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Let’s go back to the 70s and 80s with a light and fruity summer treat–perfect to eat when you wanna beat the heat. Too many of us forgot about this delightful fruit mousse-like thinG, so let’s revive it right now. It’s so easy to make and reminds me of times when life was more carefree.

Keep it sweet and simple with just yogurt and Cool Whip, or add fresh fruit. And, if you do add berries, save some for the top to give your pie a grin, because who can resist a smiling dessert? :)

The most challenging part of this pie is finding French or custard-style yogurt–not fruit on the bottom, not Greek. Stonyfield’s Smooth & Creamy Organic is an excellent choice. Here in central Connecticut, I was thrilled to find it at West Side Marketplace in Rocky Hill. Stonyfield Organic makes all great things dairy, including my favorite milk and cream. If you can’t find Stonyfield, Yoplait Thick & Creamy is another good option.

COOL ‘N CREAMY SUMMER SMILIN’ BERRY PIE

1 8 oz. container of Cool Whip, thawed
2 6-oz. containers French or custard-style yogurt (try Stonyfield Smooth & Creamy or Yoplait Thick & Creamy): how about strawberry or strawberry banana?
6 oz. fresh raspberries (optional)
1 graham cracker crust (I like Honey Maid)

If you’re using them, set aside the most perfect berries for your smile–or whatever design you’d like to make.

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Fold yogurt into thawed Cool Whip till combined. Now, if you’ll excuse my technical term, smoosh the remaining raspberries into the side of your bowl with a spoon and stir them in, too.

Smooth evenly into graham cracker crust. Decorate top of pie as you like.

Put the pie in the freezer for about two hours so it sets and holds its shape when you slice it. Store remaining pie in the fridge.

slice of pie

Sending you a cool Strawberry Letter of summer enjoyment straight from my childhood. ♫ Feel sunshine sparkle pink and blue, playgrounds will laugh if you try to ask: Is it cool? Is it cool? ♫ Oh, yes, it is!

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Summertime and squash is everywhere! Let’s make the best of what’s bountiful with this simple side. It’s super-easy and a little cheesy with a nice, buttery crunch on top.

SQUASH CASSEROLE

To cook the squash
4 heaping cups squash (I used 3 yellow squash and 2 zucchini), sliced
1 medium sweet onion, halved, then sliced thin
1.5 tablespoons butter

To add once the vegetables are cooked
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

For the topping
1 tablespoon melted butter
scant 2/3 cup panko
some extra shredded cheddar to sprinkle over the top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square pan.

Melt butter in a saute pan. Add onions and squash.

squash saute
Cook till tender and the onions start to get a bit of color.

Remove from heat, then add cheese, mayo, egg, salt and pepper. Pour into buttered baking dish.

Combine one tablespoon of melted butter with panko. Sprinkle evenly over top, then sprinkle a bit of additional shredded cheddar over that.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

And in the wise words of Farmer Brown, ♫ For variety and vitamins and feeling rooty-toot, eat a veg-a-bread-a-milk-a-cheese-a-bean-a-meat-a-fruit–eat a variety every day! ♫ Live life in balance and be happy! :D My man!

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Staying cool, amici? The forecast calls for a fresh pitcher of Arnold Palmer, that winning combo of brewed black tea and fresh-squeezed lemonade. So refreshing, especially when you need to beat the heat and take it slow. Like today. Like most of this past week and the week to come!

Feel like spiking it? Well, then it’s a John Daly. American flag pants not required. Let’s do this thinG.

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

KATTY’S ULTIMATE ARNOLD PALMER

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1.5 tablespoons dried lavender (optional, but nice)
4 teaspoons of your favorite black tea leaves*
4 cups hot water to brew the tea
2 lemons
2 cups cold water

*Mine comes from Sundial Gardens (Higganum, CT) in Higganum, Connecticut. Don’t live near here? You can order online if you’d like to give it a try, or use what you already like best.

First, make a simple syrup. I infused mine with lavender. Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup water and lavender (if you’re using it). Bring to a boil, then remove from the burner, let steep for 30-45 minutes.

Meantime, brew 4 cups of black tea. Once that’s all set, strain the simple syrup over the brewed tea into a pitcher. Slice a slice from both ends of each lemon and let them float on top before you squeeze the rest. Then add two cups of cold water and give it all a stir.

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When it’s time to serve, load up a glass–or drinking jar–with ice. Add a sprig of something–mint, lemon verbena, pineapple sage, lemon basil–to make it fresh and pretty.

Coolio has the right idea, “If you can’t stand the heat, get ya @$$ out the kitchen!” That’s how I’m livin’ today, too. Stay cool and enjoy this “Fantastic Voyage.” :)

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I don’t know about you, but I love soup any time of year–even summer. This spicy blend of flavors, colors and textures is easy to throw together. It gets its creamy consistency from simply blending some of the chickpeas and broth.

For a more filling meal, you can make some rice and line the bottom of your bowl with it. And the rice contrasts nicely with the heat from the jalapeño and spices.

CURRIED CHICKPEA COCONUT SOUP WITH PEPPERS

olive oil to coat the bottom of a stock pot
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 bell pepper (orange, red or yellow), diced
1 jalapeño, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 cups chicken stock
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tablespoon curry powder: I used a combination of my curry powders–1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon hot curry powder, 1 teaspoon vindaloo
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions. Saute about 8-10 minutes, till they become translucent. Add bell pepper, jalapeño, garlic and spices. Saute another minute. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, stock, coconut milk and salt.

Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove two or three ladles of vegetables–more or less, depending how chunky you’d like your soup to be. Now, take a stick blender and buzz up what’s left in the pan. It’ll give the soup a bisque-y consistency that contrasts nicely with the vegetables you set aside, then stir back in.

Serve over rice or on its own in a bowl. You can garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro if you like. And I hope you like! :) Wishing you hot fun in the summertime, either way. Happy 4th of July weekend, amici!

salsa verde in a jar

Salsa verde is yet another Italian sauce I didn’t grow up with, but recently discovered. It’s a simple, versatile, flavorful combination of parsley, capers and lemon with olive oil. And with fresh parsley and other herbs growing right outside on the deck, there’s no time like RIGHT NOW to make it.

I’ve served it over a grilled pork chop on a bed of spinach.

salsa verde over grilled pork chop
It’s excellent on a lamburger. We even spooned it over wood-fired steaks.

woodfired steaks

Yes, you read that right–steaks on the chiminea! Served with broccoli ‘n melted Colby cheddar and bulgur wheat was quite the treat …

salsa verde steaks

You can even mix it with white beans or chickpeas and any other vegetables of your choice (may I suggested chopped red peppers?) to create a tasty side dish. But if you’d like to get in on the deliciousness, it would help to share the recipe. So here we go!

SALSA VERDE ITALIAN-STYLE
adapted from The New York Times

good handful of fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon capers, drained (I use Sclafani’s tiny nonpareilles in wine vinegar)
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
zest of a lemon (and juice of half of the lemon–but save the juice to add just before serving)

You can use other herbs in addition to the parsley–thyme, basil and chives just to name a few. Last time, I added chive blossoms just “for pretty.”

salsa verde chives

Combine these ingredients–except the lemon juice–until it’s time to serve. I used a jar for ease of transport, but you can use a small bowl if you like. Let this sit out for a while to let the flavors marry. When it’s time to eat, squeeze in the fresh lemon juice, stir and enjoy.

brown sugar pork chops with salt lick baked potatoes

Some of my favorite dishes shouldn’t qualify as recipes as they’re so easy–so here are two for the price of one. They go quite nicely together. And they’re a quick and delicious meal to make during the week when you’re short on time.

BROWN SUGAR PORK CHOPS with SALT LICK BAKED POTATOES

For the chops
2 pork chops (ours were somewhere between 1/2″ and 3/4″ thick)
Penzeys Barbecue of the Americas
light brown sugar
salt
olive oil

For the potatoes
2 russet potatoes, scrubbed
Kosher salt
butter at room temperature
sour cream (if you wish and I do!)
finely chopped scallions or chives (why not?)

Prep the potatoes first!
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F. Scrub the potatoes, poke ’em with a fork all the way around.

While the potatoes are still wet, rub them with Kosher salt. Once the oven is up to temp, bake them for an hour and fifteen minutes (1:15). You can put them right on the oven rack, but if you prefer not to get salt all over your oven, simply set them in a pan.

Now would be a lovely time to make a salad or a tasty vegetable to go with. :) But before you start, get the pork ready.

Pork chop prep
Sprinkle each side of both chops with Barbecue of the Americas and a bit of salt. Yes, the spice blend itself does contain salt, but you won’t go wrong with a bit more. Then take a good handful of light brown sugar and coat both sides. Press the sugar into the meat and let the chops come up to room temperature. They’ll take less than 10 minutes to cook–so think about kicking ’em off once your potatoes hit the hour mark.

When it’s time to cook the chops, coat a nonstick pan with olive oil and set it over medium heat. When the oil is heated and sizzles when the pork hits the pan, set a timer. It’ll only take about 3-4 minutes on each side–at least on my stove.

Et voilà–since you timed it right, it’s time for dinner! Grab those potatoes, be generous with the butter and sour cream and enjoy!

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Clams casino is a regional favorite in this neck of the woods. What is not to love about any dish made with bacon, peppers and wine? But why should clams be the only ones invited to the casino? Chicken is a delicious casino variation and tastes oh-so-fine over capellini. So, all you clam haters, this one’s for you!

CHICKEN CASINO CAPPELLINI ALLA SPERANZA

3 cloves garlic
1 shallot
6 pieces of bacon
3/4 pound chicken breast, cut in chunks
fresh parsley, coarsely chopped (a generous handful)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine (I like Meridian Chardonnay)
extra-virgin olive oil
½ fresh lemon, squeezed
1 red bell pepper cut into matchstick pieces and roasted
1 tablespoon capers

Before you get started, roast the peppers in the oven. Try about 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F. Take a peek around the 10-minute mark to make sure everything’s on track and then set your timer for 5-10 more minutes.

Now, cook the bacon. Set aside on paper towels, cool, then chop finely. Don’t get rid of all the bacon drippings! Reserve enough to barely coat bottom of skillet.

This would be a fine time to set a large pot of salted water to boil for your capellini.

Meanwhile, add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Add chicken and cook till no longer pink. Add chicken broth, white wine and lemon. Add capers and roasted peppers just to get them warmed up and incorporated.

Serve in deep soup bowls over capellini. Sprinkle bacon on top and garnish with fresh parsley

And for those of you who are clam fans, check out the original clams casino capellini alla Speranza!

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