Sunday, July 31, 2016

Al Fresco Dining

Last weekend I ramped up the outdoor cooking and dining. Since we were in Alaska the early part of the summer, we got a late start enjoying the backyard to its fullest.

On Saturday morning, after coffee and the paper (outside, of course) we were off to the Paterson Farmer’s Market. It’s the first time we’d been there this season (and it’s the end of July already!). The market was bursting at the seams with gorgeous produce and flowers. We immediately headed to our favorite farmer to see if she had any zucchini flowers (even though it was mid-morning and they are usually first to go). Success! They had beautiful blossoms, albeit small, but nice. We also picked up a basket of regular zucchini and some ripe tomatoes. Here in the Garden State we're all about #jerseyfresh!

On the way home, I fired off a note to my friend over at for her zucchini flower recipe, remembering how good they looked on her site a few weeks ago. By the time we got home, the recipe was in my inbox. However, after washing and inspecting the little flowers, we felt they were a tad too small to stuff so I moved on to Plan B (finding a suitable substitute recipe!). 
Food52 did not let me down. They supplied a fabulous recipe for a zucchini flower frittata, and since one of my most favorite things is breakfast al fresco, we decided to hold the flowers for Sunday brunch. The frittata was absolutely delicious! After a quick sauté of a few chopped blossoms and onions, you pour the egg mixture into an oven-proof pan, place the remaining whole blossoms on top, and into the oven it goes for a short bake. 

Later in the day, I threw together a wonderful tomato/nectarine/basil/ricotta salad. Just mix quartered tomatoes and nectarines in a bowl, add some chopped basil, and crumbled ricotta salata (you could also use torn bufalo mozzarella or crumbled feta), extra virgin olive oil, salt, ground black pepper and let the flavors marinate for a few minutes while you grill. Served alongside fabulous “lacquered” chicken thighs, it was a fabulous day of outdoor dining. There is really no recipe for these wonderful chicken thighs. We merely marinate boneless chicken thighs with Mama Sita’s marinade for a few hours in the fridge, then grill. The result: crispy, delicious, and moist chicken! 

But wait! There’s more! Remember those zucchini I bought at the Farmer’s Market? Well, in addition to grilling a few for dinner, I decided to use the rest for an incredible Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread (from the King Arthur Flour site). Of course, I’ve made zucchini breads before (hasn’t everybody at about this time of the summer?), but this one (IMHO) should definitely be at the top of the list. Brimming with shredded zucchini, honey, cocoa, espresso powder, and chocolate chips, it was fantastic! I strongly encourage you to try this recipe!

Now, of course, any al fresco day at our house wouldn’t be complete without our favorite summer drink: mojitos! This drink personifies summer for me, and I’ve been using this same recipe (see below) for the past couple of years. Try it, see if you don't agree that it is a winner. If you have a mojito recipe you’re partial to, please share!

Happy Summer!
Perfect Mojito recipe

This is a very simple and delicious drink to make, but unfortunately it gets muddled up (literally) too often. There are two important keys that will guarantee a perfect Mojito every time. First, you must use fresh-squeezed lime juice. No premixes or bottle lime juice here — they just won’t cut it. Second, the lime juice to simple syrup ratio must be 1:1. Do not take liberties. Use a jigger for accuracy. If you get these two things right, you’ll be making perfect Mojitos at every party! 

10-15 mint leaves, plus sprig for garnish 

1 oz. fresh lime juice 

1 oz. simple syrup (see Note) 

2 oz. premium rum (such as 10 Cane, Bacardi Superior, Cruzan, etc.) 

Splash of soda water 

In the bottom of a rocks glass, muddle the mint leaves with the lime juice and simple syrup. (Muddle lightly to just release the oils in the mint, do not pulverize the leaves.) Add the rum. Top with crushed ice and the soda water. Stir well from the bottom up. Garnish with the mint sprig and serve.
To make simple syrup: Combine 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool completely, then bottle and keep refrigerated until ready to use. This makes enough for 10 Mojitos. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! I agree that the small zucchini flowers are harder to stuff but it's still worth trying. I love your frittata idea -- on the list for next week! And a woman at the farmers' market also suggested trying them on pizza, so that's on the menu soon too.


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