Friday, July 5, 2024

Berries, Balsamic and Basil


Oh what to serve for dessert? I just casually extended a last minute invite to Hot Dog Night. The oven has been broken for a week and the cupboard is essentially bare except for the aforementioned hot dogs and a bag of potato chips which shall be served as the vegetable accompaniment to this lavish meal. 

Thankfully, it's just the beginning of summer and the local strawberries are plump and juicy. Around here you can pick your own at Andrews Farm or snag some at a roadside farm stand. And if you are especially brave to battle the crowd on Thursday afternoon at the Falmouth Farmers Market you may be able to find them there. Luckily I arrived early enough before the berries were sold out. Although I was incredibly anxious as I waited in the line that snaked around Pariah Dog Farm's tent and watched as those ahead of me grabbed 1 No! 2 Oh No! 3 pints at a time. I watched in fear as they slowly emptied the table display. Would there be any left by the time it is my turn? 

Berries safely in hand, my brain goes to how to serve them? Of course, I could offer these beauties naked on a plate as a super chefy move...barely doing anything to the fruit. Really? No. Short cake is out of the question- no oven and grocery store bought anything with these berries? Nope. Hmmm. Strawberries and cream? Maybe. Strawberries and ice cream? Perhaps. The best of both worlds combining macerated strawberries from the short cake recipe and something creamy sounds about right. But add a twist, something unexpected: balsamic vinegar? OK. Now something green, herby. Basil? Yes.

I learned this simple combination from someone at the farmers market years ago but I can't exactly remember who. An idea presented in a conversation with the farmer or another strawberry fan? It has never been written down by me which I find to be surprising since this super easy and irresistible recipe is my yearly go to when the strawberries are so ripe and delicate that they must be eaten within a 24 hour window. Sliced berries, a few tablespoons of sugar, a pinch of salt and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Mix together just before sitting down for dinner. The berries will have released their juices to create a luscious syrup by the time your are ready to eat dessert. Serve this magical concoction over vanilla ice cream or my favorite: vanilla bean flecked Greek yogurt. Garnish with torn fresh basil leaves. 

Aside from all the stress of the broken oven and worry over purchasing local berries, Hot Dog Night is as simple and easy as one can imagine. And this dessert is no exception. Grill the dogs, toast the buns, open a bag of chips and settle at the table. As long as I have mustard, relish and ketchup (heavily back stocked in the pantry year round), the earth will continue its rotation around the sun at least for this evening. Enjoying fresh berries that can only be found at this time of year signals summer and all of its promise of lazy days at the beach, hydrangea blooming, dining on the deck and a certain lightness that can only be felt right here right now.

Local Strawberries with Balsamic and Basil

1 pint local, ripe strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (don't use the super fancy stuff)
1 pinch Kosher salt 
5-6 torn basil leaves
4 scoops vanilla ice cream or 16 oz. vanilla Greek yogurt

Slice the berries into a small mixing bowl. Add sugar, balsamic vinegar and salt. Allow to sit for 15 min-
1 hour to let the strawberries macerate and releases their juices.

To serve, tear basil over strawberry mixture. Spoon ice cream or yogurt into 4 dessert bowls. Top with strawberry mixture and enjoy immediately.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Favorite Fellow Muncher ❤️

"To stop...and see...and munch on"

Because that is why we are really here-to feed ourselves something delicious and sometimes that delicious thing can also look beautiful, too. The creating, slicing, spreading, constructing and stepping back to admire. add just one more flavor. Then sitting down to savor it all. I love this poem written for me by my favorite fellow muncher, Ava ❤️

Ava's tastes and palette have evolved and expanded. She may still be super sensitive to merely a few dried chili flakes added to an entire pot of pasta, calling out dramatically for a glass of milk if even one minuscule speck ends up on her plate. But she is more adventurous and excited to try new things. She has advanced to the point that I now find myself reluctant to share my latest culinary find lest she devour it all before I can have a second helping.

To say that I was surprised the day she agreed to taste sliced fresh radishes on a buttered slice of baguette and sprinkled with flaky sea salt, the ruby orbs' peppery bite marrying with the soft butter and chewy bread is a severe understatement. More recently, her discovery of smoked salmon with capers and fresh dill adorning a smear of cream cheese on a toasted bagel blew me away. Is this my child who would only eat chicken nuggets and oven fries doused in ketchup? She admonished marinara sauce on her pasta, preferring lightly buttered noodles. The only vegetable I could serve her was inoffensive and bland frozen corn.

Imagine when she asked me last winter to teach her how to poach an egg to rest a top her avocado toast. She then proceeded to garnish it with pea shoots. During that same holiday break, she tried roasted asparagus dipped in lemony hollandaise and now orders Eggs Benedict when she is out for breakfast. These dishes may not seem overly exciting and new but believe me when I say, that we have come a long way. Blueberries, licorice, gravy and dipping a brush into a creamy egg yolk, would never before have crossed her mind as options to use to paint a picture of food. 

Before I know it, Ava will be boarding a plane next fall to study abroad in Rome. I am excited for her to see incredible works of art and architecture, to experience another country and culture, to immerse herself and discover someplace completely unknown. There she will be able to find some familiar flavors but I am confident that she will dive head first into tasting everything that is offered. And when her semester is completed and she is ready to come home, I will welcome her with a favorite comforting meal: a grilled hot dog with ketchup or perhaps some mild and creamy mac 'n' cheese. Because while we all love to wander and explore, there is nothing like coming home.

(Previously published under "French Breakfast" 5/21/15)

Smoked Salmon Tartine
(serves one)

1 slice pumpernickel bread
2 tablespoons cream cheese ( I prefer jalapeno cream cheese, Ava prefers plain)
a few slices smoked salmon
2-3 teaspoons capers
a few very think slices of red onion
fresh dill fronds (or any other herb/pea shoots, sprouts)
sea salt

Lightly toast the pumpernickel bread. Remove from toaster and spread with cream cheese. Top with smoked salmon. Add capers, red onion and herbs. Sprinkle top with sea salt. Serve whole or cut into 4 strips. 
Enjoy with your favorite fellow muncher!

Friday, January 19, 2024

Team Dinner: Clipper Pride 🎉💪❤️


Post practice, large teenage appetites. Loud voices, laughter, teasing, "please" and "thank you" to the parents.  Pushing the underclassmen to the end of the line, only taking a small helping until prompted to put more on the plate. They awkwardly enter the house and leave feeling as comfortable as an old friend.                                                                                           
Make so much food that you think you will be eating it for days after these lanky, goofy kids leave your house. Don't be fooled. There will barely be a morsel left. You will get to eat only if you put some aside before they arrive.  
                                                                           Team Dinner. 

I never realized that one day I wouldn't be waiting at practice, driving a carpool, setting up play times being totally involved in my child's and his friends' lives. But becoming a high school student and getting his license changed all that. I am no longer around the laughter, the silliness, the stinky, dirty and totally great kids they way I used to be. So, when there is a request for me to host Team Dinner, I jump at the chance. Although while I am shopping, preparing and fretting about "Where the hell am I going to fit all these kids on my tiny house?" I sometimes question my lofty plans to make almost everything from scratch. I just can't help myself.

I am sad that this is the last year for team dinners. (Declan is a senior in high school.) I hold out for the times that hopefully, the kids will bring their friends home for a snack or a dinner. Stay for a few minutes, tell me about their lives while I listen to their laughter. I promise I will look forward to making just about anything they request but no way will I attempt to make homemade tortillas- Don't even ask!

Team Dinner Taco Buffet

lime wedges
shredded lettuce
chopped avocado 
Pico de Gallo (see recipe)
shredded cheese
sour cream
pickled jalapenos
Pickled Red Onion (see recipe)
taco sauce
hot sauce
bbq sauce
Jalapeno Ranch (see recipe)
corn or flour tortillas (2-3 per person) 60 for 16 high school basketball players
Spicy Black Beans (see recipe)
Pork Carnitas (see recipe)
Mexican Shredded Beef (see recipe)

2 Bite Corn Muffins (see recipe)
Clipper Pride Cupcakes (see recipe)
candy bowls
salsa/tortilla chips
beverages : water, Gatorade, flavored seltzer waters

Pico De Gallo


16 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, diced
6 green onions, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and serve immediately. If prepping in advance, combine tomatoes, green onions and cilantro or parsley. Just before serving, mix with vinegar- Kosher salt and serve.

Pickled Red Onion


1 small-medium sized red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 cup white vinegar or cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 wedge of an orange
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to boil and immediately turn off heat. Pour mixture into a non reactive bowl (glass or porcelain). Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve on taco buffet, in salads or sandwiches.

Jalapeno Ranch 
(Jalapeno Buttermilk Dressing from The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain)


2 large fresh jalapenos, stems and seeds removed, chopped
1 clove garlic ( I used 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon lime zest (I substitute 1 tablespoon lime juice)
1/4 cup buttermilk (add more for a thinner dressing)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Puree in a blender: jalapenos-buttermilk. Pour mixture into a serving bowl. Slowly mix in sour cream and mayonnaise. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Spicy Black Beans


2 (24 oz.) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in a large pot. Gently mix to combine. Heat on low for 30 minutes (or longer for softer beans that can be spread onto the tacos). Serve warm.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas 
(adapted from Food Network Kitchen)


3 cups chicken broth
3 whole oranges 
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons chili powder
3 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 medium onions, quartered
8 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
4 bay leaves
9 pounds boneless pork shoulder, fat trimmed, cut into approximately 2-3 inch size pieces

1/4 cup vegetable oil

For serving:
See Team Dinner Taco Buffet

Divide all ingredients through pork shoulder into 2 slow cookers. Cover and cook on high for approximately 5 hours until the pork is tender. Remove pork from liquid, shred meat. 
Heat a large pan, add 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Working in batches, spread pork in an even layer in pan and allow to crisp (5-10 minutes). Stir to crisp the other the edges. Remove pork to serving tray and cover with foil. Continue with remainder of oil and pork. If pork on serving tray becomes dry, moisten it with cooking liquid. If serving the pork at a later time or the next day, refrigerate. When ready to serve, heat pork and some liquid to 135 degrees. Serve warm.

If using a crock pot to reheat and serve, allow 2-2 1/2  hours  on high to bring pork to temperature.

Mexican Shredded Beef
(adapted from Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Beef by Meghan McMorrow)


2 tablespoons chili powder
3 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons dried oregano
2-3 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon red chili flakes

6-7 pounds beef chuck roast
2 onions, diced
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 small can tomato paste
4 tablespoons lime juice (juice from approx. 2 limes)

If using the oven, preheat to 275 degrees. The meat will take 5-7 hours to cook.
You can also cook this recipe using a slow cooker on low for about 7 hours.

In a small bowl, mix together chili powder - red chili flakes and set aside.

Add the chopped onion, garlic, tomato paste, lime juice and 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture to a deep sided roasting pan (oven) or slow cooker. Sprinkle the rest of the spice mixture over the chuck roast and rub into all surfaces of the meat. Place meat on top of the onion mixture. If using the oven, tightly cover the roasting pan with foil and place pan in oven for 5-7 hours. If using slow cooker, place meat on top of onion mixture, cover and cook for approximately 7 hours on low.

After meat is cooked, remove from oven/ uncover slow cooker. Shred meat removing any large pieces of fat and gristle as you find them. (If the meat is too tough to shred, it will need to be cooked longer. Cover meat again and place in oven/ continue with slow cooker for another 30-60 minutes and attempt to shred again. 

Once meat is shredded, mix with the cooking juices/sauce. Season with salt to taste. Serve warm with taco fixings.

2 Bite Corn Muffins
(1 batch = 12 small muffins. I make 36 muffins to serve 16-20)


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup ground cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt plus more for sprinkling on tops of muffins
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12 muffin tin.

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir together buttermilk, oil and egg. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir together until just moistened. Scoop 1/4 cupfuls of batter into each muffin cup. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and ground black pepper.

Bake muffins for 15-20 minutes until a pick inserted comes out clean. Remove muffins from tin and serve warm or at room temperature. Best on the same day as baked.

Clipper Pride Cupcakes
(1 batch = 15 cupcakes. I make 45 cupcakes for 20 people plus leftovers.)


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup cold water
1 beaten egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cupcake pans with 15 cupcake liners.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix flour- baking soda. In a small mixing bowl, combine vanilla-beaten egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Fill 15 cupcake liners in the pan 1/2 full with batter. bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed and dry looking on top and pick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes and remove cupcakes to rack to cool completely before frosting. (See recipe.)

Frosting for Cupcakes


1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup Crisco
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/8-1/4 cup milk at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
Team color sprinkles: Maroon, white and silver for Falmouth High School Clippers!

In stand mixer, beat the butter and Crisco together, add salt and combine. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl. Slowly add milk in between sugar additions. Add vanilla. Mix to achieve spreadable but not too stiff consistency. If needed, add a little more sugar or a tiny drop of milk to reach desired consistency.

Place 2-3 tablespoons of frosting on top of each cupcake. Smooth out with an offset spatula or butter knife and immediately top with sprinkles. Store in an airtight container. Cupcakes will keep for 3-4 days. 

           2 Bite Corn Muffins                                                              Clipper Pride Cupcakes