Today I headed over to the local produce stand to pick up some fresh vegetables for the week. I just spent six days in North Carolina enjoying southern food at its finest and after indulging in North Carolina BBQ, fried chicken and waffles, biscuits (with every meal) and grandma’s lemon chess pie, I decided I should probably load up on fresh veggies this week. As I was driving towards Mike’s Truck Garden produce stand I noticed they were advertising fresh corn for sale so I decided to pick up a bag. Taking into account that today is Meatless Monday, I decided to make one of my favorite summer salads: grilled corn & black bean salad with radishes, cilantro, lime juice and queso fresco.
4 ears of fresh corn, shucked
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
Queso fresco, crumbled
1 avocado, thinly sliced
Preheat your grill. Cook the corn on the grill until slightly charred, about 10 minutes. Let cool before cutting off the corn kernels.
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, chili powder and salt. Once the corn has cooled, cut the corn kernels from the cob and transfer to the bowl. Add the rinsed black beans, radishes, scallions and cilantro. Mix together. Top salad with queso fresco and avocado.
This morning I left the South Bay at 4am to head back to Sonoma wine country and when I walked outside I noticed it was surprisingly warm – 67 degrees to be exact. 67 degrees at 4am! I couldn’t believe it. From that moment on I knew it was going to be another hot one in Northern California.
When I returned home after work, I spent some time taking care of my herb garden as I was out-of-town all weekend. While I was watering, the aromatic notes of mint, basil, rosemary and lemon balm captivated my thirst for a refreshing patio cocktail. I decided to rummage through my cocktail bar to see what concoction I could whip up in order to satisfy my craving. Using the ingredients I had on hand, I composed this easy to make and delightfully refreshing gin-blackberry-mint cocktail. The sweet, tart, and slightly bitter flavors in the berries perfectly complemented the mellow and refreshing notes in the mint.
1 1/2 ounces gin
1 teaspoon agave nectar
Handful of blackberries (4-5)
Handful of fresh mint (4-5 leaves…depending in how “minty” you like it)
1/2 lime, freshly juiced
Soda water, float
Muddle the blackberries, mint and gin in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, nectar and lime juice. Shake and strain in a glass filled with ice. Float with soda water and garnish with a mint sprig.
Looking for more herb-inspired cocktails? Check out:
Another one of my “go-to” meals are stuffed meatballs – spicy Italian sausage meatballs, sweet Italian sausage meatballs or chicken meatballs topped with an easy pesto-tomato sauce. Several years ago, I was introduced to this easy-to-make sauce while watching a cooking show on the Food Network and it’s still a staple in many of my dishes today. Last night I didn’t have sausage in the refrigerator however I had ground turkey, fresh herbs, cheese and bread crumbs – voilà!
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Extra parsley for garnish
1 tub bite size fresh Mozzarella balls
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients, except the oil and Mozzarella balls, in a bowl. To form each ball, take a handful of the mixture and wrap it around a piece of mozzarella. Drizzle olive oil over the meatballs and bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and are evenly browned. Top meatballs with homemade pesto-tomato sauce and garnish with extra parsley.
1 tub good quality fresh pesto (or homemade pesto)
1 can quartered or halves tomatoes
Salt & pepper, to taste
Add the tomatoes to a saucepan over medium heat and mash with a potato masher. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for about 8 – 10 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in a 1/2 cup of pesto. Serve over meatballs with your favorite red wine. Some excellent wine choices would be a Super Tuscan, Sangiovese, Rioja or even a Merlot.