Think of grilled tomato white bean salad as the summer version of a hearty bowl of bean and veggie soup. Beans and vegetables are two things I can’t live without, so I had an idea to turn them into a satisfying warm weather dish. My garden is a battleground for the tomatoes between the squirrel’s and me, so I grabbed the ripe ones, and gave them a good char on the grill. That and white beans, fresh basil, Parmesan shavings and a balsamic reduction and I’m in heaven until it’s time to make soup again.
Going the extra mile with beans: Sure you can buy a can of beans and be done with it, but dried beans are so much tastier and they don’t need much attention at all, just a little planning. In fact, you can make a big batch and freeze them in 1-cup portions. Then, you’ll have all the convenience of a can but homemade. Grilled tomato white bean salad is simply a marriage of two great ingredients, so feel free to pile on the beans (for a satisfying meal) or scatter a few here and there for a simple side.
Why balsamic reduction?: Just what it sounds like, straight up balsamic vinegar that’s reduced to a concentrated syrup. Sweeter and full of flavor, it’s perfect to drizzle over just about anything! You don’t need to buy an expensive bottle of vinegar to make it either, but make sure you have your kitchen fan on because the vinegar is quit pungent as it reduces. Worth it though, especially on grilled tomato white bean salad.
For the beans: Place beans in a small bowl and cover with water. Soak overnight. Drain, then, add to a medium pot with garlic, basil sprig, 1-tablespoon olive oil and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer 1 hour until beans are soft. Drain and remove garlic and basil. Season to taste with salt and set aside.
For the balsamic reduction: Place vinegar in a small saucepan and simmer until reduced to ¼ cup (15 minutes) and the vinegar is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Cool.
For the salad: Pre-heat the grill (or a grill pan) to high. Slice the tomatoes horizontally and brush the cut side with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on the hot grill and cook undisturbed about 5 minutes just to soften the tomatoes and get char marks. Remove to a serving platter and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the beans over the tomatoes, followed by Parmesan and basil. Drizzle remaining olive oil and balsamic reduction over the tomatoes and beans and serve.
You can skip the campfire to make these smores cookies and dare I say it? They’re BETTER than the real thing! It starts with basic chocolate chip cookie dough using whole-wheat flour for the graham effect. When they’re all baked and golden, pile on the marshmallows and give it a quick run under the broiler till they’re toasty and gooey. A final drizzle of melted chocolate will have you wishing summer could last all year long. But wait! You CAN make these all year long.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of judging the blueberry pie contest at my local farmers market in Summit, New Jersey. It’s not easy tasting 10 blueberry pies in 10 minutes (poor me!). They ranged from gluten free to tricked out with whipped cream and even one with canned blueberries (I noticed). But the winner kept it simple with a buttery crust loaded with blueberries bursting through the sugar dusted lattice, almost identical to my own version. If pie baking seems daunting to you, take note home cooks; the winner was just 12-years old. Congratulations Jozi! That’s an honest blueberry pie.
Grilled squash with basil drizzle is a recipe created from the tangle of yellow squash and basil overtaking my garden and it couldn’t be easier to make. There’s a certain fascination with a vegetable garden for someone who loves to cook as much as me. Planting begins as soon as the temp. clears 32 degrees, around late April in NJ. It’s year two for my little garden and once again, my enthusiasm has yielded so many thriving plants, it’s hard to tell one from the other. So, several days ago I was shocked to find a 4-pound yellow squash growing under a canopy of basil. The dish came quickly in my mind (how fun to pick and cook in a matter of minutes!) and I can’t wait to see what my ‘secret garden’ brings me tomorrow.
Gazpacho with spicy shrimp is one of those recipes you’ll be glad to pull out when it’s too hot to cook. There are thousands of recipes for this Spanish raw vegetable soup, but the bottom line is it’s a chopped salad in a bowl. As a home cook, you can pick and choose your vegetables from whatever’s in the fridge or your garden. If the ingredients are fresh, you can’t go wrong. Adding spicy poached shrimp keeps it light and healthy with a little punch of protein to make it a substantial meal.
Sometimes the best recipes are the ones that are made the most. This one for best lemon bars has been a “keeper” in the SHC kitchen for over 20 years. While the success of most baked goods is exacting measurements, this is one of those recipes in a constant tweaking mode. Finding the perfect sweet/sour combo makes them irresistible and earning the title ‘best lemon bar’.
What could be better on Mother’s Day than showing your mom some love from the kitchen with mozzarella, tomato, basil tart? Mozzarella, tomato and basil are pretty spectacular on their own, but bake them in a tart and they’re transformed into a rich, layered dish of gooey mozzarella, tender tomatoes and a puffy basil custard finish. You’ll instantly be elevated to favorite child status no matter your age.
What do you get when you cross a pie with a bar? A cherry blueberry slab pie of course. It’s everything great about a fruit pie but made in a baking dish so it’s thinner and manageable enough to pick up with your hands just like a lemon square or a brownie. It’s logical and genius because one slab pie feeds a crowd, can be made in advance and totally portable. With the clock is ticking on summer fruit, now’s the time to savor every last bite before it’s all a distant memory.
July 4th is just a little more special in my little town of Summit, New Jersey. That’s because Summit is all-American all the time. Our neighborhood, with 30-plus kids, means instant play dates, pick up ball games, sleepovers and potlucks without ever leaving the street. But, on July 4th, Summit hosts a fireworks display that rivals anything in a larger city. Families all over town host open houses and cookouts and not much has changed in the last fifty or so years. So, if you’re bringing potluck to someone’s house this July 4th, here’s an all-American recipe for peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. They couldn’t be easier to whip up and they just happen to be gluten free too!
New Jersey is so much more than diners, Bruce Springsteen and The Sopranos. The real secret is the beaches – all 130 miles – stretching the entire length of the state. You could walk (or run) for miles on sugar white sandy beaches with waves big enough for surfing all year long (just ask my brothers). So, what’s better than an après beach day of cocktails and Jersey shore crabmeat canapés? A simple mixture of local crabmeat with horseradish and grainy mustard is elegant on garlic butter toast or as a casual dip with crackers. New Jersey at its finest.