Andalusian Gazpacho with Grilled Corn

Today’s post is about more than good food. It’s also about some good news, and giving you a little preview into what you can expect from The Stout Sprout in the coming year… and it’s a big year! This fall our Stout Sprouts are entering Pre-K and 1st grade, respectively, and I’m now working in a new position that has me commuting in to Manhattan regularly.

Kitchen time and writing time is now more limited than it has been in prior months, but we’ve been making the most of the time we do have together, visiting farmer’s markets, playing at the Jersey shore, and eking as much time out of our weekends together as we possibly can. Our crunched schedule also means that in addition to focusing on seasonal, kid-friendly dishes, we’re also focusing on convenient meals. Things we can make together and enjoy together without a crazy investment of time or ingredients.

Fresh Jersey corn - nothing better

Fresh Jersey corn – nothing better

What this also means is that we have a backlog of easy weekend and weeknight recipes that make excellent use of the riot of fresh produce that summer has delivered. And while the farms and gardens are churning out juicy, ripe tomatoes, sweet summer corn, crisp bell peppers and cooling cucumbers, we’re busy putting it all to good use.

Take, for instance, one of my favorite summer suppers: gazpacho.

This creamy gazpacho with grilled corn is amazing

This creamy gazpacho with grilled corn is amazing

Gazpacho is the kind of dish that uses all that market bounty. Refreshing and cooling, it’s vegetarian and vegan and, when served with a slice of hearty grilled bread, is still as satisfying as any protein-packed main dish. It comes together quickly and can be made hours in advance of mealtime. There is little real cooking required – just a bunch of chopping and a little blending (and in our case, a little bit of grilling).

Click here for my favorite summer recipe – Aldalusian Gazpacho!

French Lentils with Poached Eggs

My. Child. Ate. Lentils.

There. I said it, and it feels good.

Normally, I’m not quite so smug. Because normally, whatever it is that I’m being smug about has a way of coming back to bite me. And this may yet. But, for now you’ll all have to indulge my happy dance because, well, my child* ate lentils.

Lentils are not only one of the oldest food sources on the planet, but also one of the healthiest. They are protein-packed, iron-rich and have plenty of vitamin B1, folate, and fiber. And for those of you whose lentil knowledge begins and ends at the failed casseroles Neil cooked on the British sitcom The Young Ones (please tell me I’m not the only one who gets that 1980s reference), I’m here to change your mind…and hopefully your supper plans, too.

A perfect vegetarian brunch, lunch or dinner - French Lentils with Poached Eggs

A perfect vegetarian brunch, lunch or dinner – French Lentils with Poached Eggs

Click here for our recipe for French Lentils with Poached Eggs…and a little bit more bragging from this lentil-loving mom.

Crostini with Ricotta and Assorted Veggie Toppings

These little toasts have a lot going for them, starting with their name. As if “crostini” weren’t inviting enough — roll that “r” and you’ll even sound Italian — few kids I know would pass up toast. And little toasts…well, I hardly have to say more.

Anyone who has ordered a bruschetta appetizer is familiar with this concept: toast up a slice of bread and top it with something yummy. True peasant fare, which is probably how these tidbits became popular in the first place. Economizing with meat or vegetables piled on leftover toasted bread in the absence of elaborate place settings. In the middle ages, after all, you were lucky if you owned a fork and knife, let alone a bowl or plate.

Suffice it to say that the concept of crostini have been around for a very long time. I, however, credit the Italians for elevating this dish by improving upon the toppings (see the afore-mentioned bruschetta as an example) and serving it, frequently enough, with a glass or two of wine.

Now, the kids in the house will have to substitute their favorite non-alcoholic beverage for that wine, but they can easily partake in both the crostini making and eating. And here’s an observation: you may even persuade a non-veggie eater to try something new if you pile it on top of toasted bread smeared with a healthy dollop of creamy ricotta cheese.

The ricotta is a star ingredient, and this ricotta from Fulper Family Farmstead is fresh and fantastic

The ricotta is a star ingredient, and this ricotta from Fulper Family Farmstead is fresh and fantastic

You can’t go wrong with ricotta! Keep reading for our recipe for Crostini with Ricotta and Assorted Vegetables….

Beef, Bacon And Chocolate Chili

I had begun mourning the absence of chili in our household. Sure, my husband and I would occasionally make a batch, but it had become a strictly grown-up indulgence relegated to a cold fall or winter weekend when the kids were invited out to a birthday party or had other away-from-home plans. Chili — our chili, at least — was always “too hot” or “too spicy” or “too…beany” for them.

If we were lucky — and the pot of chili was a particularly mild one — we could convince them to have a little over nachos as long as we also loaded them up with cheese and sour cream. But I puzzled a bit over this considering that black beans cowboy style got a green light, and chili wasn’t much of a departure from that familiar dish.

But with Father’s Day coming up we took on the challenge of retooling our chili to make it both flavorful and kid-friendly. We’re lucky that our Stout Sprouts show a growing interest in helping in the kitchen — that made this experiment a little easier since they got to measure, stir, cook and eat. And, did I mention the chocolate? And the bacon? Yea…pretty much a winner out of the gate.

This Beef, Bacon and Chocolate Chili is great with sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges and...of course...tortilla chips

This Beef, Bacon and Chocolate Chili is great with sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges and…of course…tortilla chips

It’s a special treat for any deserving dad on Father’s Day or any day – get our Beef, Bacon and Chocolate Chili recipe here!

New Potato And Green Bean Salad With Bacon-Shallot Dressing And Chive Flowers

Potatoes. America’s #1 vegetable crop according to the USDA, with over 90% of the potatoes we eat being planted in the spring for fall harvest. How, then, did potato salad become the appointed side dish of summer?

Maybe it has something to do with the long shelf life of many potato varieties, or the economics of feeding large crowds with relatively inexpensive ingredients. However it happened, I’m glad that it did.

Early-season new potatoes are the sweetest of all, perfect, in my opinion, for potato salads. These little guys are simply young potatoes that haven’t matured into larger, starchier spuds. With thin, papery skins and ultra-creamy, moist interiors, new potatoes cook up quickly and make for great bite-sized noshing.

A great side dish for summer entertaining: new potato and green bean salad with bacon-shallot dressing

A great side dish for summer entertaining: new potato and green bean salad with bacon-shallot dressing

New potatoes are readily available in the spring and summer months so there is no reason not to use them as often as you can. Grocery stores, farmer’s markets and road-side stands all offer up wonderful varieties while the weather is hot. For this recipe you’ll want to choose either a waxy variety, like most fingerling potatoes, or an all-purpose variety, like Yukon Gold or Red Gold. Starchy varieties, like Russets, will also work but tend to fall apart more easily after they have been boiled.

Another great farmer’s market find this time of year are green beans. Call them what you will — pole beans, string beans, runner beans, snap beans — these beauties are best when small and freshly harvested. Just-picked green beans are sweet and vegetal and are one of my favorite crops when it comes to pick-your-own. They grow prolifically on their vines which makes them a great crop for kids to help harvest. Teach them to pinch the beans off at the stem (don’t pull!) and they will fill your bag or basket in a matter of minutes.

When you’ve finished your farmer’s market shopping, click here to get our recipe for New Potato and Green Bean Salad with Bacon-Shallot Dressing and Chive Flowers!

My Favorite Sautéed Mushrooms With Shallots And Thyme

We are lucky to live as close as we do to Kennett Square, PA, a lovely suburban community not far from Philadelphia that is also known as — wait for it — The Mushroom Capital Of The World. Lucky because purveyors from Kennett Square frequent local farmer’s markets — like the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market, a fantastic Saturday market just minutes from our home — with pint after pint of both common and exotic varieties throughout the year. We’re never far from fresh, flavorful mushrooms and the farmers who are excited to talk about the varieties they grow.

We’ve long been enjoying mushrooms from Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms — we last wrote about them in our Butternut Squash and Chicken Risotto with Sautéed Leeks and Mushrooms post — but were happy to see Princeton’s own Shibumi Mushroom Farm join the vendors at the farmer’s market this year. Mushroom junkies like me love to try new strains and species, and Shibumi focuses on cultivating proprietary fungi grown indoors on artificial logs that use no animal products or pesticides.

At the West Windsor Community Farmer's Market with Davidson's Exotic Mushrooms and Shibumi Mushroom Farm

At the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market with Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms and Shibumi Mushroom Farm

Since mushrooms are used in dishes around the world and have long been served at mealtimes on all contents, they seem like the perfect ingredient for this globally-inspired family. I’ve been on a bit of a mission to get The Stout Sprouts to try mushrooms under the presumption that trying may eventually lead to liking. Mushrooms, I’ve found, are one of those foods that improve with age…and by that I mean there is a direct correlation between age and likelihood to consume mushrooms, with the lowest correlation occurring at the youngest ages (some might even say there is a negative correlation during those early years, with mushrooms actually repelling the youngest eaters with a polarizing force akin to an atom splitter).

Sure, we could simmer the mushrooms in a kid-friendly cream sauce or mince them finely and hide them in a burger, but my husband and I want our daughters to experience mushrooms as mushrooms. To appreciate their rich umami taste and the flavor variations of different mushroom types. And, after having cooked up several batches of my favorite sautéed mushrooms with shallots and thyme already this year, we made another batch this weekend specifically for them to try.

A dish that is welcome on any table: sautéed mushrooms with shallots and thyme

A dish that is welcome on any table: sautéed mushrooms with shallots and thyme

You’ll want to try this recipe too! Keep reading for more on our farmer’s market visit and My Favorite Sautéed Mushrooms With Shallots and Thyme.

Black Bean, Cheese and Chicken Burritos

We were at a picnic this past weekend when talk turned, as it does in the presence of flaming grills and groaning sideboards, to “repurposing” leftovers. There are two camps that take sides during these types of conversations: the “I can’t get enough” group who happily eats their way through the Tupperware jungle in their refrigerator, and the “give me something new” folks who simply can’t stand to have the same dishes night after night.

Who knew that we were introducing such a heated (pun intended) topic into the conversation! It seems that, once you’ve found your tribe, there is little that will change your perspective on eating leftovers.

Around here we have some cross-pollination of opinions and that makes for an interesting week of menu planning. My “waste not, want not” mindset gets a little trying for the rest of the family, who tire of seeing progressively wilted specimens on their plates as the week wears on.

Which is why I like the idea of “repurposing” as much as I do. It’s not the “same old, same old,” but neither have I resorted to tossing the Sunday leftovers in the trash (for shame!). Personally, I find this to be the mark of a good and frugal cook: someone who can take what they have on hand and serve it up in a new and tasty way. Element of surprise and all that — just don’t get too creative, which is a lesson we learned in the Split Pea Soup with Ham post. Plus, with the busy lives we lead, who really has the time to make a full dinner from scratch every night? Oh, what a luxury that would be, though I think I’d go broke trying to cook that way!

For those like-minded individuals who are trying to use up the last of this past weekend’s barbecue fixings I have this advice: consider the burrito.

A little bit of everything in these burritos: rice, beans, chicken and cheese

A little bit of everything in these burritos: rice, beans, chicken and cheese

I’m hardly being original here, but if you haven’t had burritos at home in a while this is your reminder to put them on the menu this week. Grab a big flour tortilla, fill it with some traditional ingredients like rice, cheese and beans, and then toss in those leftover proteins or veggies. Grilled chicken is perfect. Steak would be great. Lettuce, mushrooms, tomatoes, grilled onions or zucchini….all wonderful in a burrito.

Our Black Bean, Cheese and Chicken Burritos redeem those Memorial Day leftovers. Keep reading for the easy recipe!