I realize there have been a lot of dessert posts on here lately, but indulge me (or indulge yourself) with one more. Today is October 1st, a day I have been impatiently awaiting for quite awhile now. It’s not that anything in particular is actually going to happen today–it’s just that now that it’s October, I officially feel like it’s fall. (September temps in Phoenix are mostly still in the 100’s, so now that it’s under 100, I can pretend I live in a place where fall-ish things will start happening, like color-changing trees and sweaters and a chill in the air. It’s a farce, but it’s an enjoyable farce.) Anyway, if it’s finally Fall™ I’m going to feel free to go out of my gourd…..that’s right,
Let’s take this opportunity for the following confession: in the last 24 hours alone, I made three pumpkin recipes: this pumpkin sorbet–an ideal choice for those of us still experiencing 90 degree weather–pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin snickerdoodles. (Hopefully I don’t get any calls from my kids’ schools from an alarmed nurse informing me my children have turned orange.) The slightly embarrassing thing about this is that I have been complaining to anyone who will listen lately about the Pumpkin Spice Juggernaut. You know what I’m talking about. If you live on planet Earth, you will have seen how Starbucks has been tooting its own pumpkin spice horn for like a month already…and then M & Ms got on board with its own version…and Hershey Kisses…and See’s is making pumpkin spice lollipops. I’m telling you, it’s
But you know what? Why fight it? It’s inevitable. Pumpkin is here to stay. And I’ll proudly state that several of my family members hail from the Pumpkin Capitol of the U.S., Morton, Illinois. This pumpkin sherbet is a great way to spice up your pumpkin repertoire. (Get it?) It’s a creamy, very pumpkin-y, lightened up alternative to pumpkin ice cream.
Let’s do this. It’s ON, pumpkin. IT’S. ON.
(Adapted from Skinnytaste)
2 1/4 c. 2% milk
1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. canned pumpkin or pumpkin puree
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
In a saucepan, combine milk, sugar, pumpkin, and heat over medium heat. Bring to a full boil while whisking, then reduce heat to low, and simmer for thirty seconds.
Remove from the heat, and add the vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove, and stir.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and chill in the refrigerator until cold, anywhere from 3 hours to overnight. When chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Makes 2 3/4 cups.
If there’s one thing every kid will eat, it’s French fries, right? Or maybe mac and cheese…or pizza…or chocolate cake. (Hmm, this is starting to sound like a list of my favorite foods.) As for French fries, despite their francophile name, they are an all-American staple, especially for little ones. And while I don’t mind the frozen variety, they’ve got nothing on these crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside garlic herb potato wedges. I’ve made them time and again as a pitch-perfect accompaniment to other American classics like meatloaf, barbecue pork, fried chicken, and more. The combination of herbs plus the subtle coating of olive oil make these a craveable side dish for grown-ups and kids alike. Plus, they look way fancier than the Ore-Ida crinkle cut variety that look a little too much like worms for my taste:
Save the worm fries for Halloween. Make these potato wedges anytime.
Garlic Herb Potato Wedges
(Adapted from About.com)
4 medium Russet potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil, depending on size of potatoes
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed fine
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine garlic powder, rosemary, oregano, thyme, paprika, pepper, and salt. Set aside.
Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Cut each half lengthwise into 4 equally sized wedges. Place wedges in a large bowl and toss with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle herb mixture over potatoes and toss again until evenly coated.
Line a sheet pan with foil. Place the potato wedges, skin side down, on the foil, spaced evenly. Bake for 35 minutes or until well browned and crusty edged, turning every 10 minutes.
Last year, I read probably the most inspiring food book I’ve ever encountered: Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Ever since the 5th grade, when I wrote a report on Barbara Kingsolver, I have been intrigued by this author I considered more or less local (she was a long-time resident of Tucson; I live roughly 90 minutes north in Mesa). Most people know her for her best-selling novels, but Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a memoir of Kingsolver’s family’s journey across the country, leaving Tucson (waaahhh!) for rural Virginia, where they attempted to make a go of running a self-sustaining farm. If you have any interest in the idea of eating seasonally/locally, or wonder why some people find it worthwhile, please read this book. It, more than anything else, motivated me to make the effort to support local agriculture and eat what the seasons provide.
That being said, unfortunately, in the Phoenix area, eating seasonally can be a bit of a joke. In her memoir, Kingsolver calls February “Hungry Month” since it’s the time when (in her part of the country) plants lie dormant and nothing grows. In Phoenix–or at least in our backyard garden–Hungry Months include May through September. Then again, Kingsolver also mentions that eating locally in the desert Southwest is defined (by the powers that define these things) as within a 250-mile radius. So I guess we’re off the hook for not having to harvest dead grass for our salads during these summer months.
My point here is that, even though it’s difficult, I try–and want to keep trying harder. I get to the farmer’s market when I can, and I certainly don’t buy $6 asparagus in August or $5 strawberries in January. When I saw this soup recipe, it got me excited to bust over to my nearest Sprouts and bag up armloads of vegetables that happen to be on sale right now because they actually belong to this season. (Maybe not in central Mesa, but somewhere not too far away.) The result was fabulous. This soup, while very simple, had an unusual flavor that took me by surprise. The savory-tart combination of broth with lemon juice was the perfect background for the freshness of summer vegetables corn, tomatoes, and zucchini. Not to mention that with the veggies chopped ahead of time, it was done in 30 minutes! If you’re a year-round soup lover like me, this will make you realize that “summer soup” doesn’t have to be a contradiction in terms.
Summer Vegetable Soup with Shrimp and Lemon
(Adapted from Fine Cooking Fresh)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 qt. chicken broth
1 c. diced tomato
2 small zucchini, cut into medium dice
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 lb. red potatoes, cut into medium dice
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4-1/2 lb. pre-cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley, or cilantro, or a mix
Juice of one lemon
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, another minute or two, being careful not to let it brown. Add the broth, the remaining vegetables, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp until heated, 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add fresh herbs and lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Pop quiz: what’s the world’s most popular fruit? Apples? Bananas? Tomatoes, if we’re going to be fussy and technical?
Nope, none of the above. Numerous reports name the world’s most widely consumed fruit as the mango. Around the globe, mangoes outrank apples by 3 to 1 and bananas by 10 to 1. We Americans have some catching up to do in terms of our mango savvy. If this were the Olympics, the Brazilians and Indians would be slaughtering us.
I’m not actually sure I had ever eaten a mango before about the age of 25. My dad has always told me the story of his near-death-experience-mango-allergy, so genetics being what they are, I always steered clear for fear of some terrible case of sticky-sweet anaphylaxis. Fortunately, whenever I did eventually get up the guts to taste some, mangoes were kind to me and did not bring me any closer to death. Quite the opposite. They’re loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and fiber, so if anything, they should add to my lifespan. So indulge me while I give you a second mango-related post in the space of three days.
This dinner is one of those powerhouse meals that manages to be healthy, delicious, and gorgeous at the same time. It’s ideal for company, as it looks straight out of a magazine and is almost entirely prepared ahead of time. To make this for dinner last night, I made the mango salsa a day ahead (gives the flavors more time to meld anyway) and put the tilapia in the marinade in the early afternoon. Served with rice and steamed broccoli, it’s just what summer ordered!
P.S. If your local grocer does not offer mangoes, or if they are out of season, I recommend purchasing them frozen. Trader Joe’s sells pre-peeled, pre-chopped mangoes in their frozen section, which is what I almost always use for this recipe. Frozen fruits are typically picked at the height of ripeness, so you’re much better off buying frozen than fresh if the fruit you’re looking for is not in season.
Herb-Marinated Tilapia with Mango Salsa
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)
For the marinade:
1/2 c. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. salt
4 large tilapia fillets
For the salsa:
1 1/2 c. mango, peeled and diced
1/3 c. red pepper, diced
1/3 c. red onion, minced
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
2-3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
salt to taste
For best results, prepare the salsa ahead of time (up to 48 hours) by combining the mango, red pepper, red onion, jalapeño, and cilantro. Stir in lime juice and lemon juice. Season with salt to taste.
Place tilapia fillets in a large Ziploc-type bag. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, basil, black pepper, and salt. Pour over fillets, coat with the marinade, squeeze excess air out of the bag, and seal. Marinate refrigerated for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Place tilapia fillets in a glass baking dish, draining off excess marinade. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve topped with mango salsa.
I always used to be skeptical of granita. Typically containing only three ingredients–fruit juice, water, and sugar–it kinda sounds like some Weight Watchers trick to make you think juice is dessert. (Nice try, Weight Watchers.) But then I started making it, starting with this fancy-schmancy lime recipe, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It still doesn’t exactly fit the bill for a “real” dessert in my book (I think my definition for real dessert is “must contain fat”) but it is a lovely, light, refreshing after-dinner palate cleanser. Any fruit juice will do to make it. I’ve tried grapefruit, watermelon, lime, and lemon, and I’m especially curious to try this sangria version.
This time around, I happened to have a couple of lemons hanging around waiting to be put to some culinary use, so Dear Old Uncle Google willingly obliged an appropriate recipe. I love the unique twist the thyme infusion gives the flavor here–a subtle depth that balances the lemony sweetness nicely. Excellent for a little something different!
From Taste of Home
1 c. water
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice
2 fresh thyme sprigs
In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat; stir in lemon juice and thyme. Transfer to an 8-in. square dish; cool to room temperature.
Remove thyme sprigs. Freeze for 1 hour; stir with a fork. Freeze 2-3 hours longer or until completely frozen, stirring every 30 minutes.
Stir granita with a fork just before serving; spoon into dessert dishes. Yield: 2 cups.