Planning what to cook based on what is in season can bring out the creative cook in you. Bell Peppers, Spinach, Potatoes, Sweet Corn, Cabbage, Tangerines, Radishes, Mangoes, Mushrooms, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Squash, Blueberries and Carrots are all in season this month. With so many choices, it is difficult to decide what to buy.
What I do is think about what kind of recipe and what type of meals I want this week. Then, I look for the ingredients to match. For example, a soup would be good for dinner and the leftovers are good for lunch. Greens was beautiful in the market now, so a soup with greens added would be good to make. Also we will need is some delicious bread to go with it.
This thinking can apply to salads, light dinners and special entrees. Also, I like to take advantage of sales. For example, packages of pita bread were “buy one package and get one free” this week. Pita is a versatile bread to have on hand and they also make delicious and healthy chips.
When I finish grating a piece of Parmesan cheese, I save the rind in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. I add one to the soup pot for added flavor.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 cups water
4 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
Parmesan cheese rind
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
6 oz fresh escarole, spinach or any seasonal greens
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Grated Parmesan, for sprinkling
Remove stems and wilted leaves on the greens. Wash well in several changes of cold water and chop.
In a large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the water, broth, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese rind and salt and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until just done, about 4 minutes for fresh or 12 minutes for frozen. Drain.
Add the spinach to the soup and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the tortellini.
Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.
Spring Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
2 anchovy fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 carrot, peeled
2 cups lightly packed torn Boston or Bibb lettuce
Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, parsley, vinegar, lemon juice, tarragon, anchovies, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor; puree until smooth. Chill to allow the flavors to blend.
Using a vegetable peeler, strip long ribbons from the carrot. Toss together the carrots and lettuce in a bowl. Add some of the dressing to greens and gently toss. (Reserve remaining dressing for another use.)
Stuffed Roasted Salmon Rolls
For 2 servings – this recipe is easily doubled.
12 oz center-cut boneless, skinless salmon fillet, cut lengthwise into 2 strips
4 cups fresh raw spinach leaves, stems removed, cooked and squeezed dry
1/4 cup cream cheese with onion and chives, if available, or regular cream cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking dish with olive oil.
Mix together the cream cheese, garlic and spinach until well blended then season with salt and pepper.
The mixture will be firm.
Season the salmon strips with salt and pepper and spread each fillet strip with the spinach filling.
Starting at one end, roll the salmon up tightly, tucking in any loose filling as you go.
Insert a toothpick through the end to keep the pinwheel from unrolling. Place the rolls in the prepared dish.
Repeat with the remaining salmon strip. Sprinkle the rolls with the lemon juice.
Bake the salmon rolls until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.
Grilled Chicken Pita Salad (Chicken Fattoush)
8 oz boned, skinned chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoons za’atar (Middle Eastern spice)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 of a red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 of a cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 cup sliced tomatoes
1 cup pita chips, recipe below
1 cup sliced romaine lettuce
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 ounces block feta cheese, broken into chunks
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high heat. Oil the grill grates.
Coat chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with za’atar.
Cook turning once, until no longer pink in the center and grill marks appear, about 7 minutes total.
Let rest 10 minutes, then slice.
In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, remaining oil, oregano, garlic and pepper; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the grilled chicken, red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, romaine and pita chips.
Pour the reserved dressing over the salad mixture, add cheese and toss gently to coat.
Homemade Pita Chips
Za’atar seasoning is a Middle Eastern spice mixture that contains ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac.
1 package of pita pocket breads (6 pitas in a package)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil two large rimmed baking pans.
Separate each pita into two rounds. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with the Za’atar seasoning mix.
Cut each pita circle into 6 triangles.
Arrange the triangles on the baking sheets and bake until crispy and brown, about 20 minutes.
Rotate the pans after ten minutes, Cool and store in a large zip-lock bag until needed.
Warm Blackberry Sauce
This sauce is great to have on hand as a topping for ice cream, pancakes or plain pound cake.
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, washed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
In a medium non-stick sauce pan, combine the sugar and cornstarch.
Add the water, maple syrup,lemon juice and berries.
Cook on medium high, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to break down and the sauce thickens.
Transfer the sauce to a serving dish. Store any remaining sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Easy Homemade Jam
This is a basic jam recipe and it works with any fruit (other than citrus). You can make jam with whatever fruit grows well where you live. In each season, use the best fruit you can find.
Work in small batches. Three pounds of fruit will yield close to 2 ½ pints of jam. If you want more jars, make two small batches rather than one double batch. The quality of the jam will be much better.
You don’t need to process the jars in a boiling water bath for this recipe. Just store the jam in the refrigerator, where it will last for weeks.
You can also store the jam in the freezer. The Ball Company now makes great containers to store the jam in for the freezer.
The unprocessed homemade jam will not make you ill, because most jams are made from high acid fruits which are not susceptible to botulism.
I made Blackberry Jam using this recipe. It is definitely worth making because the jam has such a fresh and distinct blackberry taste. Not at all like processed jam.
For 2 1/2 pints
- 3 pounds ripe fruit, such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, plums, etc.
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 lemon
Clean and cut the fruit as you would for making a fruit salad or fruit pie. For example: remove the caps from strawberries and cut into quarters; or peel, pit and slice peaches into pieces; or trim rhubarb and chop it into chunks.
Using a potato masher, crush the fruit until soupy. Measure this puree and note the quantity. Put the puree in a wide, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot.
The puree should be no more than 1 inch deep in the bottom of the pot. I placed half of the blackberry puree in a strainer to remove the seeds before proceeding with the recipe.
For every two cups of fruit puree, add to the pot one scant cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Stir to combine and taste. Very tart fruit (such as sour cherries, some plums or blackberries) might need a little more sugar. Very sweet fruit (such as white peaches) might need a little more lemon juice. Adjust to taste.
Bring the fruit-sugar mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. After it boils, continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 12 to 14 minutes, or until thickened.
Check the consistency by turning off the heat and putting a spoonful of hot jam on a chilled saucer in the freezer for one minute.
When ready, the cold jam will form a light skin that wrinkles when you push your finger through it and it will cling to the saucer when you tilt the saucer upright.
If the cold jam is too runny, bring the pot back to a boil for another minute or two, stirring constantly, then check the set again.
When the jam is set, ladle it into clean half-pint jars or other air-tight containers. Allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Fresh Strawberry Syrup
Delicious over pancakes, cheesecake, ice cream or crepes.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1-pint strawberries, stems and leaves removed
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Place sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat; stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool completely. Place half the berries in the jar of a blender; add the syrup. Puree until smooth and pass through a fine sieve or colander.
Chop remaining berries; stir into the strawberry puree. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days or freeze in small containers.
Makes 12 – 15 muffins depending on the size of your muffin pan.
- 2 1/4 cups (9 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) fresh blueberries
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons butter
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F and either lightly grease 12 -15 muffin cups or use paper liners and spray the insides of the papers.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand-held or stand mixer, until light and fluffy and almost white in color.
Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix until incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed just until the batter is smooth. Fold in the berries by hand.
Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, using 1/4-cup for each muffin.
To make the topping:
In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over the muffins.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center, comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.
Summer Fruit Salad
Use summer fruits that are in season. I used about 6 cups of cut fruit in this recipe.
Fruit, sliced or cut into cubes
Mint-Lime Simple Syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
For the syrup:
Stir together the sugar and mint and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil 1 minute or until the sugar dissolves.
Remove from the heat. Stir in the lime juice, and cool 30 minutes. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into an airtight container. Cover and chill syrup 4 hours.
For the salad:
Gently toss together the fruit in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup Mint-Lime Simple Syrup, and gently stir to coat. Taste to see if the fruit needs more syrup.
Serve immediately, or cover and chill until serving time.
Peach Barbecue Sauce
This recipe makes one of the best tasting BBQ sauces I have made. It is especially good for grilled chicken.
Yields 4 cups.
- 2 cups peeled and chopped very ripe peaches, about 4 medium peaches
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoons onion salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups tomato ketchup
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons butter, cubed and well chilled
Process peaches in a blender 1 minute or until smooth and pour into a medium saucepan. Add all the additional ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low.
Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, a few cubes at a time, until incorporated. Refrigerate covered until needed.
You really don’t have to eat boring chicken. Try new ways of preparing chicken and serve it with new and different garnishing ingredients.
Dry chicken isn’t appealing. To avoid this:
- Don’t overcook chicken – 155 to 160 degrees F on an instant read meat thermometer is perfectly safe.
- Cooking chicken for most of its grilling time over indirect heat keeps it tender and juicy and it does not burn.
When I grill chicken, I always make extra because it is so delicious and there are so many other dishes you can make with the leftovers.
I also add vegetables to the grill, if I am grilling the main dish. Saves lots of time and clean up.
- 2-4 bone-in chicken breasts or 2-4 boneless breasts or/and 2-4 bone-in thighs
- Olive oil
Turn all burners to high and heat the grill with the lid down until very hot, about 15 minutes. Scrape the grate clean with a grill brush.
Dip a wad of paper towels in oil; holding the wad with tongs, wipe the cooking grate. Leave the primary burner on high and turn off the other burner(s).
Grilling bone-in breasts:
Cook the chicken on all sides over the hot part of the grill until lightly browned and the meat has faint grill marks, 4 to 6 minutes. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill, with the thicker side of the breast facing the hot side of the grill.
Cover with a large piece of aluminum foil, close the grill and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of the breast registers 145 degrees, about 20 minutes longer.
Move the chicken, bone-side down, to the hot side of the grill and cook until browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn the chicken over and continue to cook until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 – 160 degrees F, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil, for 5 minutes.
Grilling bone-in chicken thighs:
Cook the chicken on all sides over the hot part of grill until lightly browned and the meat has faint grill marks, 3 to 4 minutes. Move the chicken to the cooler side of the grill. Cover with a large piece of aluminum foil, close the grill and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 145 degrees, about 20 minutes longer.
Move the chicken, bone-side down, to the hot side of the grill and cook until browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn chicken over and continue to cook until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 155 – 160 degrees F, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil, for 5 minutes.
Grilling boneless breasts:
Place chicken on the cooler side of the grill, smooth-side down, with the thicker side of the breasts facing the direct heat. Cover with a large piece of aluminum foil, close the grill and cook until the bottom of the chicken just begins to develop light grill marks about 6 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken and rotate it so that the thinner side faces the hot side of the grill. Cover with the foil and continue to cook until the chicken is opaque and firm to touch and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 140 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes longer.
Move the chicken to the hot side of the grill and cook, without the foil, until dark grill marks appear, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, turn the chicken over and cook until dark grill marks appear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 155 – 160 degrees F, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let rest, tented with foil, 5 minutes.
With just a change of a sauce, you can create a totally different taste every time. Serve the grilled chicken topped with one of the sauces below.
I made this sauce last week and it was on my blog for Earth Day. (see recipe here)
Creamy Herb Vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs that are in season
- 1/2 small shallot, minced
Add the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, tarragon and shallots to a small bowl and whisk until smooth and emulsified.
Easy Homemade BBQ Sauce
- 1 2/3 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard powder
- 2 teaspoons all natural hickory liquid smoke
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon celery seed
In a large saucepan combine all the ingredients and simmer over low heat for 25 minutes stirring occasionally. Let it cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Seasonal Fruit Sauce
I used raspberries because that is what is in season and I had them in my refrigerator. Come summer, peaches would be very good in this sauce. Don’t be afraid to try this sauce, it was delicious on the chicken.
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small garlic clove, grated
- 1 small hot pepper, finely chopped
- 2 cups fresh raspberries, or any fruit in season (peaches, berries, kiwi, pineapple, etc.)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the fruit is soft. Serve warm over grilled chicken or pork chops.
Stuffed Grilled Zucchini
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery
- 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped bell pepper
- 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out the pulp, leaving 1/4 inch shells. Brush with 2 teaspoons oil; set aside. Chop pulp.
In a small skillet, heat the remaining teaspoon of oil and saute the zucchini pulp, celery, bell pepper, garlic and onion until the vegetables are soft.
Add bread crumbs; cook and stir.Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, seasoning and salt.
Spoon the filling into the zucchini shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Place the zucchini on the cool side of the grill while the chicken is cooking on the hot side.
Grill, covered, over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until the zucchini are tender and the tops are crispy.