Friday, July 29, 2011

Vin de Peche, Turnips and Other good Things

One of my favorite places to visit is the New York Times Food and Wine section which I get online, along with all the latest depressing headlines.  I find interesting and inspirational tidbits that go beyond critiques of the latest restaurants in New York, none of which I ever plan to visit, though they sound inviting.  This week, tucked into an article about elevating kitchen scraps to gourmet fare—a concept that takes the next step from using celery tops for soup stocks—I discovered some of the many things that can be done with leaves, all kinds of leaves.  The most intriguing of all was something called Vin de Pêche, an aperitif which is popular in southern France.  An aperitif?  Of course it would be French.
I decided to try it.  I have the vin ordinaire, sugar, and young peach leaves.  I climbed onto the step stool to check in the liquor cabinet to see if I had brandy or cognac.  Better than that, I found a bottle of Calvados that I had purchased some time ago for some kind of exotic dessert.  That would be perfect.
Calvados for the Aperitif
Vin de Pêche
40-50 young peach leaves
1 bottle (750 ml) fruity red wine (I used Charles Shaw cabernet—two-buck Chuck)
3 tablespoons cognac or brandy (I used the Calvados I had on hand)
7 tablespoons sugar
Wipe off peach leaves of any dust or debris (or stray insects!) and put in non-reactive container.  I used a glass pitcher that could fit easily in fridge.
Add remaining ingredients and stir once with a wooden spoon.  The sugar will gradually dissolve.
Keep in refrigerator for about ten days, agitating once daily.
After ten days, if the almond flavor is to your liking, strain and pour contents into wine bottle.
Cork and refrigerate, where it will keep about six months (if you don’t drink it all before then!)
Peach Tree Leaves in the wine, sugar and Calvados

Should be served with lots of ice.  Good for a hot summer day which I hope to see soon!
Our peach tree, without too much fruit...

The bounty from the garden continues and I’m scrambling to keep up.
Turnips taking over
I had to start picking some of the turnips I planted from seed.  They’ve gotten quite large and are overshadowing other plants in the bed.  I’m continuing to thin the beets, using the young leaves in salad.  The beans, of course, have become a nightly vegetable accompaniment to our dinner.  We also have young yellow squash with its sunny bloom, and even an asparagus stalk or two which I’m still breaking off before I let the stalks grow to ferns for next year.
Tomato volunteer among the beans

In the middle of the bean patch, I’ve staked a volunteer tomato from last year which has blossoms on it now.  How ironic it would be if this goofy volunteer actually beat the other tomato plants and fruited first.  In among the fingerling potatoes, a volunteer tomatillo is towering  above them, also blooming profusely.  I look forward to a nice salsa verde later this summer.
Tomatillo volunteer among the fingerlings
Berries, as usual in my garden scheme of things, are small and sparse.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, or not doing what I should be, but it’s all kind of disappointing.  They’ve been fed, amply watered, slug-baited, but still only produce enough for a sprinkling on salads.
Japanese Plum turns bright yellow when ripe.  Granddaughter Hilary loves them!

I’m hoping to have enough plums to make a plum jam—or just to eat.  The Japanese plum tree has a lot of fruit that is close to ripening and finally, the Italian plum tree looks as if it might decide to fruit this year. 
Italian purple plums, perfect for a jam

 And, though we may not have many peaches, we may get our peach wine.  What a concept!
Turnips with their greens

My sister Betty’s husband is a Texan and his favorite of all vegetables is turnip greens.  Betty’s been getting them in a can.  She makes corn bread to go with this green mush and he seasons the greens with Trappey’s hot sauce.  He doesn’t like any other vegetables but he loves turnip greens.  The last time she was here, I gave her a couple of freezer bags of leaves that she can cook up herself instead of getting them from a can.  Yuck!  Young turnips are really great, chopped and sautéed in a little garlic olive oil.  They are crisper than potatoes and have a turnip nuttiness that is distinctively sharp.  Last night, I tossed in a chopped apple and some beans and green onions.  With the little filet of salmon we shared, the balance was just right.
Assorted vegetables, just the beginning, I hope

And of course, salad...
But I’m still waiting for the tomatoes.  We took the roof off the hoop house so that they would get more sun and Joe has been pruning the giant rhododendrons to bring even more sun over to the plants.  I see some fruit beginning, but oh my!  It will be a long time before we see any ripe tomatoes!
Tomato plants, getting the sun they need so much

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Garlic Scape Pesto

Such an astonishing discovery this has been!  Garlic scapes are my new favorite food—though I have none left in the garden. 
Garlic Scapes, ready to chop for pesto

As everyone who knows me will attest, garlic is an absolute staple in my kitchen.  Hot and biting, raw garlic puts its distinctive kick in a vinaigrette or an aioli, lifting a simple salad or vegetable—even meat—to a complexity of taste that is unique.  When garlic is roasted, it loses a lot of its pungency, but develops a soft sweetness that is also as good a complement for any dish.  In addition, garlic has been shown to be a natural antibiotic, with the added benefit of not succumbing to “superbugs”.  Garlic is an antioxidant, working against “free radicals” in the body.  It has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels.  For all these reasons, I love garlic.
But I had no idea that the little curling thing with the little bulb at the top of a growing garlic plant, the scape, was not only edible—but also delicious.  When I went online to find out more (don’t we all love the internet?), I discovered that I would have bigger garlic bulbs if I cut off the scape from each plant.  I also found ways for preparing it that presented a whole new world of taste discovery.  Apparently, scapes are very popular in Asian dishes: sautéed, fried, chopped, any way imaginable.  But I was most intrigued with Rudy’s Garlic Scape Pesto, a little item I found in  I would give it a try, though I’d have to modify it to fit the ingredients I had on hand.
With a little piece of salmon to cook simply on the grill, I would complement that with a little lemon/pepper papardelle from Trader Joe’s and two stalks of asparagus I found hiding in the Russian kale in my garden. 
Russian Kale, versatile and delicious, good in salad or sauteed

Since the asparagus and kale were growing together, why not cook them together?  Some sliced tomatoes in balsamic vinaigrette and basil, and the scape pesto might be a really lovely dinner for two.
I think I was most surprised by the subtle sweetness of the scape pesto, and that I could only taste a hint of garlic.  Light green in color, almost like a guacamole, it was silken smooth and rich with the distinctive nuttiness of the cheese—and of course, the pine nuts.  The pesto complemented the delicate flavor of the salmon, yet balanced the strong taste of the sautéed kale and asparagus.  And it was buttery smooth tossed into the papardelle.  Now I have a little jar of this amazing pesto tucked away in the refrigerator, ready to bring out again, probably for our next meal!

Scape Pesto with Salmon, Papardelle, and Sautéed Kale and Asparagus
6-8 scapes, chopped
1” square chunk of asiago, cut up
¼ cup pine nuts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
Whir first 3 ingredients in bowl of food processor, and add olive oil in a thin stream, then lemon juice.  Pesto should be fresh bright green and smooth when finished.  Makes one cup of pesto.
Cut the asparagus into pieces about 1”.  Chop one bunch of kale and steam for about 3-4 minutes before adding to asparagus. Sauté in 1 teaspoon olive oil and 4 small cloves garlic for about 5 minutes.
Cook enough papardelle for two according to package instructions.  Drain and toss with 1 teaspoon scape pesto.
Grill foil-wrapped salmon filet topped with thinly sliced lemon and salt and pepper.
Slice one tomato and arrange on two plates.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette on each half and top with fresh basil.
Serve with ½ teaspoon pesto on fish and on kale/asparagus sauté.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Beginning of Bounty, and Scapes

Last night, Joe and I had our first meal entirely from the garden—well, almost.  The meat, a small delicious steak, and the crème fraiche and Greek yogurt were from Thriftway.  After all, this is a garden, not a farm.
But when I was weeding yesterday afternoon (in between ball throwing to Trace), I thought it might be time to begin a little picking.  Because it’s been so cool, everything in the garden seems delayed—except the weeds, of course.  But the recent rain has brought an explosion of growth that seems very promising.  Would I find anything more than lettuce?
Beans, potatoes, squashes all fighting for space behind the strawberries
The potatoes growing in two big pots at the back of the raised beds were looking a little tired, weary of growing so fast. 
Potatoes, keeling over

I dug around just below the surface dirt with my gloved hand and found a treasure trove of new young baby potatoes.  The plants hadn’t even flowered yet, but their first babies were there, just below the surface.  I remember exquisite meals in France that featured tiny young potatoes sautéed in butter.  How delightful that would be as an accompaniment to a small and very tender steak.
What I had thought were onions left from last year turned out to be the Russian garlic that keeps reappearing every year since I planted a few cloves a long time ago.  When stuff comes up in the garden that I don’t remember planting, I get a little confused.  But this was definitely garlic. 
Hard neck Garlic

I picked a few stray shoots that seemed quite spent, the leaves shriveled and brown.  The heads were small but firm and seemed to have several cloves on each head.
Then, I remembered the garlic scapes I had purchased at the farmers’ market last year and how delicious they were.  The scapes only form on hardneck garlic, such as the red Russian garlic I had planted long ago.  I’ve never picked the scapes.  I always thought that was an inedible part of the plant.  But that may be why the garlic keeps coming up every year, since the bulb head has all the seeds for new garlic.
Garlic scapes with seed heads beginning to open

When I went to the internet to find out more, imagine my surprised delight to find out that it’s a good thing to cut the scapes before they open their heads and release their seedlets.  It makes the garlic grow bigger because all the energy is going back into the bulb, rather than the flower.  I guess that’s why tulip growers cut the blooms when they’ve barely opened.
My strawberry plants and the raspberry vines haven’t produced much fruit, but I could gather enough to finish our dessert.  The rhubarb was definitely on steroids now so I could get a few stalks and cook them up—even have enough to give to Stephanie, our neighbor who loves rhubarb.

I picked a fresh batch of lettuce and thinned the beets some more, keeping the young tops for our salad. 
Lettuce, doing fine in this cool summer

The yellow squash is beginning to bloom its sunny giant blossoms so I could add one of those babies to our dinner.  And, of course, there are the turnip tops which are a little bitter compared to spinach but a good strong accompaniment to a rich piece of meat.
Yellow squash, and cucumbers climbing up their cage

This is my favorite part of having a vegetable garden.  I can fashion a simple meal that sings with the fresh flavors of elements just picked.  This is the sort of meal that costs dearly in a restaurant because it requires the immediacy and urgency of taking from a good garden, preparing the freshly picked choices, and then presenting it all at the table, simply and elegantly.
 Steak, mushroom, green peppercorns, new potatoes and squash blossom, turnip greens
Garden salad with raspberries and pine nuts
Our Simple Dinner
1 small boneless New York steak (about 6 oz.)
2 medium crimini mushrooms
6-8 baby potatoes
6-8 small cloves new garlic
1 teaspoon green pepercorns
1 yellow squash with blossom, cut in half lengthwise
2 cups turnip tops (spinach would be even better, but my new crop isn’t big enough yet)
2 tablespoons butter (1 for vegetables, 1 for turnips)
Juice of ½ lemon
4 cups fresh picked assorted lettuces
½ cup fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon pine nuts
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinaigrette (see Kitchen Essentials)
2 cups fresh rhubarb (about four stalks cut in 1” lengths)
½ cup sugar
½ cup white wine
1 tablespoon crème fraiche (for Joe)
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (for me)
½ cup fresh strawberries
Scrub potatoes, but don’t peel them.  Sauté potatoes and garlic in 1 tablespoon butter, letting them roast slowly.
Wash and cut turnip tops and put in saucepan with 1 tablespoon butter.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Wash and cut lettuces and put in bowl.  Add raspberries and pine nuts.
Cut rhubarb stalks to 1” lengths and put in deep oven proof pan.  Add sugar and wine and roast in preheated 350˚ oven until liquid has become a heavy syrup (about 30 minutes).
Salt and pepper steak and put on medium to hot grill.  Sear one side about 5 minutes.
While steak is grilling on one side, add mushrooms and peppercorns to roasting potatoes in pan.
Turn steak to other side for another five minutes until medium rare.
In last five minutes, while steak is finishing, turn heat on turnips and sprinkle with lemon juice and cover.  Add squash and blossom to potatoes, garlic and mushroom sauté.
Dress salad with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette and toss gently.
Bring steak in from grill, cut in half and plate all on two plates and serve.
For dessert, spoon warm rhubarb into a champagne coupe, add crème fraiche or Greek yogurt and top with strawberries.
I ate dessert before I remembered to take a picture of it.  Oh well...
Garden heaven!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pizza on the Grill

Several years ago, I bought a round pizza stone at Costco.  I’ve used it again and again for more than just making pizza.  As a matter of fact, I’ve never liked the way pizza turns out in the oven when cooked on a stone.  The crust is never crisp enough so lately I’ve put the dough on parchment paper directly on the grill of the oven.  That seems to cook the underside a little better.  So the stone has been relegated to a secondary function.   When I bake bread I put it on the bottom rack of the oven, and another clay pan on the top rack, which I fill with water.  I spray the oven walls with water, turn the heat up to 425˚ and put my baguette loaves in the middle.  This is as close as I can get to having a clay oven, I think.  In any case, the bread comes out airy and light on the inside and very crisp in the crust—just the way I like it.
But what if, I thought, I used my wonderfully well-seasoned round clay stone for baking a pizza on the outdoor grill?  As always, when I choose to have an experiment in the kitchen, I try it out first with Joe.  In this case, I couldn’t go wrong, I thought, since he loves pizza no matter what form it takes.
As it happened, I had a ball of dough in the freezer so I wouldn’t even have to make a fresh batch for my experiment.  I put the frozen dough on a floured cutting board to let it thaw.  I sautéed a little onion to caramelize and sautéed a bit of sausage, peppers and a few sliced dried figs.  I had been drying some oregano from the garden and it was now about right for my purpose. 
 Caramelized onions, sausage, pepper and fig, drying oregano
Next, I rolled out the thawed dough directly on the clay stone and drizzled a little garlic/herb infused olive oil on it and spread it around with my fingers.  I let the dough rest while the grill heated up to 450˚.
Pizza dough resting and waiting
After spreading the topping on, I sprinkled the caramelized onions and the crushed oregano onto the topping.  Then, a few slices of mozzarella and a bit of shaved asiago and I was ready for my experiment to continue.  I placed the cool stone with the pizza on it directly on the grill.  I was afraid, at this point, that the stone would crack from the difference in temperature.  But it held.  I thought 10 minutes would finish the pizza, but I would check it after 5 minutes and make a salad in the meantime.  At 5 minutes it wasn’t quite done, but it was close. 
Pizza on the grill, at five minutes

Now I know that 6 or 7 minutes would have been ideal because at 10 minutes, the pizza was really too crisp.
Finished pizza, a little too crisp

Joe loved it, but I know I need to perfect the timing on this.  And next time, I’ll dust the stone with cornmeal to keep the dough from sticking.  Nice to know that I can make pizza on the grill now!
Pizza on the Grill
1 ball of pizza dough (directions follow, or purchase from deli case at Trader Joe’s)
½ sweet onion, sliced thin
1 drizzle olive oil (about ½ tablespoon)
1 drizzle balsamic vinegar
1 link Italian sausage, casing removed
6 dried figs
¼ cup each red and yellow sweet peppers
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ cup sliced mozzarella from fresh log
¼ cup shaved asiago cheese
1 tablespoon garlic/herb infused olive oil
On floured board, roll out dough to form a 12” round.
Place round of dough on stone which has been sprinkled with cornmeal
Sauté onion in olive oil until golden and translucent.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and remove from heat.
Sauté chopped peppers, sliced dried figs (I cut them with kitchen scissors) and sausage until sausage is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Paint pizza dough with garlic/herb infused olive oil.  Add topping and caramelized onion.  Sprinkle with oregano. Slice mozzarella and arrange on dough.  Sprinkle with shaved asiago cheese.
Put stone and pizza on preheated grill, 450˚.  Close lid and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until cheese is melted and dough is done to taste.
Sprinkle with sea salt and red pepper flakes to taste.
Makes one 12” pizza.  Serves two.

Pizza Dough
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
½ cup warm water
1 cup cold water
4 cups high gluten flour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine yeast in ¼ cup warm water.  Let stand in warm place about 10 minutes until foamy.
Add remaining warm water to cold water and olive oil and combine with yeast mixture.
Make a well of two cups of the flour and work in the liquid, adding flour until dough is stiff and hard to work.
On a floured board, knead the dough with your hands, using your knuckles and your wrists, for about 10 minutes until dough is silken and elastic (great exercise and a good way to vent!). 
Transfer ball of dough to oiled bowl and cover with a light towel. 
Let rise in a warm place until dough is double in size.  Punch down to release air pockets.
Knead the dough again until it regains elasticity.  Cut into four to make four balls for four pizzas.
Or, if you have a bread machine, follow the directions for making pizza dough and let it do the work for you.  And if you don’t have a bread machine, maybe your local Goodwill store has one!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Impromptu Dinner Guest

On the spur of the moment, I invited our neighbor from across the street, Joe’s coffee buddy to have dinner with us.  He asked what time he should come over and I told him sixish, though at that point in the late afternoon, I still didn’t know what I would fix for dinner.  It would just have to be on the grill because it was too nice a day to be doing anything inside.
Joe at lunch, under the apple tree

We had been given some fresh caught wild tuna steaks which were in a vacuum-sealed bag and were rock solid in the freezer.  Fish defrosts fairly quickly, I thought, and if I put it in a pan with a marinade, it would thaw even faster, though it was already past 4:00.  I made up a little batch of my “Surf and Turf Marinade for Fish” and poured it over the fish, substituting a finely chopped shallot for the green onions I didn’t have.  Then I went back to what I was doing before I made the invitation.
When Trace greeted William with his usual happy bark, I was surprised it was already 6:00 and I hadn’t even thought about dinner and what might go with the fish.  Oops!  We shared glasses of wine while I scrambled, pretending I wasn't flustered and unprepared.  I decided everything would go on the grill and could be quickly put together.  The fish had defrosted nicely and was well coated with the marinade.  I cut some peppers and a sweet onion in large chunks and sliced three medium potatoes into ¼” rounds.  All this went into a bowl over which I drizzled a bit of the Kitchen Essentials garlic and herb infused olive oil.  I decided to cut an apple into ¼” rounds as well, and sprinkled that with just a bit of cinnamon sugar.
All this went on the grill, which was at medium heat, while I put together a salad. 
Potatoes, onions, and vegetables

By that time the potatoes, vegetables and apple slices needed to be turned over and the fish put on the grill. 
Fish is on, vegetables are done and moved, apples and potatoes almost done
 I set the table on the patio and went back to the grill to turn the fish and move the vegetables to the side to prevent them from charring.  
Almost done...

We were almost ready to eat and this all took no more than a half hour from chop to finish.  I plated our dinner and put a nice dollop of “Mock Aioli” on each plate for the fish and the potatoes.
Ready to eat!  Joe said the potatoes were like the ones he had in Belgium years ago

I have never cooked potatoes on the grill before, but we all decided this was a really good way to have something like a French fry without the deep fat cooking.  And I really liked the fact that the whole meal came together so easily and so quickly.
Recipes for the marinade, the infused olive oil, and the mock aioli can be found in the following places:  “Surf and Turf”, “Kitchen Essentials”, and “A Big Birthday Party”.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Big Birthday Party

Betty passed the landmark seventh decade so it was time to celebrate my sweet sister in the only way I know.  Let’s have a party!  And, after our long winter and an equally long, cold and wet spring, it seemed as if even the sun was willing to come out to join the festivities.  This would be a perfect way to usher in summer as well as a new decade for Betty.
Picture taking by Joe and munchies for all
When I finished counting, it seemed that we would have between fifteen and eighteen people over for the evening, our first warm one on the patio.  I had thought to grill a salmon but Betty nixed that idea.  “Oh, nooo,” she said.  “That’s much too expensive—especially for a big group.  Why don’t you do chicken instead?  I’ll bet you have a great way of doing it on the grill!  I’ll bring a spinach salad that is absolutely the best I’ve ever had.  You’ll love it!”
That decided, the rest of the menu came together with ease.  My other sister, Rona, could be counted on to bring cheese and crackers.  She also found red, white and blue chips at Trader Joe’s for a festive nod to the 4th of July.  Munchies like that were sure to please the kids, who would eat more than their slender little bodies belied.  I would make a potato salad to augment the spinach salad, as well as deviled eggs.  I would grill chicken and corn on the cob and I would make a special cake for the birthday girl.  Not being a dessert person, every cake I have ever  made has been homely, but this time would be different.
Spinach Salad, Corn, Potato Salad and Chicken
Betty loves lemon flavoring, as I do, so this would be a lemon cake.  But not just any lemon cake.  I wanted to make a Meyer lemon cake and I knew I couldn’t fail if I used the Trader Joe box mix for Meyer lemon cake.  And I could decorate the cake with their lovely Meyer lemon wafers.  If I made a “poke cake” I wouldn’t even have to frost it (which is always a messy disaster for me).  I already had a “zero” candle so I only needed to get the “seven” to go with it.  Perfect!  Or, as they say “piece of cake!”
But when I went to Trader Joe’s in search of the Meyer lemon box cake mix, I couldn’t find it.  All they had was their new Madagascar Vanilla cake mix.
“I don’t see your lemon cake mix?” I asked the young man stocking shelves.
“Oh, we don’t have that anymore.  Not enough call for it.”
Bummer.  Now I had to rethink this.  I bought their Madagascar Vanilla cake mix anyway.  I certainly wasn’t going to try to do this from scratch.  Not with my history of cake disasters.  Lemon poke cake calls for instant lemon pudding and lemon juice among the ingredients.  Maybe I could find Meyer lemons.  Continuing my shopping travels, I went to Central Market to get some bulk spices and sea salt crystals from their incredibly extensive assortment and looked for the lemons.
“Oh, they won’t be in until at least September,” said the produce man.
“Oh yeah, you’re right.  They’re still only the size of my thumb on my little tree—and dark green.”
“How can you have a lemon tree here in cold and wet Washington?”
“It’s a dwarf tree and I take it inside in the winter.  It gets a lot of light from our skylights.  I guess I can use a lemon and an orange for the flavor.  Isn’t a Meyer lemon some kind of hybrid anyway?”
“Close enough,” and he led me to the juice oranges and lemons.
The day of the party, I picked up the quartered chickens, the corn, ice cream, and some diet Pepsi—all on sale at QFC.  Joe was puzzled when I told him I saved more than I spent.  But it’s true.  The weekly flyer that we get in the mail always dictates where I shop and what I end up putting on the table.  In this case, I got three large quartered fryers for about $13, four twelve packs of Pepsi for less than $12, sixteen ears of California corn for $4 and a half gallon of Breyer’s ice cream for under $3.  Who could beat that?  Not even Costco!
Potato Salad (serves 15)
10 – 12 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and cut into large chumks
4 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
¾ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
½ cup sweet relish
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon style mustard
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Boil potatoes until done, about 30 minutes.  Rinse and let cool before peeling.  Cut potatoes into large bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine.  Refrigerate overnight to let flavors meld.

Spinach Salad (Betty’s Recipe) Serves 15
12 cups baby spinach leaves, stems trimmed
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup glazed pecans (recipe follows)
½ cup crumbled goat cheese (available at Trader Joe’s)
¼ cup dressing (recipe follows)
Toss all together and serve immediately.

Glazed Pecans
2 cups pecans
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon chipotle or cayenne pepper
Scant ½ teaspoon sea salt
Blanch pecans in boiling water for 15 seconds.  Immediately remove and pat almost dry.  Roll pecans in sugar, spice and salt mixture.  Put on cookie sheet in single layer and bake at 350˚ for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through baking.  Let cool and put in sealed jar until ready to use.

Roasted Pineapple and Habanera Sauce Dressing
½ cup Roasted Pineapple and Habanera Sauce (new product at Costco)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Mix all together in jar.

Deviled Eggs
1 dozen hard-boiled eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
1 tablespoon white wine worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins Chicken Marinade)
Salt and ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
½ cup mock garlic aioli (recipe follows)
½ cup capers
Cut all eggs in half and remove yolks to medium bowl.  Mix with all but aioli and capers.  Refill eggs with yolk mixture.
sauté capers with juice in small pan on medium heat until liquid is absorbed.
Meanwhile, put small dollop of aioli on each filled egg.  Finish with three or four fried capers on each egg.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Mock Garlic Aioli
I usually do this from scratch, the way my father taught me, but this is a simple alternative.
2 cups good quality mayonnaise (I like Hellman’s)
1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
Juice of ½ lemon
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon herbs de Provence (or tarragon for a more subtle taste)
3 turns ground sea salt
3 turns ground pepper
Mix all together in jar and refrigerate until ready to use.  Makes 2 cups aioli.

Grilled Chicken (serves at least 15—we had several pieces left over)
3 quartered frying chickens
½ cup Roasted Pineapple Habanera Sauce (Costco)
¼ cup sweet red chili sauce
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Mix all together and coat chicken with marinade.  Set grill to medium low heat.  Grill chicken, brushing marinade with each turning.  Move pieces around to prevent scorching (though a little char is okay).  As pieces finish cooking move them to an upper shelf of the grill or off to the side, piled up if necessary. 
In last ten minutes of grill time, move chicken pieces aside and slice off breast meat diagonally off the bone. 
 Arrange corn on the grill and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and ground pepper.  Turn corn and repeat.  Corn should still be crisp and have slight grill marks when done.
Drizzling the olive oil on the corn
Slicing the Breast Meat

“Meyer” Lemon Poke Cake
1 box Trader Joe’s Madagascar Vanilla Cake Mix
1 box instant lemon pudding
4 eggs
¾ cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup lemon and orange juice (juice of one lemon and one small orange)
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Mix cake mix and instant pudding together.  Add eggs, water, and oil.  Beat for 2 minutes and pour batter into greased 9” x 13” pan.  Bake at 350˚ for about 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.  Poke the cake all over  with a fork while it is still warm.
Mix sugar and juice together and pour over warm cake.
Just before serving, dust cake with additional sugar.  Stand Meyer lemon wafers decoratively on cake and nest sliced strawberries against the wafers.  Cut into 24 pieces.
The Cake
Presenting the Cake to the Birthday Girl

Happy Birthday Betty!

Needless to say, we all had a great time!  And now that summer is truly upon us, I’m ready to do it again soon, especially as the garden begins to produce more than lettuce.  I actually saw the first peppers—on July 1st—ready to pick!  Never have they been so early.  Usually we don’t get peppers until September and then it gets too cold for them to ripen.  It must be the hoop house.
Melrose Pepper, ready to pick