Sour

toast

Steak Salad with Herbs | Toasted Sourdough Bread

Here’s your challenge, should you choose to accept it: find a real, honest-to-goodness loaf of sourdough bread. Why? For one thing (and important thing), it tastes good. For another, sourdough bread has more to it, nutrition-wise, than your standard French or Italian loaf. If you’re up for the challenge, keeping sourdough starter in your refrigerator and making your own bread regularly will keep you in good supply – for breakfast toast, lunchtime sandwiches or rounding out dinner. To enjoy the tart flavor of the bread, serve with something simple, like an herb salad topped with your choice of protein (we’re having steak).

Love to Cook: This steak salad recipe calls for both eggplant and corn – perfect for this time of year. If grilling isn’t an option, you could easily use the oven broiler instead. For a vegetarian option, try this sourdough bread salad with capers and anchovies.

Weeknight Reality: Same as above; if the eggplant is too much work for you, substitute other fresh, raw vegetables from the market.

Need a Miracle: If you are getting your bread at the grocery and don’t have a stellar bakery section, you may have to select something other than sourdough – say a spouted grain bread, or sprouted grain crackers. Toss the herb salad (Earthbound Farms makes a good ready-to-eat herb blend) in a mustard vinaigrette and top with your choice of quickly prepared protein: rotisserie chicken, deli roast beef, veggie burgers (warmed in the microwave) or even canned beans.

Planning ahead? Here are some things to think about:

Cobb Salad Wraps | Peach Ice Cream

Ratatouille | Parsley Salad

Wilted

dandelion greens

Seared Scallops with Bacon & Wilted Greens

Hey, look – more greens! A quick toss in some hot olive oil is enough to bring out the flavor and make the greens tender, although different entirely from braised greens. Adding some bacon to the olive oil makes them extra tasty, if you’re a bacon eater. Or try Mario Batali’s version with garlic and anchovies (below). Serve with some scallops that have been cooked quickly in butter (and fresh bread, if you need a bit of starch). If you don’t want to splurge on scallops, any hearty white fish will do.

Love to Cook: If you’re up for some pungent flavor, this recipe for wilted greens with anchovies and garlic will do the trick. For the scallops, there’s no need to embellish – just sear in a hot skillet and serve with lemon.

Weeknight Reality: This greens recipe from Real Simple is quick and easy – and you could use bagged greens. The same scallop recipe, above, is also quick and easy.

Need a Miracle: If your grocery carries the Glory Foods brand, then you may be able to find turnip greens in the frozen section (do not bother with the canned ones). An alternative would be steamed French green beans or other green vegetable that can be prepared in the microwave. Again, same preparation for scallops.

And for tomorrow, etc.?

Steak Salad with Herbs | Toasted Sourdough Bread

Cobb Salad Wraps | Peach Ice Cream

Ratatouille | Parsley Salad

Sweet

Pistache

Pan-fried Turkey Cutlets with Spinach & Blue Cheese Salad | Macarons

Here’s the idea, a frequent flier around here: green salad, topped with lean protein, followed by dessert. For this one, try a standard spinach/blue cheese combo for the salad and top with turkey tenderloins that have been pan-fried in a bit of butter or olive oil, with seasoning to taste. You’ll have plenty of time left over to try your hand at making macarons, should you choose. They’re much easier than you think, although piping them into perfectly shaped rounds takes a bit of practice. Or you could just buy some from your local bakery and enjoy having some free time.

Love to Cook: Here’s Martha Stewart’s version of turkey cutlets, if you need directions. David Lebovitz has great instructions (and recipe) for chocolate macarons, and he also has suggestions for other sites to visit for more tips.

Weeknight Reality: Make the salad, etc., using the best ingredients you can find, and then purchase the macarons. There really isn’t another mid-level option here, since there’s no shortcut in the macaron process.

Need a Miracle: Use deli turkey instead of preparing tenderloins; cello spinach, blue cheese crumbles, prepared dressing and bakery macarons finish your list.

 

What about tomorrow?

Flank Steak | Israeli Couscous | Broccoli Rabe

Harvest

farm board

If you don’t like kale, or are afraid to try it (still), then substitute something else. I start with that so you won’t think “I hate kale; I’m never eating a kale salad” and miss the entire idea here: it’s summer harvest time, so you should enjoy the bounty available at the market. If your idea of a perfect summer salad does not include kale, or blueberries, or any of the other suggestions here, then use something else: basil and peaches, or celery and cherries, or whatever makes you happy.

Blueberry & Kale Salad

Love to Cook: Get your gourmet on with this Massaged Kale Salad with Creamy Blueberry Vinaigrette and Rosemary Candied Walnuts.

Weeknight Reality: This Best of Summer Kale Salad from Iowa Girl Eats is easy to prepare, if you’ve not intimidated by making your own salad dressing. The blueberry-balsamic dressing is good on just about any salad, in fact, so make a double batch. And her recommendation to massage the kale with salt only, not oil, works well. A vegan alternative is this version from the Blueberry Council.

Need a Miracle: Bagged kale, blueberries, seasoned nuts and prepared dressing. And cheese, or fish, if you like.

What’s up the rest of the week?

Pan-fried Turkey Cutlets with Spinach & Blue Cheese Salad | Macarons
Flank Steak | Israeli Couscous | Broccoli Rabe

Southwest

Scottsdale

Grilled Chicken Tacos with Mango Salsa

Instead of standard taco bar taco fare, try some spicy chicken paired with cool mango (or peach) salsa and a bunch of cilantro. It’s a lighter version of the traditional taco night but still with the hot-sweet combo.

Love to Cook: This Bobby Flay recipe for Grilled Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa is easy but requires a long marinating time for the flavors to develop fully.

Weeknight Reality: This recipe for Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos uses pantry spices instead of fresh ingredients for the chicken, which makes prep faster (although there’s still a required marinating time). You could use frozen mango pieces instead of fresh to speed things up for the salsa.

Need a Miracle: If you’re making the chicken at home, there’s no way around marinating time. This recipe from La Tortilla Factory uses prepared spice rub, though, so it’s really about as simple as simple can get.

What’s up for the rest of the week?

Blueberry & Kale Salad
Pan-fried Turkey Cutlets with Spinach & Blue Cheese Salad | Macarons
Flank Steak | Israeli Couscous | Broccoli Rabe

Purple

Eggplant

Spicy Eggplant  | Salad with Mint, Arugula & Parsley

So, it’s Tuesday but feels like Monday, at least around here (#internetsnafu). The good news is that even the “Love to Cook” suggestion for today’s prompt is quick and easy (other than calling for pomegranate molasses). Also delicious. Whether you use regular deep purple eggplant or another variety, large or small, eggplant is in top form this time of year. Like mushrooms, eggplant will pick up flavor quickly and improve with time to develop. If you’ve never cooked with eggplant, here’s a quick primer from The Kitchn on getting the bitterness out.

Love to Cook: This recipe, from David Tanis, for Smoky Eggplant Salad calls for charring the eggplant on the grill, but you can do it in the oven, under the broiler if grilling isn’t an option. A green herb salad tossed in lemon and olive oil and some warm pita bread round out the plate.

Weeknight Reality: Here’s an alternative Tanis recipe, one that doesn’t require any special ingredients beyond what you can likely find at the local grocery.

Need a Miracle: Look in the international section of your grocery for eggplant relish; serve with warm pita, some olives and crumbled feta, and a green salad (an herb blend, if you can find it).

What’s up the rest of the week?
Grilled Chicken Tacos with Mango Salsa
Blueberry & Kale Salad
Pan-fried Turkey Cutlets with Spinach & Blue Cheese Salad | Macarons
Flank Steak | Israeli Couscous | Broccoli Rabe

Double-header

BB walnut boards

Grilled Chicken & Apple Sausage | Tomato-Basil Salad | Chocolate Cupcakes

Fruit & Cheese Platter | Ancient Grains Bread

So, a tiny technical snafu zapped yesterday’s post into oblivion. And since yesterday’s post included the weekly dessert (chocolate cupcakes) and since yesterday’s dinner idea was (is) actually a perfect match for today’s idea, how about a summer double-header – maybe served buffet style with friends, since there’s something to please for just about everyone.

Love to Cook: Two recipes that are worth the time, if you have it, both to hunt down the ingredients and to prepare/bake: The Cupcake Project’s Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake and Josey Baker’s Adventure Bread (via David Lebovitz) – a flourless, gluten-free, hearty loaf that is just delicious. Serve with a classic heirloom tomato-basil salad, an assortment of cheese and sausages, and some fresh blueberries.

Weeknight Reality: A multi-grain loaf from the grocery bakery, sliced, spread with goat cheese and topped with cherry tomatoes and basil, served with a platter of sliced, grilled sausages and a green salad with seasonal herbs and fruit (blueberries, mint, peaches, perhaps) will leave plenty of time to make these easy chocolate cupcakes, topped with fresh whipped cream instead of frosting.

Need a Miracle: Aidell’s sausages are our go-to brand; all varieties are tasty, and they’re free of nitrates. For the tomato salad, toss some cherry tomatoes, halved, in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and basil (or prepared pesto). Add pre-cut fruit, a box or two of Raincoast Crisps, a log of goat cheese and some cupcakes from the bakery, and you’re set.

What’s up next week?

Spicy Eggplant  | Salad with Mint, Arugula & Parsley
Grilled Chicken Tacos with Mango Salsa
Blueberry & Kale Salad
Pan-fried Turkey Cutlets with Spinach & Blue Cheese Salad | Macarons
Flank Steak | Israeli Couscous | Broccoli Rabe

Jerk

baby ginger

Rum-spiked Jerk Chicken | Basmati Rice | Avocado & Citrus Salad

Before walking away from the idea that eating spicy food in hot weather actually helps keep you cool, at least give it a try. A traditional Jerk-style marinade works on everything from turkey to tofu. In our house we like boneless, skinless chicken thighs (used in most of the recipe links below), but substitute whatever suits you and your people. Most preparations call for at least two hours’ worth of marinating time. The longer the better, for sure, but on a busy weeknight sometimes 30 minutes just has to work.

Love to Cook: These Jerk Chicken Bites and these Caribbean Chicken & Pineapple Kebabs are variations on the same theme; although the list of ingredients for the marinade is long in both recipes, the actual preparation is pretty simple. For a cool companion dish, try a salad with this no-oil/no-cream avocado-citrus dressing.

Weeknight Reality: Ok, so the marinade’s the thing. This version, prepared in a blender, can be used to marinate and coat whatever protein you pick. Again, the longer the marinating time, the richer the flavor. For the salad, toss chopped avocado and fresh greens in a lime-cilantro dressing like this one.

Need a Miracle: Your go-to miracle dinner, the rotisserie chicken, to the rescue: toss shredded chicken in some bottled sauce and served atop a green salad with fresh avocado slices.

What’s up tomorrow and Friday?

Grilled Chicken & Apple Sausage | Tomato-Basil Salad | Chocolate Cupcakes
Fruit & Cheese Platter | Ancient Grains Bread

Creole

fleur de lis on the merry go round

Shrimp Skewers | Creole Caesar Salad

It’s summer and it’s hot, so might as well add some spice.

Love to Cook: If you have the time, talent and inclination, Brennan’s Creole Martini Caesar Salad ought to delight you – for the fried crabmeat olives if nothing else. The recipe serves six as a first course or 2-4 as dinner (on plates, not martini glasses), topped with grilled shrimp, marinated or brushed with some spicy Cajun seasoning.

Weeknight Reality: This salad recipe is a bit easier, provided you have the ingredients on hand. Or you could make a standard Caesar salad and top with Grilled Garlic Cajun Shrimp.

Need a Miracle: How about this: chilled cocktail shrimp, tossed in Creole dressing, served on any green you choose with a side of toasted bread.

What’s up the rest of the week?

Rum-spiked Jerk Chicken | Basmati Rice | Avocado & Citrus Salad
Grilled Chicken & Apple Sausage | Tomato-Basil Salad | Chocolate Cupcakes
Fruit & Cheese Platter | Ancient Grains Bread

Repeat.

cucumbers

Cold Cucumber-Buttermilk Soup | Onion Pie

Yep, still hot. Still perfect for cucumber soup, which one day you’ll actually try. And then you’ll thank me, believe it or not. The soup recipe links are repeats from a couple of weeks ago; the first one, from Eating Well, is the winner, if you have time to make it.

Love to Cook: This rich, creamy recipe from Eating Well does require a bit of cooking, but not much. And you can serve it warm or room temperature if you don’t have time to let it cook fully. With the inclusion of avocado, it’s more satisfying than soups that are just cucumber, yogurt and cream. Paired with a sweet onion pie, it’s actually a decadent dinner.

Weeknight Reality: This version of cucumber soup is quick to make but best when it has time to hang out in the refrigerator for several hours before serving – not for temperature, really, but for the flavors to develop. If you have time to make it in the morning or at lunch time, great. If not, then skip to the recipe below, which you can serve immediately. You’re not making onion pie, and we both know it. Instead, sauté some onions in butter and spoon them on top of toasted brioche, or other egg bread.

Need a Miracle: This cucumber soup is the last of the three cold soup options provided on this great post. Each soup is ready in just a few minutes, really. If you don’t have an hour for the soup to chill (develop), then just increase the amount of seasonings. Garlic bread, with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan, is your quick-fix alternative to onion pie.

Weekly Line-Up

Cold Cucumber-Buttermilk Soup | Onion Pie
Shrimp Skewers | Creole Caesar Salad
Rum-spiked Jerk Chicken | Basmati Rice | Avocado & Citrus Salad
Grilled Chicken & Apple Sausage | Tomato-Basil Salad Salad | Chocolate Cupcakes
Fruit & Cheese Platter | Ancient Grains Bread