Savoring the End of Summer

August in our neck of the woods has been very, very pleasant. The mornings and evenings have been perfect for opening the windows, eating breakfast outside and savoring as much of summer as possible before fall arrives. Not that I don’t love fall, but there is just something so special about the time right before the seasons change. I wonder if there is a word for those times? I guess it would be the solstice and the equinox. Someone correct me if I’m wrong here.

Anyways, I’m writing up recipes for three summer salads I’ve made in the last few weeks. I can’t get enough of these fresh ingredients right now. Enjoy!

Avocado Corn Tomato Salad with Cilantro Pesto
Adapted from here

2 avocados, chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed
1 pound fresh mozzarella, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 ½ pounds cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Extra cilantro leaves for garnish

Cilantro-lime pesto
1 ½ cups cilantro leaves
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from one lime
Sea salt & pepper to taste

After chopping all of the salad ingredients, combine in medium-sized bowl. Next, put all of the pesto ingredients in a food processor, and blend thoroughly until it’s the consistency of a pesto. Combine salad ingredients and pesto in a bowl, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve.

We served ours with zucchini quesadillas and it was amazing. I think throwing a jalapeno pepper in with the dressing would yield a nice result, as well.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side.

Heirloom Caprese Salad
Adapted from a variety of sources & personal taste tests

One to two heirloom tomatoes (the more colorful the better)
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella
Fresh basil leaves, about ¼ cup
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt & pepper to taste

Slice the tomatoes about 1/4 –inch thick, and the mozzarella about the same. Slice the basil leaves about ¼-inch thick as well. The chopping can be done ahead, but arranging needs to happen right before serving.

Arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella slices alternating on a long platter. Sprinkle with basil, drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Serves 2 to 4 as a side.

White Fish Heirloom Tomato Salad

1 4-6 ounce portion of white fish, such as Mahi Mahi, cooked (I used restaurant leftovers)
Half of an heirloom tomato
Half of a pepper (I used green)
Balsamic vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt & pepper to taste
Oregano & basil to taste

Chop the first three ingredients in about one-inch pieces. Assemble on a plate. Drizzle with vinegar, oil and seasonings to taste. Serve with a piece of crusty bread.

Serves one.


Chocolate Chip Anything

Ok, so could we just all agree that just about anything with an addition of chocolate reaches a new level of tasty? Recently, the Ohio State Fair was even serving chocolate covered bacon topped with a cherry for crying out loud!

I’ve decided while marathon training dark chocolate is, well, absolutely necessary. Ok, this rule probably still applies year round. It tastes great, and has antioxidants—emphasis on the tastes great part. Right now I’m eating chili-infused chocolate from Lindt. I’m thinking a hot chocolate version of this would be good in a few months, like a warm version of Jeni’s Ice Cream's Queen City Cayenne.

In keeping with my dark chocolate theme, this week I made one of my favorite quick breads: chocolate chip banana bread. I used Ghiardelli dark chocolate chips, to counter the sweetness of the bananas. I’ve tried several different types of banana bread recipes over the past few years, some yielding lighter bread, while others are a more dense, hearty cake. This recipe is somewhere in the middle, but much more dense and moist than others. I used some whole wheat pastry flour, which also made the bread more hearty.

Also, for this recipe and any one that calls for bananas, I cannot emphasize enough how great it is to use “rotten” or frozen bananas. They look disgusting when you take them out of the freezer, but they work amazingly. If using frozen, just let them thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes before using. Then peel of the nasty, brown skin and vwalaaa! You’ve got yourself some perfect bananas for baking. Frozen bananas can be plopped into the blender for a smoothie, too. 

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Adapted from Allrecipes 

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or shortening
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 very ripe or frozen bananas, mashed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup dark chocolate chip

2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a stand mixer, cream sugar and shortening. Beat in eggs, vanilla and bananas until thoroughly blended. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; add to creamed mixture and stir just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon into a 9.x 5-in. loaf pan. Combine cinnamon and sugar for topping, sprinkle over entire top of batter. Bake at 350F for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. During the last 5 minutes of baking, turn on broiler to caramelize sugar topping. Let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Eat at least one piece while it’s still hot! 

Makes one loaf.