The other week I headed out for the farmer’s market at Copley Square, my camera tucked in my backpack. It was one of those days when merely stepping outside resulted in sweat-drenched clothes, but for some psychotic reason I decided to walk there. The path from my apartment in South Boston to the market takes you through an array of neighborhoods and scenery. Every time I do this walk, I see a detail of the city that I’d never noticed before. It could be a mural on the side of a building or a hidden park down a side street.
The shaded kiosks at the market provided enough protection to make it a pleasant trip. I strolled around for a while, poking into each tent to marvel at the gorgeous produce. I couldn’t help but touch everything. This is what carrots are supposed to look like! And aren’t these beets stunning? My fellow patrons look over at me, laughing and nodding in agreement. There was no way I was going home without a few ingredients.
Is it weird that the thing I enjoy preparing most are salads? Even as a teenager, there was nothing that excited me more than chopping veggies and whisking together a vinaigrette. This is how I started to learn how to cook, and I guess it’s why it’s stuck with me all these years.
The true pleasure in eating salad is that often the ingredients are left unaltered or cooked in a way that lets their natural flavors shine. This blueberry, beet, and feta salad wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I got started on developing this dish. Honestly, I’m not sure what my vision was. I was hoping for something leafy, but when the bowl developed and I saw how striking the colors were and that the flavors and textures were layered, I knew this was something that needed to be shared.
A text came in from my mother the other week with a picture of my niece. She was holding her first popsicle, which, not surprisingly, she was enjoying tremendously. It brought back such sweet childhood memories. As a kid, I could eat those one after the next on a blistery summer day and never get tired of them. Ones with pieces of fruit in them were pure perfection. I’d plop down in front of the television and lick and chomp and slurp before it melted all over the floor.
One of the many fun treats that came out of my cookbook shoot from a few weeks ago was a popsicle maker. I’d been holding back on purchasing one, thinking that it was kind of lame and gimmicky. That was until, of course, I actually tried making my own… on a 90 + degree day. And how magnificent that first bite was. Eric and I immediately looked at each other and blurted out with big silly grins on our faces: boozy popsicles. He suggested making a batch with sangria, which I thought was a fabulous idea. Instead of sweetening it with regular simple syrup, though, I decided to infuse them with some beautiful lavender my friend sent me from their trip to Hawaii.
There were a few points during the heat wave we experienced last week when these came in handy. At five o’clock (or - ahem - maybe a little earlier than that), we’d get home and rush to the freezer. Needless to say, I expect a few more batches will be prepared over the next month and a half.
Enjoy and stay cool everyone!
This week, I was invited to a very special dinner at Grafton Street in Harvard Square where their chef, Eric Gregory, and bartender, Morgan Carney, created a menu pairing dishes with cocktails using gin from Berkshire Mountain Distillers. As a fan of BMD and the folks at Grafton, I was excited to see what they would present. I was struck by how naturally the cocktails worked with the food, in particular the first drink that incorporated muddled watermelon. It was a bright, refreshing beverage that worked beautifully with the smoked salmon. Neither overpowered the other, and that’s an impressive feat especially when working with such delicate flavors. I hope the photos show just how enjoyable the food and cocktails were… it also helped that we were sitting outside on the patio. The perfect way to spend a summer night.
There was a point a few weeks ago when I just wanted to call a timeout. What was already a pretty packed July was rapidly getting busier. The e-mails, the requests, and the invitations kept coming in. I have trouble saying no. This is especially true when it comes to work, but it occurs with other engagements as well. A dinner? Sure! A trip? Of course! I want to agree to it all, afraid that declining will result in a missed opportunity. But I hit a point when I just had to politely inform folks that I was booked for the next month.
Today, however, marks a number of deadlines for me. I’ve been working on a few marketing campaigns and a cookbook shoot for the last month and a half and the majority of the work wrapped this past weekend. I’m taking the day off before I gear up for three full days of work. Despite the heat and humidity, I’m heading outdoors, picnicking in the Boston Common where a music festival is currently underway.
Before leaving you with today’s recipe (or, in this case, a link to a guest post I did), I wanted to direct you all to the summer issue of FoodieCrush Magazine. If you don’t already know about it, stop whatever you’re doing and check it out. It’s a beautifully designed publication from my friend Heidi and I’m so honored to have contributed photography for the last couple of issues. Oh, and it’s FREE! Check it out here (and page 42 for the article I contributed to).
Isn’t it neat how the weather directly effects our eating habits? A month ago, a dinner of soup or stew or pasta wasn’t out of the question. But now the mere thought of turning the oven on makes me sweat. Thankfully, I have a talented grill-master of a husband who knows how to cook fish perfectly, so we’ve taken most of our food preparation outside.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been preparing a lot of bluefish. Caught along the East Coast, bluefish is meatier and more oily than a lot of other seafood from this region. It’s a turn off for some, but I find that grilling it takes care of the “fishiness.” The price of bluefish, which is usually found in local stores for $7 or $8/lb, makes it very appealing as well. We’ll often buy an extra portion or two to make this salad, which we enjoy for lunch throughout the week. Credit must be given to our friend, Kat, who served a bowl of this when we were together on the Cape last month and had mixed in some minced lemon slices. It’s a wonder I hadn’t thought to do the same before, since I’m known for adding lemon zest or juice to almost everything I make. It provides a surprising amount of zip, which is exactly what I want in summer fare.