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TIP OF THE DAY: 12 Ingredients For Summer Tacos

Summer Chicken Tacos

Fish Mango Tacos

Chicken tacos with radish and avocado. Here’s the recipe from Heather Christo. [2] Fish tacos with mango. Here’s the recipe from How Sweet It Is.

 

The 2017 summer solstice falls on Wednesday, June 21st at 12:24 A.M. If you’re having a midnight dinner tonight, you can officially have summer tacos.

What are summer tacos? Tacos with lighter ingredients: chicken, fish and vegetarian instead of beef; summer vegetables used as garnish or in vegetarian tacos.

Bonus: These ingredients are more bountiful in the summer; hence, better priced.

Here are 12 ingredients to add to your tacos:

1. Basil. While it’s available year-round, fresh basil in a Caprese salad is the aroma of summer. Add some shredded basil to the taco or mix chopped basil into salsa. If you’re near a farmers market, pick up different varieties: lemon basil, opal (purple) basil, etc.

2. Beans. Add beans and/or grilled tofu to a vegetarian taco. Use black beans, or think outside the conventional box of beans.

3. Chives. For a subtle onion flavor, consider some chopped chives. We often add chopped red onion; but in the hot weather, chives are a lighter alternative.

4. Corn. Use fresh corn kernels as a topping. You don’t need to cook them. Or, make corn salsa.

5. Eggplant. While not the most obvious addition to a taco, it makes a delicious vegetarian taco and also pairs well with chicken and fish. Grill it and add it. For a vegetarian taco, combine it with summer squash and beans.

6. Fish. Most Tex-Mex restaurants use frozen tilapia, a lower-cost fish (better restos use mahi-mahi). After you fry it and add the garnishes, who notices? We notice! During the summer, better fish are available in larger quantities; thus the price goes down. Treat yourself to black sea bass or striped bass, grouper, hake, mahi-mahi or red snapper (if you like strong fish flavors, we recommend bluefish, usually a bargain). Enjoy the fresh fish flavor with grilled—not battered and fried—fish.

7. Jalapeños. Pickle your own: Slice them and add to a jar with brining liquid to cover (one part white vinegar, one part water and a big pinch each of salt and sugar). Add garlic or other spices or aromatics (e.g. diced onion). Then cap the jar, shake to blend, and keep in the fridge.

8. Mango and pineapple. Dice and use them as a sweet contrast. We like mango as is, and the pineapple grilled.

 
9. Radishes. This spicy veg adds crunch to the taco. Check farmers markets for heirloom varieties.

10. Summer squash. Zucchini and yellow squash, also available year-round, are at their best in the summer. Chop them raw, add grilled zucchini to chicken and fish tacos, make squash salsa.

11. Tomatillos. These green orbs—not related to tomatoes—are the base of salsa verde. You can add them raw, sliced, to the taco, or make your own salsa verde. Simply husk the tomatillos, give them a light char on the grill or under the broiler, and toss them into a food processor with cilantro, sliced jalapeños, salt and lime juice.

12. Tomatoes. They’re at their best and least expensive in summer. Treat yourself to heirloom tomatoes. Diced or sliced, they make a big difference over the bland plum tomatoes used year-round.
 
 
These ingredients will make better Taco Tuesdays, for sure!

Tonight we’re having black bean, grilled zucchini and corn tacos. How about you?

 
  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Circular Plating, Trending With Chefs

Often, what makes the familiar exciting again is presentation. We love this circular plating trend, exemplified by these three salads and a main course.

You can use the technique for any course that goes onto a plate.

For the past couple of years, we’ve noticed the trend creeping up among creative restaurant chefs. It’s not just salad, but seafood, vegetable plates, meats and desserts.

You, too can think outside the middle of the plate. It just takes a few minutes more to arrange food around the periphery, as opposed to putting it in the center.

So what’s in the center of the plate?

It could be cheese, croutons, dressing, sauce, spices, whipped cream…or nothing.

Start today with your dinner salad!
 
 
DESIGNING A CIRCULAR SALAD

For salad, there’s always a choice of greens; but look to contrasting shades and textures. Don’t be afraid to add fresh herbs.

Add at least two color elements, red (beets, berries, cherry tomatoes, grapes, radishes) and yellow or orange (beets, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, egg quarters, mango).

Use an interesting vinaigrette, i.e., made with infused olive oil or vinegar.

Serve the salad with plain crostini or garlic bread (crostini with garlic butter).

If you want to serve a monotone salad, like Caesar salad, use a bright-colored plate.

Take the same approach with non-salad courses.
 
 
RECIPE #1: EAST MEETS WEST SALAD

This circle of flavor from Pakpao Thai in Dallas combines east (mint leaves and dressing) and west. It’s hard to see, but the white in the center is whipped mozzarella. We didn’t have time to practice froth it to perfection, so we used whipped ricotta.
 
Ingredients For The Salad

  • Asparagus
  • Baby radishes
  • Red onion
  • Mint leaves
  • Watercress
  • Wheat berries
  •  
    For The Mint Vinaigrette (6 Servings)

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  •  
    For The Cheese

  • 1 ball buffalo mozzarella*
  • 1 cup of half-and-half or light cream*
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    For The Crostini

  • 1 baguette, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Other seasonings as desired (garlic salt, dried herbs)
  • ________________

    *Substitute 1 pint ricotta for the mozzarella and cream.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crostini. Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange the baguette slices on two baking sheets; brush both sides with oil. Season with salt and pepper and other seasonings as desired. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through until both sides are golden brown. Let cool on baking sheets.

    2. MAKE the vinaigrette. Combine the mint and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Let steep for 10 minutes; then strain into a large bowl, pressing on the leaves to extract all the liquid. You should have about 3 tablespoons of liquid after straining. Add the oil, vinegar, honey and salt; whisk until well combined. Refrigerate it for up to 3 days in a container with a lid, so you can shake it prior to dressing the salad.

    3. PREPARE the salad ingredients: Wash and trim as desired. Arrange on individual plates. Place the whipped cheese in the center of the plate (we used ramekins).

    4. DICE the mozzarella and place it in the bowl of a blender or food processor; or use a deep mixing bowl with an immersion blender. Blend into a froth and mix in the zest. Add the lemon zest at this stage.

    5. SHAKE and drizzle the dressing over the salad. Serve with the crostini.
     
     
    RECIPE #2: SPRING TO SUMMER SALAD

    This recipe comes from one of our favorite creative chefs, Eric B. LeVine. Here, the classic salad made with frisée, blue or goat cheese, apples or pears, and walnuts or lardons is plated in a circle.

     

    Circular Salad

    Circular Salad Plating

    Avocado Mango Circular Salad

    Plain Crostini

    Braised Chicken

    Strawberry Sorbet

    Pumpkin Custard

    [1] Recipe #1: a fusion salad from Pakpao Thai in Dallas. [2] Recipe #2: a frisée, apple and blue cheese salad from Chef Eric B. Levine. [3] An avocado-mango salad from Chef Eric B. Levine, with frisée, onion, tomato, yellow split peas (chana dal) and lemon oil dressing. [4] Crostini from Martha Stewart). [5] Braised chicken and eggplant with garlic chips, from Chef Eric B. Levine. [6] You could put sorbet, fresh fruit, fruit sauce and bits of tuille in a bowl, or you could plate it like this dessert from The Art Of Plating. [7] Pumpkin custard topped with a wreath of meringues, two types of cake crumbles, whipped cream and droplets of pumpkin seed oil, by Chris Ford| The Art Of Plating” target=”_blank”

     
    When stone fruits come into season, switch from apples and pears to nectarines, peaches or plums.

    We wanted some bitterness, so we added baby arugula.

    Ingredients

  • Apples or stone fruits, sliced
  • Red or purple grapes, cherries or strawberries
  • Blue or goat cheese
  • Frisée
  • Optional: baby arugula or watercress
  • Chile almonds (toast whole almonds with chili powder)
  • Apple vinaigrette
  •  
    For The Apple Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 3 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.

    2. PREPARE and arrange the salad ingredients. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Martini

    Mashed Potato Bar

    [1] Who can resist a mashed potato bar (photo courtesy Betty Crocker)? [2] Use whatever dishes you have for the toppings. They don’t have to match (photo courtesy Hormel Foods).[3] If your guests can cope with glass, use your Margarita and Martini glasses (photo courtesy Hormel Foods). [4] Keep the potatoes warm in a slow cooker (photo courtesy Tip Hero).

     

    Whether you like to grill for Father’s Day or prepare everything in the kitchen, a fun, interactive addition to the festivities is a mashed potato bar.

    Our dad loved our cold green bean salad. With a bowl of that, and a cucumber salad or a special slaw, the only other side you need is the mashed potato bar.

    It’s a treat for guests to customize their toppings. For you, everything can be prepared ahead of time, including the potatoes, which are kept warm in a slow cooker or other device.

    Don’t want potatoes? Substitute mashed cauliflower.

    PREPPING THE MASHED POTATOES

    Make the mashed potatoes with or without skin, using your choice of red, white or golden potatoes.

  • Use a tried-and-true recipe.
  • If you like to load up the groaning board, offer mashed sweet potatoes as well.
  • If you don’t have a slow cooker to keep the potatoes warm, use aluminum foil pans with steam warmers underneath. For a fancier event, use chafing dishes. If you don’t have any of these, see what you can borrow.
     
    MASHED POTATO BAR TOPPINGS

    DAIRY

  • Butter
  • Cheeses: blue, cheddar goat, parmesan; crumbled, grated or shredded
  • Sour cream, plain Greek yogurt
  •  
    PROTEINS*

  • Bacon
  • BBQ pulled pork
  • Chili
  • Sausage, sliced mini pepperoni or crumbled whole sausage
  • Anything else you like
  •  
    SEASONINGS

  • Prepared seasonings
  • Salt and flavored salts
  • Heat: dried chipotle, hot sauce, red chili flakes, peppermill
  •  
    VEGETABLES

  • Onions: caramelized, onion rings, sliced scallions
  • Mushrooms, sautéed
  • Steamed medley: broccoli, carrots, zucchini, etc.
  • Tomatoes: diced fresh tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped sundried tomatoes
  •  
    TOPPINGS

  • Cheese sauce (if you can keep it warm)
  • Corn chips
  • Fresh herbs: chives, dill, shredded basil, parsley
  • Gravy
  • Olives
  • Sliced jalapeños
  •  
    PARTY ON!
     
     
    MORE DIY FOOD BARS

  • DIY Bacon Bar
  • DIY Bloody Mary Bar
  • DIY Breakfast & Brunch Bar
  • DIY Dessert Bar
  • DIY Jambalaya Bar
  • DIY Stuffed Avocado Bar
  • DIY Taco & Wing Bar
  • DIY Wedge Salad Bar
  • 20 More Food Bars
    ________________

    *Assumes beef and chicken are main courses from the grill.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Gluten-Free Quiche With A Potato Crust

    Gluten Free Sausage Quiche

    Idaho Red Potatoes

    Caramelized Onions

    [1] Sausage and caramelized onion quiche with a gluten-free crust of hash brown potatoes. [2] Idaho red potatoes (both photos courtesy Idaho Potato Commission). [3] Caramelized onions. Photo courtesy Pompeian | Facebook.

     

    May 20th was National National Quiche Lorraine Day. We make a quiche every year, to celebrate the holiday. (In our college days, quiche was all the rage and we made several a week.)

    There are numerous types of quiche, but we’ve never seen one as imaginative as this gluten-free recipe from Jennie Phaneuf of One Sweet Mess for the Idaho Potato Commission.

    This quiche, packed with sausage and caramelized onions, has a crust made from hash brown potatoes, making it gluten free. You may enjoy a potato crust even more than a gluten-free flour crust.

    You can also try a cauliflower crust and pack in some brassicas. Here’s a recipe.

    You can serve quiche at breakfast, lunch, or dinner—or as a snack with wine or beer. In France, it is often served as a first course with dinner. In the U.S., it’s more common to serve it as a light entrée with a green salad.

    Spicy sausage, sweet caramelized onions, and creamy blue cheese get combined with fluffy eggs and baked to perfection.

    If you don’t like blue cheese, substitute gruyère.

    Instead of purchasing ground sausage, we bought Bilinski chicken sausages (pick your flavor), removed the casings and crumbled the meat.

    RECIPE: SAUSAGE & ONION QUICHE WITH A HASH BROWN POTATO CRUST

    Ingredients
     
    For The Crust

  • 5 medium red Idaho potatoes, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper
  •  
    For The Filling

  • 1 pound ground sausage
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 large onions, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Grate the peeled potatoes and add them to a large bowl. Cover the potatoes with cold water and allow them to soak for 10-15 minutes. While the potatoes are soaking…

    2. HEAT a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until brown, breaking up the meat as you go, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside.

    3. ADD 1 tablespoon of canola oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to the same pan. Turn the heat down to medium low and add the sliced onions. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper to the onions and stir to combine.

     
    Continue to cook until the onions are amber in color and caramelized, stirring often, about 35-40 minutes. If the onions begin to over-brown, turn the heat down to low. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside (you can add them to the same bowl as the sausage). While the onions are cooking…

    4. DRAIN and rinse the grated potatoes. Press down on the potatoes to remove as much of the water as possible. Transfer the potatoes to a clean tea towel and pat them dry with paper towels.

    5. ADD 4 tablespoons of canola oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to the same pan. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the grated potatoes. Season with salt and pepper; stir to combine. Press the potatoes into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown.

    Using a thin metal spatula, lift up on the bottom of the hash brown to release them from the pan. Flip and cook on the other side for 8-10 more minutes. It’s okay if the hash browns don’t flip perfectly; just arrange them back in the pan and continue to cook. While the hash browns continues to get crispy…

    6. ADD the eggs and half-and-half to a large bowl; whisk to combine. Gently season with salt and pepper, because the blue cheese is salty. If you’re using a less salty cheese, you can add more salt.

    7. TURN off the heat. Arrange the sausage and onions evenly over the hash browns. Sprinkle the crumbled blue cheese over the top, and then pour the eggs over the entire mixture. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked through and the center is set.
     
     
    MORE DELICIOUS POTATO RECIPES
     
     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF POTATOES

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Stocks & Soups From Trimmings

    Root Vegetables

    Chicken Stock

    Soup From Trimmings

    [1] Lots of trimming to come (photo courtesy True Food Kitchen). [2] Stock, ready to use or freeze—or season it and enjoy a cup of broth (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] Plan B: Instead of stock, turn those trimmings into a purée of vegetable soup (photo courtesy Botanica | LA).

     

    When we were quite young, a friend of the family was watching our mom cut vegetables for soup, and toss the trimmings. He had grown up on a farm in Sicily, and said: “We never threw away anything edible, not the smallest part. If we could have saved it, we’d have cooked the ‘oink’ from the pig.”

    That’s how it’s been through history, except in affluent homes in affluent countries, whose denizens weren’t scraping for every bit to eat.

    Modern cooks who want to minimize waste know that they can add flavor to homemade stocks by saving the carrot peels, celery leaves and trimmed ends, the last scrap of onion before the root, parsley and other herb stalks, wilted herbs, sprouted garlic and onions, the tops of scallions, and many vegetable trimmings.

    Consider anything that isn’t rotten or moldy, or on the “Avoid” list below.

    Limp vegetables? Stock. Herbs that have begun to yellow? Stock.

    Wash and trim the vegetables as usual. Then set the trimmings aside and let them dry a little bit to remove moisture before you bag them.

    Toss the ends, leaves, peel, roots and stalks into the same freezer bag—and feel good about not wasting money or contributing to a landfill. (If you’re planning to use them in a week, store in the produce drawer with the air pressed out of the bag.)

    When you’re ready to make stock, plan for 2 cups of trimmings per quart of stock from vegetables.

    And note that the venerable chef Jacques Pépin, an instructor at French Culinary Institute in New York City, always checks his students’ waste bins to see what they’ve thrown away. For him, scraps are more about flavor and less about thriftiness (although his wife has blocked the process at home; it drove her bonkers).

    SAVE THESE TRIMMINGS

  • Ends: asparagus, celery, chard, green beans, spinach.
  • Green tops: beet greens but not the rest of the beet (it will color the stock red), carrot and just about any root vegetable.
  • Herb stems: cilantro, parsley (basil and mint stems are best reserved for pesto or chopped into salads).
  • Onion family: garlic, leeks, scallions and any type of onion.
  • Peeled skin: cucumber, eggplant, potato, summer squash and zucchini, winter squash (unless you like to bake them—our Nana sprinkled them with cinnamon as a snack for us kids).
  • Root vegetable trimmings: except for the bodies of beets (color leaches in) and turnips (not everyone likes the way it tastes in stock).
  • Stalks: celery, chard, fennel (we’ve never tried rhubarb).
  • Other trimmings: bell peppers, bok choy, corn cobs, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, napa cabbage snow peas, sugar snap peas (we’ve never tried the pods of green peas).
  •  
    AVOID: COMPOST OR TOSS THESE TRIMMINGS

    What not to use: vegetables with very strong flavors:

  • The cruciferous group: arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard greens, radish, rapini (broccoli rabe), rutabaga, tatsoi and turnips. Ditto, artichoke trimmings (but the cooked stem is delicious to eat).
  • Anything that will color your stock, unless you don’t care*, such as beet, tomato or the papery skins of onions (they’ll turn stock brown) and garlic. But here’s what you can do with those skins.
  • ________________

    *That being said, we once cooked a ton of beets and had lots of leftover red “beet water.” We reduced it and used it to cook white rice. It was fun.

     

    PLAN A: READY TO MAKE VEGETABLE STOCK?

    The difference between stock (photo #2) and broth is that broth is seasoned and ready to consume. Stock is left unseasoned, to provide flexibility for different recipes.

    You can use vegetable stock in braises, poaching, sauces, soups, stir fries and stews etc. We use it to cook rice and grains, including risotto: half-and-half water and stock (or all stock, if we have too much).

    Season it for udon or other Asian-style noodle soup.

    Substitute for cream in mashed potatoes, add to the vegetable steamer to infuse flavor, and many hundreds of other ideas.

    Ingredients For 2 Quarts Of Stock

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups of vegetable trimmings
  • 1 head of garlic, skin removed, halved crosswise
  • 6 sprigs parsley (if you don’t have stems in your trimmings bag)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 3-5 minutes or so.

    2. ADD 4 quarts cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the stock is reduced by half. This should take about 1-1 1/2 hours.

    3. STRAIN the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and discard the solids. Let cool.

    4. USE immediately, or transfer to pint or quart containers (or freezer bags, if you prefer), portioning it based on how you think you’ll use it. Ideally use frozen stock within three months.

     

    Soup Used As A Sauce

    Root To Stalk Cooking

    [4] Trimmings cooked, pureed and turned into a sauce (photo courtesy Vital Choice). [5] This cookbook has delicious recipes for every part of vegetables (photo courtesy Ten Speed Press_.

     
    PLAN B: READY TO MAKE SOUP OR SAUCE?

    Make soup. Cook the trimmings (in stock or broth) and turn them into a puréed vegetable soup, like the one in photo #3.

    You can also turn the pureed vegetables into a sauce (photo #4).

    Good news: Plan B lets you use all the cruciferous vegetables. All those broccoli stalks and cauliflower stems: delicious! We cook them even when we aren’t making soup.

    Cook, taste and season. Dilute as desired with stock or milk and voilà: Your trimmings are now a tasty soup.

    And you’ll feel good about that!

     
    MORE FEELING GOOD

    There’s an entire cookbook devoted to using every part of the vegetable (photo #5): From Root To Stalk.

      

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