Watermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad

Here’s a refreshing, flavor-packed salad –  particularly delicious on a warm day.

Watermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad

Watermelon, Mint, and Feta Salad

Sweet juicy watermelon, fresh mint, salty feta, and a hit of red chili makes this salad a four part flavor blast: sweet, salty, savory, and fresh.  Enjoy!

Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad
(amounts depend on servings needed)

Watermelon cubes, chilled and seeded – aim for about 1 cup cubes per serving
fresh mint, chiffonade cut
feta cheese, crumbled – about 1 1/2 TB per serving
extra virgin olive oil, best quality – about 1 tsp. per serving
red chili flakes (optional)
sea salt

Arrange watermelon cubes on a platter.  Top with feta cheese and mint .  Sprinkle with just a little salt and chili flakes, to taste.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Serve and enjoy!

Vegan/Dairy free option:  substitute toasted pumpkin seeds for the feta cheese

Chocolate Frosting

I’ve been in search of chocolate frosting — smooth, creamy, fluffy, deeply chocolatey frosting that stays supple even when cool. This was a recipe that I’ve been tinkering with for some time, and am happy to debut it here.

Chocolate Frosting on a yellow cupcake

Chocolate Frosting on a yellow cupcake

I have had many different types of chocolate frosting – and they mainly fall into one of three categories:  ganache, fudge, or cocoa buttercream.  Each of these has their merits, but I was after something different.

unsweetened chocolate

unsweetened chocolate

This recipe relies on good quality unsweetened chocolate for its deep chocolate flavor, so buy a brand you really enjoy.  It has no milk, which can dull the flavor of the chocolate.  Instead, hot water and corn syrup supply the moisture to create a nice fluffy texture while keeping the chocolate flavor in the fore.  Butter gives richness while some powdered sugar provides balanced sweetness and structure.  Salt and vanilla round out and highlight the rich flavor of chocolate in this versatile frosting.  Equally great on Chocolate Cake or Yellow Cake, or fantastic as a spread between my Chocolate Sandwich Cookies.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Frosting
(makes enough for 12 – 16 cupcakes.  Double this recipe for a full layer cake)

6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
8 oz (2 cups) powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
3 oz (1/4 cup) light corn syrup
3 – 4 TB hot water

Beat together the butter, powdered sugar, and melted chocolate.  This will be a very thick paste.  Beat for a minute or so, just to smooth out any lumps.  Then add the corn syrup, salt, and vanilla extract.  Beat on low until together, and add hot water one tablespoon at a time until the frosting begins to smooth out and lighten a little in color.  Beat on medium for a couple minutes or until lightly fluffy.  Now it should look smooth and fluffy, like the photo below:

Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate Frosting

Use your judgement about adding the 4th TB of hot water — the goal is to have light, deep chocolate frosting that is stiff enough to spread on a cake but still fluffy at cool room temp.

Spinach with Smoked Almonds and Dates

I got a deep green bunch of spinach in my CSA box today, and developed this savory salad to bring out the best in this peak of season green.

Spinach with Dates and Smoked Almonds

Spinach with Dates and Smoked Almonds

I love how the rich flavor of smoked almonds (think bacon without the mess or saturated fat) pairs well with the gentle sweetness of dates and the freshness of spinach.

medjool dates and smoked almonds

medjool dates and smoked almonds

I will also add a recipe for a basic vinaigrette that pairs well with this salad.  I don’t buy prepared salad dressings, preferring instead to use good quality oil and either citrus juice or vinegar and salt and pepper.   But when I make a dressing in advance, this is my go-to vinaigrette.   Enjoy!

Spinach with Smoked Almonds and Dates

for the salad:
big bunch of fresh spinach, washed and torn into bite size pieces
1/4 cup smoked almonds, rough chopped
3 – 4 large Medjool dates, pitted and diced**

for the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 TB vinegar*
1/4 tsp. sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Whisk the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper together for the vinaigrette.  Dress the spinach with some of the vinaigrette (amount is to taste), then top with chopped almonds and dates.  Enjoy!

*for this vinaigrette I recommend one of these vinegars: sherry, champagne, white wine or cider vinegar.

**Medjool dates are large, delicious dates.  But any chopped date will work for this salad.

Asparagus Arugula Soup

I just got some true harbingers of Spring in my CSA box — asparagus and arugula.  I also got a rare seasonal treat — green garlic.  What better than a tasty soup to combine these three flavors for a green, savory, creamy soup for supper.

Asparagus Arugula Soup with chevre toast

Asparagus Arugula Soup with chevre toast

This soup is creamy and flavorful, yet has no cream and can easily be adapted for the vegan eater.  Green garlic is the immature garlic plant.  It looks like a cross between a leek and a spring onion, but the flavor is different than either of these.  It’s garlic, but softer and fresher.  If you don’t have access to this, please substitute yellow onion.

green garlic

green garlic

Asparagus 2

asparagus

The cayenne pepper doesn’t make this soup hot — just accentuates the flavor.  I served this soup with toasted baguette spread with goat chevre drizzled with best quality olive oil.  The flavors combine very nicely with the soup and altogether makes a satisfying Spring soup.  Enjoy!

Asparagus Arugula Soup

1 large bunch asparagus, chopped into pieces (reserve a few tips for garnish)
3 green garlic bulbs, or one medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 stick butter or 3 TB olive oil
1 bunch arugula, rinsed and chopped
sea salt
water
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
lemon juice, a squeeze (optional)

In a covered saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter (or use olive oil) and gently saute the diced garlic or onion for a few minutes.  Keep the heat low enough to sweat them without browning.

asparagus and green garlic, sauteing

asparagus and green garlic, sauteing

Add the asparagus pieces and just enough water to barely cover the asparagus.  Add 1/2 tsp. sea salt and cayenne pepper.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the arugula and more water to barely cover vegetables, if needed.

When all vegetables are very tender, use a blender or immersion blender to create a rich, smooth texture.  Add more water if needed.  If you’d like a very smooth texture, blend thoroughly and strain through a strainer lined with cheesecloth.  Adjust seasoning with salt and, if needed, a few drops lemon juice to brighten flavor.

Saute the reserved asparagus tips in a bit of oil to garnish the soup.