese, cut into thin slices
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, preserved lemon, crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the melon slices and blackberries on a large serving platter.

Drizzle the dressing over the fruit. Garnish the salad with cheese, snipped chives and serve.

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Red Fruit Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound cherries, pitted and cut in half
  • 1/2 pound seedless red grapes, cut in half
  • 1 pound strawberries, cored and cut in half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Juice and zest of half a lemon
  • Mint for garnish, optional

Directions

Combine the fruit in a large bowl.

Toast the coriander seeds until fragrant in a dry skillet, then crush in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder until finely ground. Work the sugar into the coriander one tablespoon at a time.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the fruit along with the lemon zest and toss gently with your hands. Season with the lemon juice.

Set aside for at least ten minutes or even overnight before serving.

Add mint if you like it before serving.


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One of the most common ways that Italians show their pride is by wearing or displaying the national colors (red, white and green). National pride might also explain why the similarly colored watermelon is so popular in Italy and why it’s not uncommon to see street vendors selling wedges of watermelon during summer festivals and other celebrations.

Watermelon also plays a key role in many Italian holidays. During the Assumption Day celebrations – a major religious holiday observed throughout Italy – a watermelon feast is held in Venice to help “keep community ties.” In the Italian city of Villa Lagarina, legend has it that when a truckload of watermelon arrived in the 1920s, the townsfolk were astonished by the look of the fruit and placed the bounty in the fountain at the center of town. The tradition continues to this day with the “watermelon fountain” being filled each year during the three-day celebration.

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Watermelons are about 93% water, the highest water content of all fruits. They are also rich in potassium, one of the elements the body loses through sweating, as well as vitamins A and C. Watermelon’s sweetness is due in large part to some of the aromatic compounds it contains, yet they are low in calories. Watermelons originated in Tropical Africa and are in the same family that also includes cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. They were first cultivated by the Egyptians thousands of years ago and arrived in Europe in the 1200s with the returning Crusaders.

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People quickly realized the value of this fruit during the summer months and, as they became known amongst the country folk, they picked up local names: Anguria in much of Northern Italy, Cocomero in Tuscany and Melone D’Acqua (water melon) in parts of the south, especially around Naples. Their popularity continues and the annual Italian watermelon crop is between 550 and 600,000 metric tons, which translates to about 100 million watermelons. They first appear in the Italian markets in May and the season lasts until the beginning of September.

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Growing watermelons can be complicated. Not only because there are three basic types: normal, hybrid and seedless but each type needs a different culture. Watermelons need healthy, warm soil. Once the seeds are pollinated and there is sufficient heat, a watermelon will mature in about four months. Another important consideration is the fact that watermelon vines appreciate sufficient water, but overwatering can be a problem if the vines are not grown on fast draining sandy soils. Probably the single most common modern cultural practice in watermelon culture is the use of black plastic to cover the raised beds on which the melon plants are planted. The black plastic heats up the soil and this is quite beneficial. Watermelon fruits produced on black plastic will usually produce earlier and more quickly and with sweeter fruits.

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In Italy, many growers now grow watermelons in polytunnels – a tunnel made of polyethylene, usually semi-circular, square or elongated in shape. The tunnels significantly improve the speed of growth and sweetness of the fruits, as well as protecting the fruits from physical damage. Growers who use polytunnels are almost obligated to hand-pollinate, just because attracting enough bees inside the tunnels is a difficult task.

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Italian Watermelon Ice

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3-pound piece chilled watermelon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a small saucepan simmer the water with the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the syrup to a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir occasionally until the syrup until cold.

Discard the rind from watermelon and cut the fruit into 1-inch chunks. In a blender purée the watermelon chunks, syrup and lemon juice. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a 9-inch square metal baking pan, pressing hard on the solids in the sieve. Freeze the mixture, covered, until frozen, about 6 to 8 hours. The mixture can be left in the freezer for 2 days. Just before serving, scrape the watermelon ice with a fork to lighten texture and break up ice crystals. Serve in the traditional paper cups.

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Watermelon Smoothie

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups watermelon cubes
  • 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 2 pinches ground cardamom

Directions

Combine the ingredients in a blender and purée. Serve immediately.

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Watermelon Salad with Hot Pepper and Basil

Ingredients

Makes 4 cups

  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 3/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup seedless grapes, quartered
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced hot chili peppers
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Allow the flavors to blend before serving.

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Grilled Chicken Topped with Watermelon Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized chicken breasts
  • 1/2 small watermelon, cut into large cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 Lemon, zested
  • 4 tomatoes, diced into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped
  • 4 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
  • Half of a small eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the grill
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat an outdoor or indoor grill. Brush with olive oil. Brush the chicken and eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken on each side for 5-6 minutes, or until cooked to 165 degrees F. Remove chicken to a clean plate to cool. Cook the eggplant about 2 minutes on each side, remove to a cutting board and cut into small dice.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, then add the diced eggplant, paprika, cumin and lemon zest. Cook for another minute.

Remove to a large bowl and add the fresh tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes and mix gently. Stir in the parsley leaves, watermelon and feta.

Cut chicken breast into thin slices and place on individual plates. Evenly divide the tomato watermelon salad between the plates.

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Grilled Tuna with Watermelon Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 5 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steaks, cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped seeded watermelon
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow or orange sweet bell pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Directions

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the ground oregano, the lime peel, lime juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper and the salt. Pour over the fish in the bag; turn to coat fish. Seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

For the salsa:

In a small bowl, combine the chopped watermelon, bell pepper, green onion, mint and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Set aside.

Drain fish, discarding marinade.

For a charcoal grill, grill fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 6 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, gently turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on the greased grill rack over  direct heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Serve fish topped with watermelon mixture. If desired, serve with lime wedges.


whatsfordinner

Things that are fun in the summertime: going to outdoor concerts, attending fairs and festivals, walking in the park and relaxing at the pool. Something that’s not fun in the summertime: spending time cooking, especially in front of a hot stove. Here are a week’s worth of healthy recipes you can make for dinner pretty quickly.

Monday

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Farmers’ Market Pasta Salad

8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup diced firm, ripe fresh peaches (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • Parmesan Vinaigrette, recipe below
  • 6-oz penne pasta
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 10 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup torn fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup torn fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Toss together the first 6 ingredients and half of the dressing in a large bowl and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions.

Add hot the cooked pasta, chicken and basil to the vegetable mixture; toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a serving platter and top with parsley. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette.

Parmesan Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Directions

Process Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, garlic, pepper and salt in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add basil and cilantro; pulse 5 or 6 times or just until blended.

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Carrot Spice Muffins

Make these when you have time and store them in the freezer for when you need them.

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup low fat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots (about 3)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick spray or use muffin liners.

Mix together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the liquid ingredients. Add the liquid to the dry and mix just long enough to combine.

Add the carrots and stir to combine.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups–it will be very thick. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Tuesday

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Salmon Cucumber Boats

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 6 oz canned pink salmon, drained or leftover cooked fresh salmon
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled

Directions

Combine the first six ingredients. Halve cucumbers lengthwise, remove seeds in each half and stuff with salmon mixture. Chill.

Salad with Tangerines

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh lettuce or spinach, torn into bite size pieces (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 seedless tangerine, peeled, pith removed and sectioned
  • 1/2 cup toasted nuts, coarsely chopped

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a large bowl, combine lettuce, tangerines and nuts.

In a medium bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until well combined. Toss with salad mixture and serve.

Wednesday

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Chilled Tomato Soup with Melon

  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 of small melon, such as cantaloupe or honeydew, plus a wedge of seedless watermelon
  • 1/4 cup chopped seedless cucumber, optional
  • Basil pesto, thinned with a little water for garnish

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the tomatoes with the olive oil, basil, garlic, vinegar and sugar. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook over low heat until hot but not boiling, about 10 minutes.

Pass the soup through the fine disk of a food mill into a medium bowl to remove the tomato seeds and skin.

Cover the bowl and chill the soup in the refrigerator overnight or quick-chill it by setting the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water.

Cut the melons into 1/2-inch dice. Pour the soup into bowls. Garnish with the melon, cucumber, if using and drizzle with the thinned basil pesto sauce and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The tomato soup can be refrigerated for 1 day without the garnishes.

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Grilled Shrimp Pita

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for brushing grill
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 3/4 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 2 cucumbers (about 1 pound), peeled
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 small red onion, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rings
  • 4 whole-grain flat breads (pita)
  • 8 small romaine leaves

Directions

Preheat  an outdoor or indoor grill.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Stir together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon oil and 1 tablespoon each dill and oregano in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to combine. Marinate, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

To make cucumber sauce: Stir together 1/4 cup of the yogurt, half of the garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon dill in a serving bowl. With a vegetable peeler, cut cucumbers into lengthwise ribbons, discarding the seeded core. Toss cucumber ribbons with yogurt mixture and pepper, to taste.

To make yogurt sauce: Combine the remaining 1/2 cup yogurt with remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, remaining 1 tablespoon dill and remaining garlic in a small serving bowl. Season with pepper, to taste.

Toss tomatoes and onion with remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil in a bowl.

Grill shrimp, tomatoes and onion in a lightly oiled well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or grill pan or basket, turning once, 5 minutes or until shrimp are bright pink and cooked through, tomatoes are softened and onion is golden and tender. Transfer to a plate; cover and keep warm.

Grill flat bread until golden brown and slightly crisp. Transfer to 4 serving plates; top evenly with cucumber salad, shrimp, onions tomatoes, and romaine, if desired. Top with yogurt sauce.

Thursday

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Rib-Eye Steak with Pistachio Butter and Asparagus

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons shelled, roasted unsalted pistachios*
  • 1/2 cup arugula, packed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 boneless rib-eye steak ( about 8 oz)
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Process pistachios and arugula in a food processor until minced. Add butter and blend until smooth, scraping down the inside of the bowl as needed. Transfer to a small container and chill.

Heat a charcoal or wood-fired grill to high (450°F to 550°F; you can hold your hand 5 inches the above cooking grate only 2 to 4 seconds).

Coat steaks and asparagus with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill steaks, turning once, until done the way you like it: medium rare or medium.

Grill asparagus in the last few minutes, turning once, until tender-crisp.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board, dollop steaks with butter and tent with foil. Let rest 5 minutes. Slice steak and serve with asparagus.

Make ahead: Chilled Pistachio butter will keepup to 1 week.

*If you can’t find unsalted pistachios, use unsalted butter to balance the salty nuts.

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Fresh Grape Tomato Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Romaine leaves, optional

Directions

Mix tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and garlic powder together in a bowl. Crumble oregano between your fingers to release the flavor and add to the tomatoes; stir to coat. Season with salt. Let flavors marinate before serving, 5 minutes or up to an hour. Serve over a romaine leaf, if desired.

Friday

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Halibut Kebabs with Grilled Bread and Pancetta

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boned and skinned halibut, cut into 2-in. chunks or firm white fish available in your area (such as grouper, swordfish, cod, etc.)
  • 4 cups 1 1/2-in. cubes crusty Italian bread, such as ciabatta
  • 3 ounces pancetta, sliced paper-thin
  • Four – 10 inch metal skewers

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill to medium (350°F to 450°F).

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Add halibut and bread. Toss to coat, then set aside for 5 minutes.

Skewer an end of 1 pancetta strip, then alternate fish and bread cubes on a metal skewer weaving pancetta between them. Repeat 3 times.

Grill kebabs, turning frequently, until fish is cooked through and the bread is slightly charred in places, about 6 minutes. Remove to a serving plate and cover with foil.

Don’t turn off the grill – you will need it to grill some of the ingredients for the salad below.

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Grilled Peach-and-Avocado Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1 large peach, peeled and chopped
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Salad

  • 2 large peaches, peeled, pitted and halved
  • 1 firm avocado, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Dressing

Process 1 large peach, peeled and chopped; 6 tablespoons olive oil; vinegar and honey in a blender until smooth. Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.

Salad

Gently toss 2 large peaches, peeled and halved and avocado in 1 tablespoon olive  oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Grill, covered with the grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or until charred. Slice and serve over arugula. Top with peach vinaigrette and cheese.


summersoup

Summer’s soup recipes are wonderful and on a warm day what could be lovelier than a bowl of cold soup. Summer soup is different from winter soup. Winter soup is heavy, substantial, serious. It sticks to your ribs. But summer soup is light, frivolous, festive. It cools you down from the inside out. And if it is the right soup, it can even be a little bit sweet.

These soups make elegant starters for a dinner yet are just as comfortable for outdoor eating, picnics and barbecues. The hotter the temperature, the cooler the soup needs to be, so add ice cubes or serve in chilled bowls. Not too hot, then serve at room temperature, which also gives soup maximum flavor.

A summer soup made with the bounty from your local farmers market or CSA is a great way to eat healthy and support local growers. Whether you’re using fruits, vegetables or a combination of both, you’re likely to come across some interesting flavors you haven’t experienced before. Flavoring your summer soups with an array of spices will add diversity.

Even though most summer soups are served cold or chilled, most must start out being cooked on the stove. When you can, you might want to do any of the necessary cooking in the cooler morning hours, so you won’t be heating up the kitchen right before mealtime. This strategy will give your soup plenty of time to chill. Chilled soup leftovers make an easy and quick lunch, also.

Cold soups need to chill at least two hours to taste their best at serving time. If you need to chill your soup quickly, place it over ice to cut down on the refrigeration time.

Fruit Soups

Fruit soups are a refreshing way to start or end a summer meal. Berry soups are often a combination of sweet and tart flavors. Tartness is important, since some of the flavor may fade while the soup cools. Buttermilk or yogurt are often used to add a smooth tartness.

Fresh lemon juice is often used to bring out the flavors of the fruit, but be careful when using lemon — too much can turn your soup an unappealing brown. Color is an important aspect of these cool, lively dishes.

Fruit soups are fun to garnish in creative ways, with whole berries, sliced fruit or a bit of sour cream. Soups served this way have visual appeal

Vegetable Soups

Cool summer vegetable soups are a nice variation from serving a salad. They can also be a hearty meal by themselves. Unlike the desired smoothness of a fruit soup, summer vegetable soups are often rich and full of texture. For additional texture, add beans, rice or bread to the mix.

Again, there’s nothing like a summer farmers’ market to offer you an array of vegetables for creating soups: spinach, avocados, cucumber, tomatoes, beets, carrots, corn and asparagus, for example. Any of these creatively combined with herbs and spices in a summer soup will revive your weary taste buds after a long summer day.

Remember, when cooled, some of the flavors of your vegetables may fade, so you need to start with the freshest ingredients you can find. Newly picked vegetables will give you the most satisfying results.

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Blueberry Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries, plus more for garnish
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream, plus extra for garnish

Directions

Combine blueberries, water, cinnamon stick, honey and ginger in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until most of the blueberries have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick. Puree the soup in 2 batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when pureeing hot liquids) or use an immersion hand blender. Place a fine sieve over the pan and pour the soup through it back into the pan, straining out any solids. (Discard the solids.)

Whisk cornstarch and milk in a measuring cup until smooth. Whisk into the blueberry mixture. Bring the soup to a boil over medium heat, stirring. Boil, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, loosely cover and chill until cold, at least 5 hours or up to 2 days.

Just before serving, whisk 1 cup sour cream into the soup and ladle into bowls; top each serving with a dollop of sour cream and swirl it decoratively into the soup. Garnish with additional blueberries, if desired.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare through Step 2 and chill for up to 1 day. The finished soup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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Herbed Zucchini Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, (about 3 medium), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or dill
  • 3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
  • Garnish with fresh herbs and zucchini strips

Directions

Place broth, zucchini and tarragon (or dill) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the zucchini is tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Reheat over medium-high, slowly stirring in cheese until it is incorporated. Remove fromthe  heat and season with salt and pepper. Chill and serve with garnishes.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

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Chilled Melon Soup with Basil

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chopped honeydew melon
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped basil, plus a few leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup lime juice

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a blender and purée, stirring often, until very smooth. Transfer to bowls and serve grnished with basil leaves. Alternately, transfer to a container, cover and chill before serving.

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Chilled Tuscan-Style Tomato Soup

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups (1-inch cubes) country-style Italian bread
  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, each cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Additional basil leaves, for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

In small skillet, heat oil on medium until hot. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring. Remove skillet fromthe  heat.

In food processor pulse bread until coarsely chopped. Add tomatoes and garlic; pulse until soup is almost pureed. Pour soup into a bowl; stir in chopped basil, sugar and salt. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight. Garnish each serving with basil leaves. Makes about 6 cups.

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Peach Soup with Shrimp and Crab

8 servings

Ingredients

Seafood Topping:

  • 8 ounces chopped cooked shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 4 ounces lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon seeded, minced hot fresh pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Soup:

  • 3 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 large limes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup matchstick-cut radishes
  • 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon seeded, minced fresh hot pepper

Directions

To prepare seafood topping:

Combine shrimp and lime juice in a medium bowl; add crab; toss gently to combine. Stir in 3 tablespoons onion and next 4 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt). Chill at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.

To prepare the soup:

Combine peaches, 1/3 cup juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place half of the peach mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed peach mixture into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining peach mixture. Stir in 1/4 cup onion and remaining ingredients. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

To serve: Ladle about 1/2 cup of soup into a shallow bowl and top with 1/4 cup of the seafood topping.

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Cucumber Soup with Watermelon and Mint

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 large cucumbers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 block (1-pound) silken tofu, drained
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons (about 1 lemon) lemon juice
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, stems removed, chopped and divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups seeded and diced watermelon
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl, setting aside 2 tablespoons of mint and stir to combine. Working in batches, purée allthe  ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer soup to a large pitcher, cover, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

Before serving, taste soup and adjust seasonings, if needed. Divide soup between chilled bowls and top evenly with watermelon, reserved chopped mint and a drizzle of olive oil.


icecream

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day in 1984. “He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by the nation’s population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with ‘appropriate ceremonies and activities’.”

A 2012 survey revealed that vanilla is America’s most popular flavor, followed by chocolate and cookies ’n cream. In truth, though, ice cream flavors are virtually limitless. Specialty flavors can be found in supermarkets, as well as individual ice cream shops and many of them feature seasonal flavors. If you look hard enough, it’s even possible to find grown-up flavors like bourbon butter pecan, blue cheese pear and foie gras or sea urchin.

No one knows who invented ice cream, although Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed a refreshing snack of snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. More than a millennium later, Marco Polo brought back from his travels a recipe for a frozen treat similar to modern sherbet. Historians believe that recipe eventually evolved into ice cream during the 16th century. “Cream ice” was served to European royalty, although it wasn’t until much later, when insulated ice houses were invented, that ice cream became widely available to the general public.

Types of Frozen Treats

  • Frozen yogurt is yogurt that is frozen using a technique similar to soft serve. While lower in calories and fat than ice cream, not all frozen yogurt is made with live and active cultures the way that standard yogurt is. To make sure that a frozen yogurt contains “yogurt” and a significant amount of live and active cultures, look for the National Yogurt Association (NYA) Live & Active Cultures seal. Without that seal, frozen yogurt does not contain any probiotics.
  • Gelato. Italian ice cream that doesn’t have as much air as traditional ice cream, so it has a much denser texture.
  • Ice cream. This frozen treat is made from milk or cream, sugar and flavorings. The FDA requires that ice creams with solid additions (nuts, chocolate, fruit, etc.) contain at least 8 percent milk fat, while plain ice creams are required to have at least 10 percent milk fat. “French” ice cream is usually made with a cooked egg custard base.
  • Ice milk is made with lower-fat milk, making it less creamy. However, it does contain fewer calories than ice cream.
  • Italian ice (also called Granita) is a mix of juice (or other liquid like coffee), water and sugar, usually in a 4:1 ratio of liquid to sugar. The ices are stirred frequently during freezing to give it a flaky texture. These are almost always fat-free, contain minimal additives and are the lowest in calories of all frozen desserts.
  • Sherbet has a fruit juice base but often contains some milk, egg whites or gelatin to thicken and enrich it. It’s a creamy version of sorbet (see below).
  • Slow-churned (double churned) ice cream is made through low-temperature extrusion, to make light ice cream taste richer, creamier and more like the full-fat variety. Extrusion distributes the milk fat evenly throughout the product for added richness and texture without adding extra calories. By law, “light” ice cream must contain at least 50% less fat or 33% fewer calories than regular full-fat varieties.
  • Soft-serve is a soft “ice cream” that contains double the amount of air as standard ice cream, which stretches the ingredients and creates a lighter texture. It’s lower in fat and calories, but it often contains fillers and additives.
  • Sorbet, softer in consistency than a sherbet, is usually fruit and sugar that has been frozen. Its texture more “solid” and less flaky than Italian ice.

How healthy are these treats?

While ice cream does contain bone-building calcium, you’re better off getting calcium from other food sources, since ice cream contains about half the calcium as an equal serving of milk, which is lower in fat and calories. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re eating healthy by getting calcium from Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s—both of which can pack more fat per serving than a fast food hamburger!

Some ice creams, especially “light” varieties are sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Using an artificial sweetener in place of some or all of the traditional sugar can reduce calories, but these sweeteners aren’t for everyone and may cause stomach upset when eaten in high quantities.

In general, regular (full-fat) ice cream contains about 140 calories and 6 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving. Besides the fat content, premium brands pack more ice cream into each serving because they contain less air—they are denser and harder to scoop than regular brands—meaning more calories, fat and sugar per serving. Low fat or “light” ice creams weigh in at about half the fat of premium brands but they still contain their fair share of calories, thanks to the extra sugar added to make them more palatable.

Toppings such as chocolate chips, candies and sprinkles send the calorie count even higher and don’t offer any nutritional benefits. Choose vitamin-packed fruit purée (not fruit “syrup”), fresh fruit or nuts, which contain healthy fat, protein and fiber. While chocolate does have some health benefits, most choices like chips and syrup are usually full of fillers with very little actual chocolate. If you want extra chocolate, use a vegetable peeler to shave dark chocolate over the top of your serving.

If animal-based products aren’t part of your diet or you can’t eat dairy, you can choose from a wide variety of non-dairy frozen desserts such as soy, coconut or rice “cream.” These desserts cut the saturated fat because they don’t contain milk or cream, but can derive around 50% of their calories from fat (usually by adding oil to the product for smoothness or “mouth feel”).

So what should you look for when you want to indulge in a creamy dessert but not go overboard? Check the nutrition label and choose a frozen dessert that meets these guidelines per 1/2 cup serving.

  • 120 calories or less
  • 4 g of total fat or less
  • 3 g of saturated fat or less (sorbet, sherbet and low-fat ice cream usually fit the bill)
  • 10 mg of cholesterol or less
  • 15 g of sugar or less (this is equal to about 3 teaspoons of actual table sugar)

Remember to keep portions small. A pint of ice cream is not a single serving; it’s FOUR servings. If you eat an entire pint, you have to multiply the number of calories, fat grams, etc. listed on the label by four. Stick to portion sizes and always scoop your ice cream into a small bowl, instead of eating it directly from the container to prevent overeating. And use a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon to take smaller bites.

If you want total control over what goes into your ice cream, consider buying your own ice cream maker. Experiment with the recipes that come with the machine, adding your own fresh fruit to create a treat that tastes good and is good for you at the same time.

Ice cream is by no means a health food or a vital component of a healthy diet. But it is a simple pleasure in life most people wouldn’t want to give up. Here are a few frozen dessert recipes to indulge in without blowing up your diet.

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Chocolate Banana Frozen Yogurt

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons 2 percent milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Directions

In a nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the bananas in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Cook over moderate heat, turning once, until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, add the rum and swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar.

Place three-quarters of the bananas into a food processor and add 3 tablespoons of the milk. Puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and freeze until chilled, 15 minutes. Chop the remaining bananas and freeze until chilled. Chill the remaining milk and yogurt.

In another bowl, whisk the cocoa with the granulated sugar, salt, vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk in the yogurt until smooth, then the banana puree.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until nearly frozen. Mix in the chopped bananas and chocolate. Place the frozen yogurt into an airtight container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

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Watermelon Granita with Cardamom Syrup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 pounds seedless watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds

Directions

In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the water with 3/4 cup of the sugar and stir over moderate heat until dissolved, 2 minutes.

In a blender, working in batches, puree the watermelon with the sugar syrup and lemon juice until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and freeze for 30 minutes. Using a fork, stir the granita; continue stirring every 30 minutes, until frozen and fluffy, about 3 hours.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar with the cardamom seeds and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the syrup and refrigerate.

Fluff the granita with a fork. Scoop into bowls, drizzle with the cardamom syrup and serve immediately.

icecream3

Caramelized Pineapple Sundaes with Coconut

10 servings

Ingredients

  • One pineapple—peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sweetened wide shredded coconut strips or regular cut
  • 2 1/2 pints fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions
Light a grill. Brush the pineapple rings with the vegetable oil. Grill over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until the pineapple is lightly charred and softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer the rings to a work surface and cut into bite-size pieces.

In a medium skillet, toast the coconut over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Scoop the yogurt into sundae glasses or bowls. Top with the grilled pineapple, sprinkle with the coconut, garnish with the mint sprigs and serve right away.

icecream4

Easy Soft-Serve Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, mangoes or blueberries
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt

Directions
In a food processor, pulse the fruit with the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and a generous pinch of salt until the fruit is finely chopped.

Puree until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Serve soft or transfer to a metal baking pan, cover and freeze until just firm.

MAKE AHEAD: The soft-serve can be frozen for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

icecream5

 

Sherbet Fruit Pops

Ingredients

  • 10 5-ounce paper cups
  • 3 peeled and chopped kiwi fruit
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 quart raspberry or tangerine sherbet
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 10 flat wooden craft sticks

Directions

Arrange cups on a baking pan.

In a small bowl combine kiwi fruit and sugar. Divide chopped kiwi fruit among the paper cups.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low-speed beat together sherbet and orange juice until combined. Spoon sherbet mixture over kiwi fruit filling cups.

Cover each cup with a square of foil. Use table knife to make small hole in center of each foil square. Slide wooden craft stick through each hole and into fruit mixture in the bottom of the cup.

Freeze at least 6 hours or overnight. To serve remove foil; carefully tear away cups. Serve immediately. Makes 10 pops

 

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party time 6

This is the season for graduations, showers and a host of other occasions – all reasons to have a spring get together with friends and family.  To entertain with elegance, not extravagance, host a dessert party. People will love you for giving them the chance to be just a bit indulgent. A dessert buffet works well in the late afternoon or as an after dinner event. You can easily make the buffet smaller or larger simply by subtracting or adding desserts.

Keep the setting simple: Let single-flower arrangements and the beautiful desserts displayed at interesting levels in plain sight put the focus on what the guests really came for – a good time. Set up the buffet table―minus the desserts and beverages―the night before.

Before setting out your dessert spread, keep these table tips in mind.

  • If you have a cake stand, use it. The height will add visual impact to the table and will offer a bit of extra space on the crowded buffet table.
  • Set out dishes of your favorite chocolates or chocolate-covered nuts.
  • Place the plates at the far end of the table, the desserts in the middle and the beverages, cutlery and napkins at the other end of the buffet table.
  • Depending on how many guests you’ve invited, you may or may not have enough “real” dessert-sized plates, beverage glasses and wine goblets. Disposable serveware is perfectly okay. You could also borrow some plates and glasses from friends—that’s okay too. It’s not essential that all the glasses and plates match
  • You can never have too many cocktail napkins, both on the buffet and on end tables.

Beverages and Desserts 

There’s no need to offer a full bar – regular and decaffeinated coffee, several kinds of tea and a sparkling wine and a fruity white wine are more than enough.

Select desserts with contrasting and complementary textures and flavors. Mix sweet and tart, smooth and crunchy, add a pleasing spice or highlight a big, bold taste — like dark chocolate!

Make one showstopping dessert to dazzle your guests and let the others play minor, but still important, roles.

It’s smart to provide some lighter sweets to go along with the decadent ones — for example, a fresh fruit platter. Cookies are always a big hit — especially if children are present.

Plan as many make-ahead desserts as will work well on your menu. All of the desserts below can be made well in advance of your party.

Preslice cakes, pies and tarts, but do not separate the slices. Arrange cookies in baskets, plates or unique decorative containers.

party time 1

Honey Cheesecake

To keep the cheesecake from cracking, run a knife between the crust and pan a few minutes after removing it from the oven. The cheesecake will cool and condense without sticking to the pan’s sides.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup finely ground walnuts
  • 1/4 cup vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 1 1/2 pounds light cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup honey, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup regular evaporated milk (not low-fat) (you may also use heavy cream)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh berries

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Brush the inside of 8 or 9 inch springform pan with melted butter.

Mix walnuts and cookie crumbs in small bowl; spread evenly in the pan, coating the bottom and sides.

Beat cream cheese and 3/4 cup honey with a mixer at medium speed until smooth, scraping down bowl’s sides occasionally, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat in milk and vanilla. Beat in flour, cinnamon and salt.

Pour into the crumb covered pan.

Bake about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until lightly browned and a little puffed. Cheesecake will jiggle in the center but will set as it cools.

Cool on a wire rack 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons honey and garnish with fresh berries.

party time 2

Hazelnut Truffles

Makes 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 3 dozen hazelnuts
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon hazelnut liqueur
  • 1 (6-ounce) package white chocolate baking squares
  • 2 (2-ounce) chocolate candy coating squares

Directions

Bake hazelnuts in a shallow pan at 350°F, stirring occasionally, 5 to 10 minutes or until toasted.

Microwave chocolate chips and whipping cream in a 2-cup glass measuring cup at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until chips melt, stirring twice. Stir in liqueur.

Pour into a wax paper-lined 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan; freeze 2 hours or until firm to touch.

Shape 1/2 teaspoon chocolate mixture around each hazelnut, coating completely and place on wax paper.

Microwave white chocolate baking squares in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until melted, stirring twice.

spring party 1

Truffle Mold

 

Coat plastic candy molds with a thin layer of white chocolate using a small paintbrush; let stand 1 hour or until firm. Place coated hazelnuts in molds; brush with remaining white chocolate, sealing to edges of molds. Let stand at room temperature 1 1/2 hours or until firm.

Invert molds; tap firmly on cutting board to remove candy.

Microwave coating in a 1-cup glass measuring cup 1 minute or until melted, stirring once. Pour into a small heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal. Snip a tiny hole in 1 corner of bag; drizzle over truffles. Let stand until firm.

spring party 2

 

Lemon-Coconut Pound Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, divided

Lemon Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Stir together flour, salt and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low-speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in lemon zest and 1/2 cup coconut.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely (about 1 hour).

To make glaze:

Whisk together powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk and fresh lemon juice, adding an additional 1 tablespoon milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, for desired consistency

Spoon Lemon Glaze over cake and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut.

Watermelon Salad. Moreton's House 712 Greenwood, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-5923. W: 919 967 2185 C: 919 260 7465 www.nealsdeli.com A100527_F&W_NealsDeli_Sept_2010

Watermelon Salad with Mint and Lime

Lightly salting the watermelon brings out its flavor.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups seedless watermelon chunks (1 inch), from a 6-pound melon
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, torn
  • Salt

Directions

In a large bowl, toss the watermelon chunks with the lime juice and cayenne. Fold in the mint leaves. Season lightly with salt and chill until serving time.

MAKE AHEAD The watermelon salad can be refrigerated overnight. Fold in the torn mint leaves just before serving.

party time 5

Bourbon-Brownie Petit Fours

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup bourbon 
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Milk Chocolate Frosting/Semisweet Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • One 5 3/4 ounce package milk chocolate chips
  • 16 ounce package semisweet chocolate chips or 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions

In a medium saucepan melt and stir butter and unsweetened chocolate over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat; cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 x 8 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Grease foil; set aside.

In a small bowl stir together bourbon and coffee granules; set aside.

Stir sugar into cooled chocolate mixture in the saucepan. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon just until combined. Stir in vanilla and bourbon mixture.

In a small bowl stir together flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut brownies out of the pan. Cut off the edges of brownie and save for another use.

For the frosting:

In a small saucepan bring whipping cream just to boiling over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.

For Milk Chocolate Frosting:

Transfer 1/2 cup of the hot cream to a small bowl. Add milk chocolate chips (do not stir). Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Cover loosely and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

For Semisweet Chocolate Glaze:

Add semisweet chocolate chips to the remaining hot cream in the saucepan, stirring until smooth. Set aside.

When ready to glaze petits fours, reheat Semisweet Chocolate Glaze over medium-low heat to reach pouring consistency, stirring constantly.

For petits fours:

Cut brownies into 1- to 1-1/2-inch squares. Coat petits fours with Semisweet Chocolate Glaze.

For Milk Chocolate Rosettes:

Beat the reserved cooled milk chocolate mixture with an electric mixer about 30 seconds or until fluffy. Spoon frosting into a decorating bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe large rosettes in the center of each petit four.

spring party 7

Oatmeal-Cherry Cookies

Yield: about 60 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup snipped dried red cherries (6 ounces)

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.

Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in the remaining flour. Stir in oats and dried cherries.

Drop the dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven about 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheets for 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

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