August 31, 2008

blowing hot and cold

Where does the time go? I can't believe summer is already winding down. Here are two side dishes, one hot and one cold, that I shall miss terribly when the summer bounty is no more.


On the cool side of things, we have this salad, which was directly inspired by a recipe from Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. Resistance was futile since it contained both cilantro (my all-time favorite herb) and avocado, and fortuitously, I happened to have everything in the ingredient list. My only adjustment was the addition of diced banana peppers.


(note to self: a green bowl is not a helpful picture-taking aid)

The tomatoes you see (including that gorgeous yellow one) are from my "garden" (or rather, my tomato patch, since that's all I'm able to grow...). I might be a bit biased, but they're some of the best tomatoes that have ever passed between my lips.


(the fact that the tomato has buttocks just made it that much better...)

It's a delightful little side dish, refreshing and perfect for summer--thanks, Kalyn!

Side dish number two is based on a saute created by Chuck of Sunday Nite Dinner. While that dish made use of okra and basil, I again used banana peppers and cilantro. After sauteing, I also tossed in some red cabbage for color and crunch. It's pretty purty, ain't it?


The tomatoes I used in this dish came from my brother's garden back in good ol' Virginia. They're called Black Russians, and they are delectable. By delectable, I mean extremely juicy, perfectly sweet, and just the right acidity for my tastes.


Since these Black Russians are so phenomenal, I'm sending this dish to Ramona at The Houndstooth Gourmet for her You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto event. Tomatoes rule.

Meanwhile, I was just opining to Pam of Sidewalk Shoes that someone needed to compose an ode to the wonder that is cilantro. So, without further adieu, here's my cilantro haiku (hey, even that rhymes--perhaps I'm a poet, after all...):

Green, verdant, pungent.
You can improve any dish.
Without you, I cry.


Hmm...perhaps not.

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August 28, 2008

like riding a bike...

...but much more rewarding.


In return for sharing the goods from his garden with me, I offered to make my friend from work whatever his heart desired. His response was immediate: blackberry pie, made with the berries he planned to pick that weekend. (Apparently I've built my reputation as a competent baker since he didn't seem to doubt for a second that I could do it.)


(driiiiiiiip)

The berries he picked were gorgeous, but of course, the filling wasn't my major concern. Made-from-scratch pie crusts can be fickle beasts and the risk of failure is always looming. I'm pretty confident of my tried-and-true recipe, but since I hadn't made it for, oh, about a year, I was understandably apprehensive. (You may recall when I wimped out not too long ago...)


Good news--everything turned out fine. I know you're relieved. I sure was. Although I didn't get a taste, my friend said that he first ate a modest slice, decided to have a bit more, and ended up eating a third of the pie in one sitting. That's what I'm talkin' 'bout. Ah, the power of pie.


(so flaky)

My crust recipe uses all shortening, and it's the only recipe I've ever tried. The result is a very flaky, very tender, very delicious creation. I think I'll branch out next time and try half shortening, half butter, as I've read that the butter really imparts a terrific flavor. (Well duh, Grace--how could it not?)


Breathtaking and Blissful Blackberry Pie
(a fantastic fusion of this and this)

5 cups blackberries, the more gorgeous the better
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
pie crust (see below)

In a large bowl, gently toss the blackberries with the sugar. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, salt, and lemon juice to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the berries and gently toss to coat. Take care not to crush the berries, for they are quite sensitive and fragile. Let this mixture sit for about 15 minutes.

My Go-To Pie Crust
(an amazing amalgam of a recipe from a card that came with my
Longaberger pie plate and Cooking Light)

2 c flour
1/2 T sugar
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 c shortening, chilled
1 small egg, beaten
1/2 T vinegar
1/4 c ice water

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and salt. With a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix together egg, vinegar, and ice water; add to the flour mixture. Mix until the dough is moist enough to form a ball--you may not need all the liquid. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Gently press each half into a 4-inch circle on 2 sheets of overlapping plastic wrap; cover with 2 additional sheets of overlapping plastic wrap. Roll 1 dough half, still covered, into a 12-inch circle. Roll the other dough half, still covered, into an 11-inch circle. Place the dough in the freezer for about 10 minutes or until the plastic wrap can be easily removed.

To assemble pie:
Preheat oven to 425°F.

Remove the top 2 sheets of plastic wrap from the 12-inch dough circle; fit dough, plastic wrap side up, into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate coated with cooking spray, allowing the dough to extend over the edge. Remove remaining plastic wrap. Toss the berries once more and then pour into dough. Brush the edges of the dough lightly with water.

Remove the top 2 sheets of plastic wrap from the 11-inch dough circle; place, plastic wrap side up, over filling. Remove remaining plastic wrap and press the edges of the dough together. Fold edges under, and flute. Cut 4 slits into the top of the pastry using a sharp knife. If you're feeling fancy, brush the top and edges of the pie with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake at 425°F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F (do not remove pie from oven), and bake an additional 40 minutes or until golden. Cover the edge of the crust with aluminum foil if it begins to get too brown. Cool on a wire rack for as long as possible. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Seriously. That's a direct order.

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August 26, 2008

wax on, wax off

I had a thought-provoking drive to work yesterday morning, for three reasons.

(Two for the price of one--my kind of ear of corn!)

First, I saw not one, not two, but three partner-less shoes strewn along the Thruway. How does this happen? How does one shoe find its way out the window? I find it completely baffling, yet see it all the time.

Second, the morning djs on my favorite radio station are idiots. They were making fun of one of their interns because he thought Washington D.C. was located in the state of Washington. Yeah, that's pretty bad, but when he asked them where it really was, they unanimously declared that it was in Virginia. Dolts.

Finally, I was passed by one of the most unique vehicles I've ever seen. The vehicle itself wasn't unique--it was a plain ol' minivan. No, what made it unique was the set of what had to be moose antlers adhered to the roof. I laughed out loud, and I'm still chuckling about it.


Here's a poser--who would want to eat a bean that's reminiscent of wax? The name just doesn't sound particularly appetizing.

One of my co-workers has a lovely garden and he has recently taken pity on me and offered to share his bounty. My first bag of goodies contained a few cucumbers, several banana peppers, and a whole bunch of yellow wax beans.

Here's my dilemma, folks: I've never before dealt with wax beans. I was raised on green beans--the kind with lots of strings (do you call them string beans?) that you snap into bite-size pieces (perhaps you call them snap beans). I'm not sure what to do with these little yellow sticks and will gladly accept any suggestions you might have.


In the meantime, watch out for mutant corn, rogue shoes, stupid radio personalities, and armed minivans.

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August 22, 2008

a happy accident

Remember those s'more bars? I'm sorry to report that they didn't turn out quite as well as I let on...


...but they ultimately became something better.

Yes, my friends, I'm sorry to say that you've been deceived. Hoodwinked. Bamboozled. Although those bars looked fabulous and tasted great initially, they were rock hard the next day. Not even the microwave could return them to an edible form. So, I did what any frustrated cook would do. I dumped 'em into a bag and beat the fire out of them with my rolling pin. The results of this momentary loss of calm were a glistening layer of sweat, a renewed sense of peace, and a bag full of buttery graham cracker-chocolate chunk clumps and crumbs.


Now what? Since I refused to waste the bag full of goodies, I began to look for recipes requiring graham cracker crumbs that wouldn't be fouled up by the presence of those globs of chocolate. (I picked the marshmallows out and ate them myself.)(This also helped with the recovery from the temporary tantrum.) I finally found an Oatmeal Breakfast Cake that I decided could be mangled to suit my needs.

Frankly, the cake couldn't have turned out any better. It smelled exactly like brownies, but had the texture and appearance of cake. It's too bad I couldn't preserve some for posterity because I'm sure I'll never be able to replicate it, and it truly was a delicious creation.


Because this is clearly an original recipe, forged out of frustration and desperation, I'm submitting it to Lore from Culinarty for her Original Recipes roundup.


Salvage Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
1 cup previously rock-hard, crushed
s'more bar base
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice, left to sit for 5 minutes)
3 eggs
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chocolate chunks from
s'more bars

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a bundt pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, demolished s'more bar base, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cranberries, and chocolate chunks.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, and eggs. Add this buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes, then extract it and leave it to cool completely on a wire rack.



(Good thing I got my slab early--this was all that remained after sitting out for less than an hour at work.)

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August 20, 2008

taste & create, lucky number xiii

I don't consider myself to be a superstitious person (although I do tend to knock on wood quite frequently, just in case). I don't toss spilled salt over my shoulder or fret about breaking a mirror. I boldly walk under ladders and encourage black cats to cross my path. And fortunately, I have no problem with the number 13.


It's fortunate in this case because this round of Taste & Create, run by Nicole of For the Love of Food is #13. I was paired with Katie from One Little Corner of the World. Her blog is full of useful and delicious recipes, and even some great tips for entertaining.

I chose to make her Blue Corn Flapjacks. Pancakes of any kind remind Katie of her grandfather and the huge buckwheat pancakes he'd make for her every Saturday. This struck a chord with me because while my brothers and I were growing up, my family had pancakes every Sunday. It was Mamboree's duty for years, and then I took over. So like Katie, I'll probably always associate pancakes with family.


Katie was the recipient of some authentic blue cornmeal from Mexico, but I wasn't so lucky (perhaps it was that salt I spilled yesterday or that mirror I broke back in '97...). I went to two grocery stores and two other stores and finally found some blue cornmeal at Dollar General, of all places. Unfortunately, I don't think its source was blue corn. No, I suspect it was regular cornmeal dyed blue (the presence of FD&C Blue No. 1 in the ingredient statement was a bit of a clue).


Regardless of the source for that cornmeal and in spite of the resulting neon blue hue, the flapjacks were quite tasty. They were fluffy and soft and super absorbent, which I consider an important quality for my pancakes. The more maple syrup they can suck up, the better.

Thanks to you, Katie, I now have a bag of scary blue cornmeal and a killer corn flapjack recipe.

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August 18, 2008

gimme s'more or gimme...

...anything else, really.


I'm sorry. I don't like s'mores. I love each component separately (especially ooey, charred, wood-flavored marshmallows), but together they create a sloppy, difficult-to-enjoy dessert.

S'more bars, on the other hand, make my complaints irrelevant--the mess factor is completely gone. The brittle graham cracker that always breaks and usually fails to keep a s'more together is reduced to crumbs. The slab of chocolate is nicely ensconced in those crumbs. The marshmallow, although not charred or wood-flavored, is contained but still gooey and delicious. Wonderful.


(peekaboo!)

The graham cracker crumbs that I ultimately used came from a sample of chocolate graham cookies that I got from work (hooray for perks!). I used toasted coconut marshmallows because a)that's all I had, b)I love coconut, and c)obviously, the "toasted" part would lend itself to a more authentic s'more experience.


Finally, and most importantly, the chocolate I used (in combination with some semi-sweet chocolate chips) was the last of my Amano stash. It was their Cuyagua bar, said to have notes of spice and melon. Oops--maybe not the most appropriate for this dessert, but nevertheless decadent and intoxicating.


In order to correctly enjoy these bars, they really should be eaten immediately, while the marshmallows and the chocolate are still slightly melted. I guess the microwave could be used in a pinch, since eating an entire batch at once probably wouldn't end well for anyone (unless there was a money prize involved).


Coconut S’more Bars
(adapted from this recipe)

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, divided
1/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons butter, melted, divided
12 ounces chocolate, whichever degree of darkness floats your boat
approximately 20 large coconut marshmallows, halved

Put 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and 6 tablespoons melted butter in a 11 x 9-inch baking dish. Using a fork or your fingers, mix well and then press into the dish. Bake at 350°F for 7 minutes or until it begins to brown on the edges.
Distribute the chocolate evenly across the surface of the crust. Put the dish back into the oven for 5 minutes or until the chocolate has melted enough to be evenly spread across the crust.
Once the chocolate is spread, add enough marshmallows to cover the chocolate. Put the dish back in the oven and allow it to cook for 5 minutes or until the marshmallows puff up and turn golden brown on the edges.
Remove the dish from the oven and spread the marshmallows so they evenly cover the surface. Combine 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs in a bowl and sprinkle mixture across the surface. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown, bubbly, gooey, and irresistible.

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August 15, 2008

gingammonbread

Here's a Friday morning poser for you (TGIF, by the way): Why is it called gingerbread when the ingredients call for just as much cinnamon as ginger? That's cinnamon discrimination, and I won't stand for it! Henceforth, I shall refer to any such creation as gingammonbread instead.


This gingammonbread is particularly unique because it's made with a sourdough starter. That's right, Eb is back again. I'm really trying to find every possible usage for a sourdough starter, and I was delighted to find a recipe for sourdough gingammonbread. It has all the necessary components--ginger, cinnamon, and molasses--with the added use of a starter.


I must confess that I'm not too keen on gingammonbread. The culprit is the molasses--the taste just makes my face scrunch up (quite an unattractive look, I assure you). (There does seem to be one exception to my distaste for molasses and that, oddly enough, is molasses cookies. I'm not sure what it is about them, but the flavor of the molasses just doesn't bother me. But I digress.) As far as gingammonbread goes, this was good. The sourdough flavor wasn't too strong, it just made the other flavors a little more complex. It was also extremely moist, which I consider a good thing in cake-type breads.

My beloved Mamboni always tops her gingammonbread with a lemon glaze, so I went ahead and did that too. As it turns out--surprise, surprise--the Mambourine does, in fact, know best. The glaze made all the difference. Good call, Mammy.


(I wouldn't mind a dip in that pool...)

The person responsible for the original recipe called it Alaskan Sourdough Gingerbread, but since I'm not Alaskan and since I don't condone cinnamon discrimination, I've renamed it as I see fit.

Virginian Sourdough Gingammonbread
(adapted from this recipe)

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1/2 cup hot water
1 cup Eb-like creation

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons water, if needed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease up a 8x8-inch baking dish or mini loaf pan.
In a large bowl, cream together the brown sugar and butter. Add the molasses and egg, beat until well blended, and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and blend into the hot water. Warning--you'll end up with a gloppy mess. Beat this mess into the creamed mixture like there's no tomorrow. Gradually add your Eb, mixing carefully to maintain a bubbly batter.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until the toothpick test is passed.
For the icing, whisk the lemon juice into the powdered sugar and gradually add the water, if needed. Spread over the cooled gingammonbread and try to let it set before cutting.


P.S. Please visit this post on my good friend Katie's site, The Kitchen and Beyond. She needs to pick your brains for some good frozen entree ideas.

P.P.S. I'm submitting this to Sunita for her Think Spice event, celebrating its one-year anniversary. Cinnamon rules.




P.P.P.S. Did you know that Julia Child was once a covert operative? My respect for her just grew even more.

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August 13, 2008

layers of heaven

What better way to celebrate my 200th post than with a glorious cake, stuffed to the gills with white chocolate and laced with a touch of fruitiness?


Readers, this cake is a show-stopper. I first encountered the recipe while looking for a cake worthy of my big brother's wedding rehearsal dinner. Although it ultimately wasn't the winning cake (I guess there just weren't enough white chocolate fans polled), it's without a doubt a winning cake.

Let me paint you a picture. The cake itself is quite dense and not at all crumby (or crummy, for that matter). There's an undeniable white chocolate flavor, but it's in no way overwhelming. The layer of preserves (and fruit, if your wits are about you while assembling the masterpiece) in the middle offers a special kind of sweetness and, depending on the fruits you choose, a bit of a tart quality as well.


(Your wish is my command.)

The icing is another story altogether. It's super rich (definitely not for those of you with mixed feelings about white chocolate) and creamy, but not at all like those frostings that coat your mouth and leave you feeling slightly disgusted. Quite frankly, I think it's the perfect topper for this cake, and if I wasn't so daggone crazy about that cinnamon cream cheese frosting, I'd say it's the perfect topper period. I added two tablespoons of preserves while mixing so the color would be a nice pale pink (and so I wouldn't have to worry about the filling oozing out and tainting a perfectly white icing...).


(I wonder if the folks on CSI: ever extracted fingerprints off of a picture of blueberries--they tend to do miraculous, astounding things like that, and in a matter of seconds, no less!)

As you can see by my pictures, I really goofed on the middle portion, as there is a)minimal frosting and b)no whole fruit. As it turns out, I'm a horrendous judge of how the icing should be divided so that there's an even distribution among the middle, top, and sides. Horrendous. Apparently I'm also a bit of a flake since, even though I have both fresh blueberries and fresh raspberries on hand, I failed to remember to garnish the middle with them. D'oh.


Even when you make silly mistakes like that, this is a wonderfully decadent cake. However, it should definitely be saved for special occasions--that white chocolate can shoot your grocery bill straight through the roof. I'd estimate that you could get about 20 servings out of the cake, as a small slice will probably suffice for the normal eater.

Oh, and I'm submitting this to quirky cupcake's Layers of Cake event. That's gonna be one heck of a collection.

Layers of Heaven
(adapted from Epicurious)

Cake:
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk

Frosting:
20 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon each of blueberry and raspberry preserves, melted

Filling:
fresh blueberries and raspberries
1/2 cup each of blueberry and raspberry preserves, melted

To prepare cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar using electric mixer until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk in three additions, blending well after each addition.
Melt white chocolate in top of double boiler or microwave; let cool slightly. Add warm white chocolate to batter and beat just until blended.
Divide batter equally between pans, smoothing tops with spatula. Bake cakes until tester inserted into centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 20 minutes (cakes will fall). Run small sharp knife around cake pan sides. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.

To prepare frosting:
Melt white chocolate in top of double boiler or microwave. Let stand until cool but not set, about 20 minutes. In a large bowl, beat the butter using an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in the white chocolate, preserves, and vanilla. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Cover and refrigerate until thick enough to spread, about 45 minutes (frosting will be very soft).

To assemble:
Place one layer on a cake plate and spread on the preserves. Carefully spread about 3/4 cup of the frosting over the preserves. Cover the frosting with single layer of berries and then spread 3/4 cup of the frosting over berries. Top with the second cake layer and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of cake. Chill the cake at least one hour. Devour.

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August 10, 2008

beat the heat with a cat o' nine tails

Wow. When I first decided to host an event, I convinced myself that I'd be satisfied with even ten entries. Never in a million years would I have expected 64 of you to participate! (That's right, we had three late-comers, but I'm a softie like that...) I'm astounded and ever so grateful!


Now, let's get to it!

The only logical place to begin is with the starters (and a few miscellaneous sides):

I received two versions of salsa. The first was created by kellypea of Sass & Veracity, and she dubbed it SoCal NON-Cowboy Caviar. You won’t find sugar anywhere near her salsa/salad/salsa salad, but you’d better not skip the salsa verde.


Lucy from Sweets, Savories, etc. sent in the second salsa, inspired by the Southwestern Egg Rolls from Chili’s (one of my favorite chain restaurants). It’s appropriately named Southwestern Salsa, and contains all the goodies you find in one of those egg rolls and more.


One of my favorite foods to come out of Greece is Tzadziki Sauce—it’s so versatile and tasty. This particular version comes from one of my go-to sources for authentic Greek dishes--Erinn from Sunday Dish. She does it right!


Susan and Kenny from Life at Quail Hollow made good use of their copious tomatoes with this Tomatoes and Goat Cheese appetizer. Stunning presentation!


The next starter is a real looker--Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Rolls made by Jude of Apple Pie, Patis, and Pate. She dared to take a Gordon Ramsay recipe and change it up a bit, adding almonds instead of pine nuts. I, for one, am glad she did—think of that crunch, people!


Lore from Culinarty sent in our final hors d'oeuvre. She made Cheese Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes. These are so lovely that I’m even willing to overlook the use of a hard-boiled egg.


I wasn’t sure where to stick the entry from Sandi of WhistleStop CafĂ©. Frankly, Dilly Beans are one of my favorite foods, and you’ll find me eating them at all times of the day. Yes, the beans get cooked, and yes, the brine is boiled, but I love these things, so I’m making an executive decision as the sole judge and allowing it!



Let’s move on to the cold soups:

I'm not kidding when I say that avocados are my weakness. If I see them in the ingredient list, I'm hooked. Antonia of FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD must've known this about me, because she offered up some magical Chilled Avocado Soup. Apparently the recipe came from her old milkman—if you ask me, he was a keeper!


Nuria from Spanish Recipes made a unique Green Gazpacho, utilizing some fennel and other lovely verdant veggies. The smell of this soup may take her back to her childhood, but it would probably take me to cloud nine!


How about a different but equally enticing gazpacho? This one comes from TS and JS of [eatingclub] vancouver. Would you look at that texture? Their father wasn’t interested in any cold soup, but I sure am.


The final gazpacho was a Citrus Gazpacho, sent to me from Sarah of Fritter. She almost set something on fire, but not her kitchen—her mouth! Be careful with those hot peppers!


I really, really hope to have some golden tomatoes soon, mostly because I want to make this Chilled Golden Tomato Bisque from Louise of Livin’ Local. She mentions the mantra “start with the best ingredients and don’t mess them up,” which I’ve never heard before but really like.



From there, let's move on to the salads. There were lots of salads, which makes perfect sense, wouldn't you say?

Elle from Elle’s New England Kitchen brought back this Fresh Summer Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Feta, and Pita Bread Wedges. The New England weather hasn’t been too harsh lately, but this would hit the spot whatever the temperature outside.


Marilyn from Simmer Till Done has a great option for those of you green-thumbers who have cukes taking over your gardens. Her Cucumber-Feta-Tomato Salad is easy-peasy and definitely appropriate for feeding a crowd.


The Olympics have started up in Beijing, and Christine of Kits Chow made her take on a Beijing Cucumber Salad after hearing a reference to it on the radio. Looks good to me!


Mary from Shazam in the Kitchen made a salad right up my alley--Black Bean, Corn, and Cabbage Salad. Great flavors, great textures, and healthy to boot. I can see why she’s been eating this for years.


One of the best things about summer is the fresh fruit it brings. This salad of Summer Fruits made by OhioMom of Cooking in Cleveland would certainly hit the spot on a hot day. Isn’t that kiwi beautiful? I think it’s gotta be one of the most photogenic fruits.


If you like Greek flavors, you’re gonna love this Greek Salad submitted by nicisme from Cherrapeno. You can rest assured at its authenticity since she first had it on her honeymoon on a Greek island!


Another awesome greens-less salad is this Tomato, Pepper, Cucumber, and Feta Salad made by Laura of The Spiced Life. If, by chance, you’re wealthy and have a pantry full of balsamico, she recommends putting a drizzle of it right on top.


Dorit of prettybaking in Israel experiences some fierce heat during the summer, so we can definitely take her at her word that her Mango Salad is a refreshing treat. Take a look—it won’t take much convincing.


This aptly-named dish sent in by Nikki of canarygirl is downright gorgeous. I’ve never seen canned lentils, but she had some in her pantry and made excellent use of them. The bit of cloves in Michelle’s Incredible Lentil Salad is an awesome touch.


Coming to us all the way from South Africa is Jeanne of Cook Sister! She offers a Carrot and Coriander Salad, which hit the spot for her after a particularly trying commute home from work. Whether you call it coriander or cilantro, it’s still my favorite herb.


Caprese Salad is a quick, beautiful, delicious, and healthy dish made by Jescel from Spice of Life. Her post is particularly heartfelt, stressing how essential it is that we maintain some sort of personal contact in this technology-focused world.


I love me some beans, and Mindy from Coffee & Queso sent in her favorite summer side, a Tuscan Cannellini and Tuna Salad. It takes her back to her time spent studying abroad in Tuscany—I can barely contain my jealousy!


Jessica of FoodMayhem added a dazzling new dish to her repertoire with this Asian Pear Beet Salad. I’m loving those colors and the unique combination of tastes sounds pretty enticing.


Another fruity and minty salad (a Cantaloupe Salad with Avocado and Mint, to be exact) was sent in by cookinpanda of Flexitarian Menu. She tried a unique variety of melon--the Crenshaw--and deemed it to be very similar to the cantaloupe. It doesn’t matter what you call it--she had me at avocado.


Marie of A Year From Oak Cottage wrote a really lovely post about the importance of being kind—you really should read her beautiful words. They’re so beautiful that I’m willing to look past the boiling required for the potatoes in her Tomato, Potato, Corn, and Basil Salad. Simple and delicious.


I’m not surprised that Deeba from Passionate About Baking was able to overcome the heat with this Explosive Mango-Nectarine Salad. Her vinaigrette sounds amazing!


Our last salad comes from Ann of Redacted Recipes. Her Cool as a Cucumber, Melon, and Tomato Salad combines all sorts of textures, colors, and flavors to yield a completely appetizing dish.



Main dishes were scarce, but it's all about quality, not quantity:

Susan of Slice of Sueshe brought back her Cheesecake Factory-inspired Chinese Chicken Salad. Skip the fried wonton skins and use leftover cooked chicken and you’ve got a perfect no-heat-required summer meal.


In an effort to cope with the unacceptable lack of Mexican mercados in her vicinity, Francie Baker of Frantic Home Cook made this Bulgur Salad with Feta and Shrimp. If you can’t have Mexican, I think it’s a filling and suitable alternative.


Sharon from Culinary Adventures of a New Wife made a fancy-shmancy Tuscan Fagioli con Tonno. Don't you think food names sound more sophisticated when they're in Italian?


Chipotle is an eye-catching word for me. If I see it, I'm intrigued. Mrs. L from Pages, Pucks and Pantry made a Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad that sounds downright drool-worthy and completely good for you. That chicken was already cooked, right, Mrs. L?


Michelle of Big Black Dogs has improved the boring ol' BLT and made a BBLT--Bacon, Basil, Lettuce, and Tomato. I, for one, think basil would make all the difference for this quick-fix meal.



Every meal needs a beverage:

How about a Fuzzy Peach Melba? Cathy of Noble Pig has made one heck of a beautiful version, obviously inspired by the delicious dessert of the same name. What an excellent use for a plethora of peaches.


To me, Lassi brings to mind the loveable dog that frequently saves young Timmy. To Nazarina of giddy gastronome, an Iced Mango Lassi is a refreshing and delicious yogurt-based drink. I like 'em both.


Tiffany of The Garden Apartment got a mega watermelon, so she put it to good use. She made both a fantastic Watermelon Rum Colada and a Watermelon Granita. She admits to using the stove to make her simple syrup, but that’s okay--there’s always the microwave option!



Last, but in no way (no way) least, are the desserts:

First up, a cupcake fake-out! Rindy R. from Kitchen Klique created this Mint Chocolate "Cupcake" using just four ingredients and has me convinced that it's supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!


Although it's not all that hot in South Africa right now, this Strawberry Yogurt Tart from Nina of Nina’s Kitchen would hit the spot in any weather. She used a kettle to heat some water, but again, a microwave will do the trick.


Lynne of And Then I Do The Dishes brings us her Lemon-Lime Frozen Yogurt. I don't know about you, but I've always found lemon-lime-flavored anything to be refreshing, and I'm sure this is no exception.


Gloria from Canela Kitchen’s Recipes made a similar frozen concoction--Lemon Pie Ice Cream. I personally think this would be incredible on top of a hunk of warm blueberry pie.


Linda of make like sweeter! introduced me to a new delight--Halawa Tamr, or Walnut and Date Balls. They’re suitable for people on any diet, whether it be gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, or dairy-free.


How about some cheesecake? Kevin of Closet Cooking prepared a gorgeous No-Bake Cheesecake, bejeweled with plump blueberries. I’m especially loving the addition of maple syrup to his crust.


Emiline of Sugar Plum will make your mouth water for her Greek Frozen Yogurt with Honey-Drizzled Currants. She was a bit surprised by the sourness of the currants, but I’m sure that was quickly taken care of with the honey drizzle. It’s also important to mention that she wrote her post with a piece of her finger missing—what a trooper.


Oakley Rhodes of Lemonbasil threw together this Minty "Ugly Fruit" Smoothie using some produce that was on the brink of biting it. She made a pretty good save, wouldn't you say? It’s great when something ugly morphs into something beautiful.


We're in serious need of some chocolate here! Luckily for us, Jessica from Fearless Kitchen created some Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream, making wonderful use of that glorious ingredient known as Nutella.


I love a good pina colada, but I'd love a slice of Lisa's Pina Colada Pie even more. It’s easy and quick—which is usually an important characteristic for me—as well as refreshing and creamy. Check out her blog The Cutting Edge of Ordinary for more great eats.


Something named Diet "Buster" Bars is bound to be delicious, and that's certainly true for this decadent creation from Cathy of Where's My Damn Answer. The possibilities for add-ins are endless, and I think each one deserves to be tested.


Elvis is getting a lot of recognition in Blogland these days. Bunny from Bunny's Warm Oven made an Elvis Parfait that the King (and everyone else) would no doubt love.


Sophie from Flour Arrangements just got a new oven, but she didn't need it for her No Bake Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies. These would be appropriate for any season.


I love being introduced to exotic new foods, and Mike of Mike's Table has done just that with his Dragon Fruit and Coconut Sherbet. Isn’t his presentation magnificent?


Need more chocolate? I do. Check out Christie's awesome contribution--Chocolate and ANZAC Ice Cream Sandwiches. (Also awesome? Christie's blog, Fig and Cherry. Go see for yourself.)


If you're like me and your experience with figs begins and ends with Fig Newtons, you'll be excited by what Amy and Johnny of We Are Never Full made for the event--Figs with Yogurt, Honey, and Pistachio. This is a wonderfully elegant dessert, even if, like Amy and Johnny, you’re not a dessert person.


Melanie of My Kitchen Cafe recreated her delightful Frozen Key Lime Pie. I'll tell you one thing--I wouldn't have any problem devouring this before it got soft on me. And just look at that color!


Do you know what a paleta is? I didn't, but fortunately, Krysta of Evil Chef Mom was kind enough to educate me. She made these unique Banana & Dulce de Leche Paletas. Just hearing the words “dulce de leche” makes me weak in the knees.


Indigo from Happy Love Strawberry sent in a double whammy--Pineapple Sorbet and Coconut Ice Cream. I know sorbet is better for you, but give me that ice cream (even if it does require a bit of heat)!


Would you believe I've never tasted saffron? Mansi of Fun and Food certainly has, and she used it in this Shrikhand, a traditional Indian yogurt and saffron dessert. Not only is this a simple and delicious dish, but it also has the added bonus of being calcium-dense!


Whether you say "pee-cans" or "pa-cahns," these Pralines made by Lisa of My Own Sweet Thyme will please your palate. This is one of the best uses for the microwave that I’ve ever seen.


It's about time for a little more chocolate, wouldn't you say? Here's what Gigi of gigi cakes created--Milk Chocolate Malted Ice Cream. We’re lucky to have a picture of this ice cream, since it seems that Gigi’s ice creams have a tendency to be eaten before the camera can even come out of its case!


Susan of Sticky, Chewy, Creamy, Gooey made some stunning Mango-Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream. Doesn't that sound like a stellar combination? It’s quite the looker, too, and makes me wish I had my very own mango tree.


This Mixed Fruit and Yoghurt Parfait made by Zhulaiha of ovenhaven could double as a breakfast or healthy dessert. She says she prefers to call it her “These Are a Few Of My Favourite Things Parfait,” which is a nice reference to one of my favorite movies of all time.


I adore avocados. So does Jescel from Spice Of Life (and the aforementioned Caprese Salad), so she made an Avocado Shake. Does this healthy concoction count as a dessert? I vote yes, although I might get caught eating it for breakfast.


Amy from Tart Reform consulted a Robin Miller cookbook to make her Frozen Lime Pie. So simple, so delicious, and I’m loving the green sprinkles she threw in for color.


Have you ever heard of using cream cheese to make ice cream? Tartasacher from mil postres (1000 Desserts) created this Cheese Ice Cream with Red Sauce Fruits, which sounds like it’d be tangy and smooth and all together heavenly.


Finally, we have these No Bake Granola Bars from Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, which are perfect for any type of weather and any time of day. The variety of things you could add also make these appropriate for anyone’s tastes!


There you have it, folks--one whopper of a beat-the-heat round-up.

Perhaps you’re curious about the prize-winner, yes? When I said I’d be picking an entry based on deliciousness, relevance, perhaps some visual appeal, and any other random factor I deemed important, I assumed I’d have only a few entries from which to choose. As it is, there are just way too many amazing creations to justify singling one out, so I had to change my plans. The last thing I want to do is hurt feelings or create hostility (especially when it’s directed toward me...). So, I meticulously and painstakingly wrote out the names of all the contributors and drew one out of a bag.

Drum roll, please...

The winning entry is:


Sarah, from the lovely blog Fritter! Milady, if you’d like your prize (New South Grilling), please send me an email with some contact information. Don’t worry--I’m an extremely precautious and discrete person and I promise not to sell your address to any junk mail purveyors or stalkers.

Thanks again to everyone who participated (and even those who thought about contributing but got distracted)--I’m much obliged!

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