super delicious grilled pepper and egg sandwiches | writes4food.com

Grilled pepper and egg sandwich.

I think I might eat this sandwich every week through summer.

Rob and I gush over this simple sandwich recipe — a grilled, egg-filled red bell pepper with lots of cheese — every time we make it. Which is frequently. It’s just so ridiculously good.

I’m told this is a traditional Italian workingman’s lunch, one of those peasant dishes that are supremely tasty because of their simplicity.

Go. Get a red pepper, some farm-fresh eggs, sliced cheddar or American cheese, hearty English muffins. Fire up the grill. Grab a stack of napkins. The very best grilled sandwich, ever.

grilled pepper and egg sandwich

(serves 2)

1 large red bell pepper
2 fresh eggs
2 (or, OK, 4) slices cheddar or American cheese
2 English muffins, split
Salt and pepper

Preheat grill to medium, or preheat broiler. Halve the pepper lengthwise and remove seeds and ribs. Carefully remove the stem from each half, cutting as close to the stem as possible (you want a "cup" that will contain the egg). Season each pepper half well with kosher salt. Crack one egg into each pepper "cup" and season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Carefully transfer the peppers to the grill and cook, covered, for about 12 minutes or until the peppers are lightly softened and charred and the eggs are set. (If using the broiler, check for doneness after about 8 minutes.) Top the peppers with cheese and grill or broil briefly to melt. Remove the peppers to a platter and let sit for 10 minutes. Toast the English muffins on the grill or broiler; butter each half. Place one pepper-egg on a muffin half, top with the other half.

lentil salad with spiced vinaigrette | writes4food.com

Beautiful lentil salad with spiced vinaigrette.

This, people, this gorgeous lentil salad is the thing you’ll want to eat for lunch all week long. It’s beautiful, portable, flavorful. And beyond easy to make. And, I should say, customizable — start with the base of hearty French lentils and add whatever you fancy. Just don’t futz with the dressing. The dressing makes it.

This lovely lentil salad recipe is part of The Findlay Market Cookbook, courtesy of Joanne Drilling (chef, editor, mom, colleague). The dressing is remarkable: full of warm spices that wrap around the toothsome lentils and hang out with tangy Feta cheese. Don’t be offput by the list of spices in the dressing recipe; just go to Dean’s Mediterranean Market or Colonel De’s at Findlay Market and buy fresh spices, in exactly the amounts called for.

Add a handful of arugula or spinach. Some goat cheese or Feta. Cherry tomatoes. Or don’t, your call. Have it as a side for dinner tonight, then lunch on it for the next couple of days.

Joanne Drilling's lentil salad with spiced vinaigrette recipe

serves 4–6

2 1/4 cups duPuy lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup dried currants
1/4 cup capers (in brine), drained
2 cups shredded carrot
Salt and freshly ground pepper

for the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup good extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon Indian curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Place the lentils in a large saucepan and cover with 3–4 inches of water; add a generous pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, about 15–20 minutes. Taste the lentils after 15 minutes and be sure they're al dente and not mushy. Rinse the lentils under cold water to stop the cooking; drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the shallot, currants, capers and carrot. In a jar with a lid, combine all the vinaigrette ingredients; shake well to combine. Pour the vinaigrette over the lentil salad and toss gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Optional add-ins: crumbled Feta cheese, roughly chopped arugula or spinach, toasted nuts, fresh herbs, any cooked seasonal vegetables

strawberry vinegar shrub

Strawberry vinegar shrub.

Between two trips to Blooms & Berries in Cincinnati’s Loveland suburb, I figure I’ve picked close to 10 pounds of strawberries this season. I just can’t get enough.

Here’s the thing about eating seasonally in the Midwest: The fruits and veggies you crave have a pretty short window of availability, mostly. Asparagus? That’s about 5 weeks and — BOOM! — done. Sweet peas, even less. Arugula and lettuce? They bolt at the first blast of summer heat (which hit, unusually, in early June this year). Strawberries were around for about a month; when I went to pick on the farm’s last day, it was an hour-long treasure hunt to find enough sweet berries to fill my basket.

Because these flavors are so fleeting, we eat as much of them as we can, prepared in as many ways as we can, for as long as we can. And then we’ve had our fill and we’re ready to move on. (News flash: The Peach Truck from Georgia makes its annual stops in Cincinnati this week, so I’ll have a half-bushel of peaches to gorge on.) Mario Batali calls this ‘scorpacciata’ — you can see his interpretation of this Italian ideal of eating here.

I made ice cream and pie … and another pie. I topped my favorite overnight oatmeal in a jar recipe with smashed strawberries that had gone a little soft. I’ve sought ways to preserve summer strawberries in different ways. I experimented with pickled strawberries. I made freezer jam (with the classic Ball Canning recipe). And I made strawberry shrub.

What’s a shrub? It’s showing up on all kinds of craft cocktail menus, as a sort of next-generation housemade mixer. A shrub is an infusion of fruit, vinegar and sugar, and it’s a long-held way of preserving fruit for storage. This strawberry shrub recipe is adapted from Culinate; it’s very simple to make.

In this shrub recipe, I used a combination of red wine vinegar for a deep flavor and rose color and apple cider vinegar for tartness. With any food I intend to keep for awhile, I err on the side of caution and sterilize my storage containers. I did not add herbs to this, because I wanted just a pure strawberry flavor, but that would be a tasty option.

Fruit shrubs are delicious mixed with sparkling water or club soda — a refreshing take on the flavored waters that are so popular now. And, of course, they’re great in cocktails. Strawberry shrub pairs beautifully with gin; you could make a big pitcher of the ‘Another Shrubbery’ cocktail recipe here for a party. You can make shrub with all kinds of fruit; I plan to make a raspberry version in later summer, and I think blueberry shrub would be lovely, too.

While strawberries are still around, give this strawberry shrub recipe a try!

basic strawberry shrub recipe

makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 cups ripe fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and cut into chunks
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vinegar (I used 1/2 cup red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar)
1 large sprig thyme, mint or basil (optional)

Wash a quart Mason jar and lid, then sterilize them by pouring boiling water over them; let them sit for 10 minutes, then empty and cool.

Add the strawberries and sugar, and use a wooden spoon to mash the berries to create a chunky mixture. Top the jar with the lid and let it sit on the counter overnight. After 24 hours, add the vinegar and herbs, if using. Cover and gently shake the jar until the sugar has dissolved. Stash the jar in the refrigerator for 1 week. Strain the mixture through a sieve, pressing on the solids with a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid and flavor. If you'd like a clear shrub, strain it again through a coffee filter (this will take several hours). Wash and re-sterilize your jar and lid; transfer the shrub to the jar and refrigerate up to 6 months.

Another Shrubbery cocktail

makes 1 drink

2 ounces gin
1 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1 ounce strawberry shrub
3 dashes orange bitters
Club soda

In a highball glass with ice, stir together the ingredients. Top with club soda, and add a mint or basil sprig for garnish, if desired.

 

Metropole burnt carrot salad recipe

Metropole’s burnt carrot salad.

When Rob and I first had dinner at Metropole, the lovely restaurant in Cincinnati’s 21c Museum Hotel, we were gobsmacked by a simple salad of charred carrots. Metropole’s culinary m.o. is cooking over a wood-fired hearth, and these carrots were blistered and blackened to a charry sweetness, then topped with toasted seeds, avocado and Feta cheese. Seriously, I dreamed of this salad.

(In fact, it inspired an exploration of non-lettuce salad recipes that I’ve shared here, including a roasted carrot and red pepper salad and a spring salad with peas and mint.)

As I compiled The Findlay Market Cookbook and sought recipes from local chefs, I held out hope that then-Metropole-chef Michael Paley would share his recipe for the burnt carrot salad. And he did. And I’m happy to pass it along to you here!

Metropole's burnt carrot salad recipe

serves 4

2 large carrots, peeled and trimmed
2 firm avocados, halved and thickly sliced
1/2 cup Feta cheese
1/4 cup pickled red onion (optional)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons toasted, salted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Cut the carrots in half lengthwise, then in 3-inch lengths. In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of well-salted water to a simmer; poach the carrots until they're just tender, about 8 minutes. Preheat a grill to medium. Toss the carrots gently with a bit of olive oil, and grill them until they're nice and charred. Set the carrots aside at room temperature to cool. To make the salad, combine the carrots, avocado, Feta, pickled onion and herbs. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil; very gently toss the ingredients to blend. Divide among 4 plates and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds.

smashed potato salad with bacon and fresh herbs recipe | writes4food.com

Smashed potato salad with bacon and herbs.

I’m not a potato salad person. At least, not in the traditional potato-and-mayo-and-eggs-and-relish kind of potato salad person. The very few potato salad recipes I do make tend toward the lighter side, with Greek yogurt or sour cream pitching in for some of the mayo and fresh herbs instead of pickle relish.

I love this easy potato salad recipe (and not just because it contains bacon … well, maybe because it contains bacon). It fits my fickle potato salad criteria.

This began as a recipe in Martha Stewart’s “Everyday Food,” but I’ve made it often and have adapted it to fit my own preferences. Smashing the spuds slightly adds a luxurious texture that sends this slightly in a mashed potato direction.

This bacony potato salad is perfect alongside a grilled steak or a pile of fried chicken. Use fresh local potatoes if you can find them — the lovely spring new potatoes in the photo came from Farm Beach Bethel, and they’re nicely starchy and sweet. I think new or russet potatoes work better than Yukon Golds in this, because the latter can get a bit gummy.

If you’re like me, you’ll be enjoying this at backyard barbecues all summer long!

smashed potato salad with bacon and fresh herbs

makes 6 side dish servings

2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise made with olive oil
1/2 cup minced fresh herbs (chives, parsley, savory)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream and mayo. In a large saucepan, add the potatoes and water to cover; add enough kosher salt to make the water taste salty. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 12–15 minutes. (Check the potatoes after about 10 minutes to be sure they don't completely fall apart.) Drain the potatoes and add them, still warm, to the bowl with the sour cream and mayo. Use a wooden spoon to smash some of the potatoes, leaving others chunky. Gently fold in the cooked bacon and fresh herbs. Season to taste with salt and a generous grind of pepper. Serve at room temperature. (Note: The salad will keep for several days in the refrigerator; add a bit of milk if it gets a bit stiff.)

Salad dressing recipe roundup.

OK, so pretty much every list of foods you should NOT buy at a grocery store includes salad dressing at or near the top. Why? Bottled, commercially made salad dressing typically includes a laundry list of ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and artificial flavoring.

It’s sooooo much better, healthier and cheaper to make your own salad dressing. I have a jar of easy homemade salad dressing in the fridge all the time. These dressing recipes include just 5 or 6 ingredients, no sugar or sugar substitute. They aren’t necessarily low fat (those dressings made with low fat Greek yogurt are, in fact, low fat). But they’re natural, made with whole ingredients. And — culinary tip alert!!! — if you salt your salad greens before dressing them, you’ll need less dressing.

Here’s a peek at my favorite easy homemade salad dressing recipes!

fresh strawberries with creme fraiche and brown sugar | writes4food.com

Strawberries with creme fraiche and brown sugar.

This is the Easiest. Dessert. Recipe. Ever. Fresh strawberries, local, ripe, sweet and juicy. Creme fraiche, that wonderfully rich sour cream alternative. Brown sugar. Dip, drag, pop, eat. Perfect.

Make this fresh strawberry recipe — it’s hardly a recipe, really — while berries are at their seasonal peak. That means RIGHT NOW.

fresh strawberries with creme fraiche and brown sugar recipe

(serves 2; can be multiplied)

1 pint fresh local strawberries, as ripe as you can get them
1/2 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream or whole milk Greek yogurt)
1/4 cup brown sugar

Wash the berries but do not hull them; pat them dry. On a platter, place the berries, a small bowl of creme fraiche and a mound of brown sugar. Dip each berry in the creme fraiche and then the brown sugar.

quick pickled strawberries | writes4food.com

Quick pickled strawberries.

Pickled strawberries. Sounds weird, I know. But trust me on this (and, full disclosure: I’m not generally a pickle person). These are wonderful, unexpected and delicious.

On the heels of a strawberry picking session last week that yielded a haul of 6.5 pounds of fresh local berries, I was researching fruit shrubs. (A shrub is a vinegar-based infusion that’s quite the thing in locavore cocktail circles. More on my strawberry shrub experiment to come.) I came across this recipe for pickled strawberries. Who knew?

I adapted the recipe a bit. The result? Delicious. Bright, tart, tangy, bracing, flavored with anise and black pepper. And they’re beautiful in a jar. These pickled strawberries are fantastic with a plate of cheeses and charcuterie, much as you’d use little cornichons and dried apricots as accompaniments.

If you have a pint of fresh berries on hand and need to use ’em up, give this a try!

quick pickled strawberries recipe

(makes 1 cup)

1 cup strawberries, washed and hulled (halved if large)
1/2 cup Champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons water
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely milled sea salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 sprigs fresh tarragon or thyme

First, sterilize a clean jar and lid by pouring boiling water over them. Let sit for 5 minutes, then drain and let the jar cool. Add the strawberries, peppercorns and herb sprigs. In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt; bring to a strong simmer and stir just to dissolve the sugar and salt. Let the brine cool completely. Pour it into the jar so the berries are covered or nearly so. Let the pickled strawberries sit in the refrigerator for a day to develop flavors. Keep for up to 1 week.

 

fresh strawberry pie in salted brown butter graham crust recipe | writes4food.com

Strawberry pie with sea salt browned butter graham crust.

This fresh strawberry pie? She’s not much of a looker. Oh, sure, she’s beautiful in the whole, unsliced and unsullied. But cut into this pie, all full of spring’s ripest, juiciest strawberries, and, well, the whole thing falls apart. Juice oozes. Crust crumbles.

But you know what? Doesn’t matter. No, you’ll be happy to overlook the aesthetics of the perfect pie once you’ve slid a forkful of berryjuiceandcrumbcrust into your pie-hole.

In my experience, there’s just no saving a fresh strawberry pie from crust sog. So you have to embrace the problem, with a pie crust that’s just so flavorful you can’t possibly care that it looks a hot mess on the plate.

That, friends, is this crust. A regular ol’ graham cracker crust taken to the next level with browned butter and sea salt. The salty grahaminess of the crust is the perfect foil for those sweet berries and orange-tinged glaze.

So here you go: My grandmother’s recipe for fresh strawberry pie in a salty brown butter graham crust. It ain’t pretty. But damn, is it good.

fresh strawberry pie in salted brown butter graham crust recipe

(serves 8)

For the graham cracker pie crust:

12 whole graham crackers, crumbled (or 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Preheat oven to 375°. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the graham crackers until they're finely ground. Add the sugar and salt. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Cook the butter, stirring occasionally, until the milk solids turn lightly brown and the butter smells nutty, about 7–10 minutes. (During this process, the butter will foam and sputter; watch for large bubbles to form on the surface as a sign that it's nearly done.) Let the butter cool slightly, then combine with graham crumbs until thoroughly blended. Press the mixture onto the bottom and up the side of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before filling.

For the strawberry filling:

3 pints (about 6 cups) fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
3/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Several drops red food coloring

Place the strawberries in a large bowl and set aside. In a saucepan, whisk together the orange juice, sugar, cornstarch and red food coloring. Place the pan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally. Cook until the mixture thickens and turns translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let the glaze cool. Pour the glaze over the berries and toss to coat, then transfer them to the baked graham cracker crust. Serve with whipped cream.

easy lime vinaigrette salad dressing recipe | writes4food.com

Easy lime vinaigrette.

Forever ago, there was a cute little French café on a neighborhood square near my home; I can’t recall its name, but I remember the authentic ham-and-brie sandwiches on crusty baguette and perfectly dressed green salads. It’s weird, but I especially remember the dressing for those little green salads, because it was flavored with lime instead of the more traditional lemon. Seems unlikely, but that shift in citrus makes for a completely different taste.

With a bounty of spring lettuces abundant in my garden, we’re having salad every night for dinner. So I concocted this lime vinaigrette dressing recipe to give my garden greens an out-of-the-ordinary flavor.

Use this simple lime vinaigrette to dress a pile of butterhead lettuce; add diced avocado, shaved radish and a handful of finely chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, chives and savory.

easy lime vinaigrette recipe

makes about 1 1/4 cups
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup good extra-virgin olive oil

In a lidded glass jar, combine the lime juice and zest, mustard, and salt and pepper. Cover the jar and shake it to blend the mixture and dissolve the salt. Add the olive oil to the jar; cover and shake until the dressing is thoroughly combined. Keep the dressing for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, being sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.