Cooking with Basil: Pick it Fresh! Friday, Jun 28 2013 

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There’s nothing like the aroma of basil. It is the herb that most heralds that summer is in full swing. Perhaps because it requires bountiful sunshine and seems to thrive in the heat. Basil is often associated with Mediterranean cooking, but basil is native to India and Asia as well as parts of Africa. The leaves are used in cooking, imparting their bold flavor to recipes. There are many cultivars available with different nuances of taste, size, and appearance, including those with cinnamon, clove, lemon, and lime overtones.

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The basil in the photo above is Thai basil, also known as Tulsi or Holy Basil, and has a minty, almost smoky aroma. I love it. The purple basil in the photo below has a mild licorice flavor and aroma and provides a rich pop of color in the garden.

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Up in Massachusetts, we harvest our Thai basil and dry it for tea and make and freeze pesto from the Italian, or Genovese, to enjoy in the winter months.

Having a garden is especially satisfying, but if you don’t have the space and inclination, basil is a great herb to grow in a pot on the windowsill or patio. If you’ve followed past posts, you know that we love to dig in the dirt. Several months ago, I was able to spend some time with an absolutely wonderful woman and master gardener, Mary Beth Shaddix. She’s my kind of people! After 10 years working in the marketing and research department at Cooking Light, Mary Beth traded in her business suits for garden gloves. She and her husband have a wholesale nursery and farm, Maple Valley Nursery, near Birmingham, Alabama. They also grow a garden for the test kitchens at Cooking Light Magazine.

How lucky are those test kitchen cooks! How smart is that magazine! I love it when big companies do smart and creative things. Mary Beth has collaborated with the magazine and they’ve produced a really smart, fun cookbook with lots of amazing recipes called, Pick Fresh. I absolutely love it.

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The book features 200 full color photographs and 150 recipes from starters to sides, light salads to hearty main dishes, and incredible desserts — all with nutritional analysis so you can stay on track for healthy eating. The chapters are divided into fruits, vegetables, and herbs with guides for growing, choosing, storing, and preparing each ingredient. It’s really fantastic and I cannot recommend it enough. The Peach Lemonade, Summer Squash with Bacon and Mozzarella Quiche, and Mint Gremolata Zucchini with Sea Salt are top of my list to try.

Today, with a nod to the myriad of basil varieties available, I’m sharing a couple of basil recipes. First, is the Cooking Light Pick Fresh Spicy Basil Beef Salad. Delicious, bold flavors with cooling cucumber make this dish a great meal for a hot summer night. You could also serve it on a bed of arugula, spinach, or butter lettuce if you wanted to enhance it with additional greens.

I love to eat fish in the summer. It’s light and quick cooking. Today, I’m sharing a simple recipe for Basil Crusted Trout with Creamy Garlic Aioli. I’m using farm-raised trout here, but if you can’t find trout, just make sure to check with Seafood Watch for a sustainable substitute.

Please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve got lots of great things happening and want to share — I’m now a contributing blogger for Ty Pennington’s Good Eats blog and next up for the 4th of July is Sweet Tea Brined BBQ Chicken. I’ll also be blogging for the Southern Foodways Alliance this July and August. Lastly, I’ll be at the Fancy Food Show on Monday July 1 as the Chef Ambassador for Roland Foods. Please stop by and say hello if you are in NYC!

Thanks so much for reading.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

Spicy Basil Beef Salad

Spicy Basil-Beef Salad
Serves 4

1 tablespoon canola oil
12 ounces hanger steak, trimmed
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
1 1⁄2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1 cup thinly sliced English cucumber
3 large ripe heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 425°. Heat a large ovenproof stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle both sides of steak evenly with black
pepper and salt. Add steak to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned. Turn steak over. Bake at 425° for 8 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of steak registers 135° or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steak from pan; let stand 10 minutes. Slice across grain.

Combine soy sauce and next 5 ingredients (through sambal) in a small bowl,stirring well. Combine basil and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over basil mixture; toss gently. Divide salad evenly among 4 plates; divide beef evenly among salads and serve immediately.

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Basil-Crusted Trout Fillets with Creamy Garlic Aioli
Serves 4

If you are new to cooking fish or worried about overcooking, this recipe has “training wheels”. The spicy-herb topping helps protect the fish under the broiler and can help prevent it from drying out and overcooking. This trout would be lovely served with freshly sliced tomato on a bed of crispy greens.

For the Creamy Aioli:
1 head garlic, peeled
1 large egg yolk
6 sprigs flat leaf parsley
Juice ½ lemon
¼ cup olive oil

For the Fish:
8 sprigs chopped fresh basil
8 sprigs chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 small cloves garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 8-ounce trout filets, halved

For the Creamy Aioli:
Place the peeled cloves in a in a small saucepan with 1 cup cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then drain. Repeat process 4 times, always starting with cold water. Place the softened garlic, egg yolk, parsley, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a blender; blend until creamy. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Set aside.

For the Fish:
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 450° F. Combine the parsley, basil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Brush each fish with olive oil, season with salt, then dust top side with mixture. Place fish on an oiled baking sheet and bake until the fish is opaque, 5 to 7 minutes. Top with Creamy Aioli and serve immediately on warmed serving plates.

Trout – photo credit Virginia Willis
Pick Fresh photo and recipe credit photo credit, Cooking Light Pick Fresh Cookbook/Oxmoor House.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

The Simple Life with Asparagus Recipes Friday, Jun 14 2013 

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Spring Vegetables?

I came up to Massachusetts for the summer a little over 2 weeks ago. It’s a big shift changing houses and merging lives. I’ve gone from busy, bustling Intown ATL to a village founded in 1670 without a stop sign on Main Street, much less a traffic light. It’s a lot to manage, but you know what? It’s been absolutely wonderful.

Last weekend we were able to work in the garden. One of the many aspects that New England is different from the South is the climate. Oddly enough, the one piece of life that seems to move slower up North in summer is the weather. (It was 92° yesterday in Atlanta and yesterday I wore sweatpants and a fleece “hoodie” in Massachusetts!)

In addition to fending off slightly derisive remarks about my thin blood from Yankee family and friends, this also makes for big changes in the garden. The weather makes it all topsy-turvy to someone who has only ever gardened in the subtropical Deep South. For example, there may be peaches in Georgia, but in Massachusetts we’ve yet to trim the garlic scapes, our tomatoes are just beginning to flower, and I’m still thinning carrots. Lastly, what we would consider a spring crop in the South like strawberries or asparagus is a summer crop up North.

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The Pioneer Valley is famous for asparagus. My grandmother, Meme, liked what she called “Asparagus Salad” but there wasn’t anything to preparing it other than opening the familiar shiny silver can. And, even though I know the flavor of canned asparagus cannot compare to freshly cooked asparagus, I truly relish that taste memory.

Confession: I actually like canned asparagus.
Bigger confession: I never really liked fresh asparagus.

Well, I always thought it was just okay. I can’t think of any vegetable that I aggressively dislike. I’ve always considered asparagus to be an overrated, snobby vegetable that is most often served with dishes such bland beef tenderloin or over-cooked salmon at catered events or so-called “fancy” restaurants. Asparagus has always been ubiquitous and seemingly season-less. Then, on top of that, I found myself in several life situations where I began to associate fresh asparagus with a couple of certain people and it put a bad taste in my mouth. It’s amazing and powerful how food can evoke such strong, visceral feelings, both intensely positive as well as negative.

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Well, I’ve now fallen in love with it.

Of course, asparagus has a real season. Perspective makes all the difference in the world. We’ve been eating it every last meal – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I stop at a little farm stand off the main road on the way home from my daily visit to town. The farmer has a small shaded table at the end of the driveway. There’s an old yellow lab with a grey muzzle that sits under a tree nearby. He’s sat there for so many years he’s worn the grass away and he rests on a dark, uneven circle of dirt. He gives me a “woof” and thumps his tail a few times. I smile at him and tell him he’s a good boy. There’s an unattended cash box with a handwritten sign that reads $4 and a collection of plastic bags from various grocery stores there for the taking, if you need one. The whole experience speaks of more simple times and makes me smile from the inside out. Now, one of the things I disliked the most brings me pure joy.

I hope you enjoy these simple recipes as much as we do.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
VA

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Simple Asparagus
Serves 4 to 6

Asparagus is a member of the Lily family and the spears grow from a crown that is planted about a foot deep in sandy soil. It’s harvested in the spring and it’s amazing to see – the spears literally grow straight out of the earth. The first time I saw this was at the beautiful kitchen gardens at Jefferson’s Monticello. When shopping for asparagus look for firm, fresh, spears with closed, compact tips and uniform diameter, so that all spears will cook in the same amount of time.

1 pound  asparagus, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon  olive oil
½ teaspoon Piment d’Espelette
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the broiler. Spread out the asparagus spears in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a nonstick silicone baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and shake the pan to evenly coat the spears. Season with Piment d’Espelette, salt, and pepper. Broil until the spears are just tender, 4 minutes for thin and up to 10 minutes for thick asparagus. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve hot, warm, or cold.

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Asparagus with Fresh Mozzarella
Serves 4

The ends of fresh asparagus can be tough and woody. I prefer to slice off the last inch or so of the stem instead of snapping it off where the spear breaks naturally. Not only is it more visually appealing when all the spears are exactly the same size, but they will also cook at the same rate of speed. You can also trim the end then shave the tough bottom skin off with a vegetable peeler.

1 pound  asparagus, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons  garlic oil (I’m in LOVE with Boyajian garlic oil) or olive oil
1 slice country bread, torn into bits
1-2 balls fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the broiler. Spread out the asparagus spears in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a nonstick silicone baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of garlic oil and shake the pan to evenly coat the spears. Season with salt and pepper. Divide into 4 equal portions on the baking sheet. Set aside.

Heat the 1 tablespoon of remaining garlic oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add the bread bits and season with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

Broil until the spears are just tender, 4 minutes for thin and up to 10 minutes for thick asparagus. In the last few minutes of cooking, top each individual bundle with a slice of mozzarella. Return to the broiler and cook until melted and bubbly, about 2 minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler. Transfer the bundles to warm plates. Sprinkle over toasted bread and red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Photo credits – Virginia Willis

Little Jars, Big Flavors on National TV! Wednesday, Apr 24 2013 

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Putting Up

I’m excited about my new collaboration with Southern Living out this spring called Little Jars, Big Flavors. It’s Southern Living’s FIRST book about preserving and canning. It’s packed with 110 recipes and beautiful photos for small-batch jams, jellies, pickles and preserves from the Southern Living test kitchen. This handy new cookbook shows traditional canning basics, as well as how to make quick freezer jams and pickles, even ones that can be made in the microwave! I’ve written the introduction as well as a chapter on a “putting up party” — how to have a get-together with your friends and family and everyone goes home with a couple of jars of jam, jelly, or pickles. I’m thrilled to be part of it!

Watch for me nationally on Fox and Friends Weekend this Saturday morning April 27! 

Here’s a recipe for Quick Confetti Pickles. I hope you enjoy this recipe and can’t wait to hear what you think about Little Jars!

Bon Appétit Y’all!
VA

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Quick Confetti Pickles

makes: 2 (1-pt.) jars for the fridge
hands-on time: 30 min.
total time: 1 hour, plus 1 day standing time

No time to can? No problem. These refrigerator pickles are easy—and so colorful that you’ll want to shingle them on buttered brown bread or put them in a glass bowl just to show them off. Standard radishes will do, but slender, carrotlike icicle radishes from the farmers’ market are easier to slice.

1 English cucumber
1 medium-size yellow squash
4 Tbsp. canning-and-pickling salt, divided
1 long, slender medium carrot
2 pink, purple, or red icicle radishes or 10 standard-size radishes
4 dill sprigs
1 cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. dill seeds

1. Wash vegetables. Score cucumber and squash lengthwise with a fork, leaving furrows in the peel on all sides. (This makes scalloped edges when vegetables are sliced.) Trim stem and blossom ends of cucumber and squash; cut into 1⁄8-inch slices. Place in a colander in sink; sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. salt, and toss gently. Let drain 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, peel carrot, and cut carrot and radishes into 1⁄8-inch-thick slices. Toss together with drained cucumber and squash.

3. Place 2 dill sprigs in each of 2 clean (1-pt.) jars or nonreactive containers with lids. Pack vegetables in jars, leaving ½-inch headspace.

4. Bring vinegar, next 3 ingredients, remaining 2 Tbsp. salt, and 2 cups water to a boil in a 1½-qt. stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Pour hot vinegar mixture over vegetables to cover. Apply lids. Chill 24 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Wild about Vegetables! Wednesday, Jul 25 2012 

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I’m a meat eater. I love seafood, poultry, goat, lamb, pork, and beef. I enjoy wild game and will pretty much try anything once. I’m even working on a book proposal about my friend Will Harris, a 4th generation cattle farmer. I got a kick out of this sticker I saw last week on a cooler of “Absolutely Local Beef” near Amherst, Massachusetts.

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However, especially in the summer, I’m wild about vegetables. For those of you that have been reading my blog you know we’ve got a garden. We have been harvesting cucumbers, squash, arugula, chard, and kale. The cucumbers have been fresh and crisp; the squash, creamy rich and aggressively vegetal at the same time. Wasabi arugula is an eye-opening green that gives our salads serious zip. (The yankee okra has been delicate, vibrant — and infrequent, but more about that later.) I admit I love the colors of the rainbow chard more than the green itself. Aahh, but the kale? I adore the kale.

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One of the cookbooks I’ve been reaching for to gain inspiration is Wild About Greens by my friend and colleague Nava Atlas. Now, Nava is a vegan culinary authority who fully subscribes to a non-animal lifestyle – no meat, no animal products, no honey, no wool, no leather. At first glance you might wonder if she and I, the Southern-born and bred, French-trained, meat-eating, Italian-loafer loving chef would have anything in common.

We do. We most certainly do. We both like good food. My ingredient list may be more diverse than her plant based one, but I fully respect her beliefs and her food is good! Her recipe for Garlicky Greens and mine for Chilled Kale Salad were separated at birth. Please make sure to check out her book. Just like the subject of her book, it’s good and good for you!

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I’m hosting Martha Stewart Radio this week! Today, Wednesday, July 25 is all about Preserving. I’ll be talking to canning expert Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of Put Em Up! We’ll explore ways to help you put up some great summer fruits and vegetables.
I am also thrilled to be “chilling out” with NY Times best-selling author Mark Kurlansky, who has written a biography on the inventor of modern frozen foods, Clarence Birdseye.

Please call in with your questions! You can also follow or ask questions on twitter at @MarthaRadio and use the hashtag #CookingToday. It’s Martha Stewart Living Radio, channel SiriusXM 110. If you would like to listen in but do not have Sirius, you can sign up for a FREE 7 day trial!

Below are a couple of greens recipes I hope you are wild about!

Bon Appetit, Y’all!
VA

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Nava’s Very Green Avocado-Tahini Dip
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Kind of a marriage of guacamole and hummus, and infused with a good amount of leafy greens, this rich dip makes its own unique statement. Serve with tortilla chips, fresh pita, pita chips, raw veggies, or a combination.

3 to 4 ounces baby spinach or arugula, or a combination
1 large, ripe avocado, peeled and diced
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, cilantro, or dill
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the greens and place in a large skillet or saucepan. With just the water clinging to the leaves, cook until just wilted down. Remove from the heat.

Place all the ingredients in the container of a food processor, and process until smooth. Add 1/4 water, as needed, to achieve a medium-thick consistency. Transfer to a serving bowl. Keep covered until ready to serve.

Serve at once as suggested in the headnote. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Recipe from Wild About Greens by Nava Atlas (Sterling, 2012), reprinted by permission

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Virginia’s Chilled Kale & Garlic Salad
Serves 4-6

The best way to clean greens is to fill a clean sink with cold water, add the greens, and swish them around. The dirt will fall to the bottom of the sink. Lift the greens out, drain the sink, and repeat until the water is clear and the greens are free of dirt and grit.

1- 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium bunch kale (about 11/2 pounds), cleaned, tough stems removed and discarded,
and leaves very thinly sliced in chiffonade
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the slightly damp ribbons of greens; season with salt and pepper. Toss once or twice, then add the garlic. (This is where Nava and I slightly differ, but the results are quite similar. I add mine after the greens to buffer the garlic from possibly burning) Cook until the greens are bright green and slightly wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. You can serve warm or for salad, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until well-chilled. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Kale Photo credit: Virginia Willis
Dip Photo credit: Susan Voisin

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

This Week I’m Hosting Martha Stewart Living Radio! Monday, Jul 23 2012 

Greens, Gardening, & Grilling

Quick note to let you know I’m hosting Martha Stewart Living Radio this week at 3:00 pm EST.

Today, Monday July 23rd I’m with vegetarian cooking expert Nava Atlas, author of the awesome new book, Wild about Greens. I’ll also have BBQ Queen Judith Fertig on the line with her new book, The Gardener and the Grill. We’re talking about greens, gardening, and grilling!

Canning & Preserving

Wednesday is all about Preserving. I’ll be talking to canning expert Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of Put Em Up! We’ll review simple approachable ways to can and preserve that will help you put up some great summer produce.
I am also thrilled to be chatting with NY Times best-selling author Mark Kurlansky, who has written a biography on Clarence Birdseye. (Yep, that one, the man that essentially invented frozen food.) I am a huge fan of Mark’s work and am so excited to have the opportunity to interview him. His book Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World changed my life and how I consider seafood.

What’s HOT!

Friday is “What’s Hot”. There’s nothing much hotter right now than food trucks in the food world. I’m excited to have John T. Edge on the line talking about his new book The Truck Food Cookbook with recipes and great photographs by Angie Mosier.

When it’s hot I love nothing more than a ice-cold glass of tea. I’ll be joined by tea expert Bob Heiss, owner of Tea Trekker, one of the pre-eminent tea stores in the country and author of The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook.

Please listen and call in with your questions! You can also follow or ask questions on twitter at @MarthaRadio and use the hashtag #CookingToday. It’s Martha Stewart Living Radio, channel SiriusXM 110. If you would like to listen in but do not have Sirius, you can sign up for a FREE 7 day trial!

Lastly, if you miss the 3 PM broadcast, you can catch the re-play at 6 PM or 10 PM EST.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

4G Summer: Glorious, Gardening, Grilling, & Garlic + Three Condiment Recipes Wednesday, Jul 4 2012 

Life is Good

This summer has been glorious. Life is good, love is good, work is good. I am happy.

The past weeks have been filled with lots of gardening and grilling. I absolutely love to dig in the dirt. It’s so therapeutic. I can’t tend a houseplant to save my life, but vegetables? Love. It is so amazingly satisfying to watch them grow — and then eat them!

I am a simple creature, I really am. I insist. Feed me, love me, and I am good to go. Or grow, as the case seems to be.

Decompression from working and writing is spent in the garden. At the end of each day we go to the garden to weed and water. We enjoy drinks in the Adirondack chairs as the grill heats. It stays light quite late, it’s so beautiful outside, and grilling keeps the heat out of the kitchen. Last night we picked our first squash which I grilled seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and just a hint of oil. We also had salad from the garden – that I didn’t grill – but we enjoyed with a simple garlic dressing. It’s garlic harvest now and although we didn’t plant any in our garden, we’ve been buying fresh, sticky, hot delicious garlic at the Farmer’s Market. We’ve been putting it in everything.

Gardening, Grilling, and Garlic. That’s pretty much my summer in a nutshell.

I told you I was a simple creature.

Simple Food

Simple food is best to me. “Let the goodness of the ingredients shine” is my philosophy, especially in summer when the produce is fresh and bright. My friends and colleagues the BBQ Queens, Karen Adler and Judith Fertig have a tasty new cookbook that is spot on perfect for this summer. The Gardener and the Grill brilliantly combines the bounty of the garden with the sizzle of the grill. It’s packed with recipes for honest, good food. The photography is mouth-watering and it will inspire you to do more than the typical hot dogs and hamburgers on your grill this holiday weekend.

The recipes emphasize seasonality, sustainability, and recognizes that grilling from the garden has two rewards: growing your own food AND making it taste good – which I wholeheartedly endorse! Their book has new twists on grilled produce and great vegetable sides. And, there’s far more. Karen and Judith include an explanatory pantry chapter with recipes for homemade salts, seasonings, and dressing to enhance your grilling experience. Then, they break out the grill for appetizers; sandwiches, flatbread, and pizza; soups and salads; meat, poultry, and fish; and a sweet finish with fruits and desserts. Even if you aren’t able to grow your own,you will find plenty of recipes to use with vegetables from your local farm stand.

One recipe that caught my eye of course, involved garlic. I adore Romesco Sauce. So, in honor of my 4G glorious summer I want to share some garlicky goodness condiment recipes with you – Bagna Cauda and Aioli. With the 3 of these simple condiment recipes you can have a glorious picnic, too!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

PS Click here to see my video for the Washington Post on How to Pack a Perfect Picnic!

Flame-Licked Fingerlings with Romesco Sauce
Makes 8 servings

Flame-licked? More like finger-licking with this full-flavored Romesco Sauce! Try it with grilled zucchini or even grilled meats such as steak or chicken. Pretty much tastes good on anything.

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
2 roasted red bell peppers or jarred roasted red bell peppers, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 slice white bread (crust removed), toasted and crumbled
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds fingerling potatoes
Pure olive oil, for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a food processor, grind the almonds. Add roasted peppers, garlic, bread, parsley and hot pepper flakes. Blend until it becomes a paste. Add the vinegar and pulse to blend. With the motor running, gradually pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a steady stream until the mixture thickens like mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. (Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

Meanwhile, prepare a hot fire in your grill. Drizzle the fingerling potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the fingerlings in a perforated grill basket or an aluminum pan with holes in it. Place over the hot fire and close the grill lid. After about 3 or 4 minutes, open the grill and toss the potatoes. Clove the lid again and repeat the tossing in about another 3 or 4 minutes. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve the grilled fingerlings on a platter with a bowl of the Romesco sauce set in the middle for dipping.

Adapted from THE GARDENER & THE GRILL © 2012 by Karen Adler & Judith Fertig, Running Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group.

Lisa’s Bagna Cauda
Makes about 3/4 cup


Instead of a mayonnaise or sour cream based dip, try this recipe for an exquisite warm oil-based dipping sauce. It is a lot of oil, but it’s heart-healthy olive oil. Packed with flavor that pops, all you need is the quickest, lightest coating on the dipped vegetables.

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 anchovy fillets in oil
6 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh garden vegetables, for serving

Place the oil, anchovies, garlic, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until smooth. Transfer the mixture to small heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat 15 minutes, stirring, occasionally. (The sauce will separate.) Serve with fresh vegetables.

Virginia’s Aioli
Makes 1 cup


This is an indulgence, but oh-my-goodness it is some kind of good. It’s homemade garlic mayonnaise and is awesome on grilled bread or vegetables. This would take your burger bash to a whole new level.

2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste with salt
1 cup oil such as canola, olive, or a combination, room temperature
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grilled bread, for serving

Whisk the egg yolks, mustard, white wine vinegar, and garlic together in a medium bowl until smooth and light. In a slow steady stream whisk the oil, a drop at a time, until the mixture starts to stiffen and thicken. As the mixture thickens you may add the oil, slightly faster. Season with salt and pepper. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Note: Pregnant women, young children, the elderly, or anyone whose health or immune system is compromised should not consume raw eggs.

Potato Photo credit: Steve Legato
Bagna Cauda and Aioli: Virginia Willis

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.