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!

Strawberry Lemonade

We’ve all heard the old adage: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” And while the idea of turning something sour into something sweet is a great lesson, what happens when life gives you more than lemons? What if it gives you, say, strawberries? Lots and lots of strawberries? Because — let’s face it — seldom do we get only bad news. More often than not, life doles out lemons and strawberries in equal abundance (though, seasonally, not always at the same time). The trick is not to focus on each exclusively, but to look at them together.

This is a recipe that balances the tart with the sweet — a great example of how refreshingly complex things can be if you open yourself up to the possibilities of what is in front of you. June’s own little example of yin and yang. Strawberry Lemonade.

A cool, refreshing glass of strawberry lemonade

A cool, refreshing glass of strawberry lemonade

Shop with us at Stults’ Farm and learn how to make your own Strawberry Lemonade – keep reading to find out more.

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!

Grilled Lemon Garlic Chicken Breasts

The Memorial Day weekend in the United States is the unofficial start of summer. It’s also the weekend that grills across the nation — having lain dormant under feet of winter snow — get dusted off, cleaned out and fired up. If you’re on the hunt for an easy grilling recipe that is both adult and kid-friendly, raises the bar over traditional hamburger and hot dog fare, and takes no more than five minutes to cook once it hits the flame, this is the recipe for you.

Marinating meat does several things to it by adding flavor and tenderizing the meat fibers. But be careful: not all marinades are created equal. Here are some of the things we’ve learned along the way that you’ll need to be aware of when marinating meat (check out the subscription site Cook’s Illustrated for great scientific explanations of what happens during the marinating process):

  • Acids: break apart the meat and collagen fibers on the meat surface which allows it to better retain moisture. But if you use too much acid in a marinade, or marinate the meat for too long in an acidic marinade, the meat will become mushy as the meat fibers break even further apart.
  • Oil: carries oil-soluable flavors and coats the surface meat fibers in the flavoring agent (in this case, lemon and garlic).
  • Salt/high-sodium ingredients: add flavor, but also work as a brining agent to pull moisture from the marinade into the meat.
  • Flavoring agents like garlic and herbs: once the acids and salts have worked their magic on the meat and collagen fibers, these flavors combine with the oil to penetrate the outermost surface of the meat and add complex and complementary tastes.

This particular recipe uses highly-acidic lemon juice in combination with salt to quickly tenderize and brine the outer surface of some thinly-cut chicken breasts. The olive oil and garlic, in combination with the citrus flavor of the lemon juice, then works its way into the chicken. These chicken breasts are very tender and flavorful as a result, the perfect complement to a Memorial Day spread.

A great recipe for grilling season: lemon garlic chicken breasts

A great recipe for grilling season: lemon garlic chicken breasts

Keep reading for our easy Grilled Lemon Garlic Chicken Breast recipe!

Baked Tomatoes

The fruit that took over the world. No, it’s not a long-forgotten sci-fi thriller, or even some GMO experiment gone horribly wrong. It is, in fact, something you have likely eaten, in one form or another, within the past week. It’s the tomato.

I’m kind of envious of the world tour undertaken by this humble fruit (and yes, contrary to what you may have been lead to believe, the tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable). Originating in the Andes Mountains in South America, it soon became a domesticated crop that was, by 500 BC,  being grown as a food source throughout the Mexican peninsula.

One of the early Spanish explorers — perhaps even the fabled Christopher Columbus — returned to Spain with the seeds of this fruit after a trip to the New World. Although initially suspicious of the fruit of any plant in the deadly nightshade family, Spaniards couldn’t resist the juicy, sweet tomato, likening it to an eggplant. Those same explorers were responsible for introducing tomatoes throughout the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and the Mediterranean. Climates in countries like Italy were especially favorable for growing tomatoes, though the Italians in the 1500 and 1600s  used them originally as ornamental fruits, believing that they were not edible. That changed, obviously, and thank goodness it did, or we may never have gotten the opportunity to experience pizza in its many forms and permutations.

Tomatoes continued to migrate — north to France and Great Britain, south and east through the Middle East and Africa, and, eventually, made their way back across the ocean…this time to North America.

So the next time you cut one of these beauties into a salad, make a batch of salsa, or serve a simple vegetable soup, think of all the places the tomato has been. And all the passport pages it must have gotten stamped. Now, that’s a trip I want to go on!

Baked tomatoes ready for the oven: stuffed and dotted with butter

Baked tomatoes ready for the oven: stuffed and dotted with butter

Speaking of trips, the Stout Sprouts and I have a simple recipe for baked tomatoes that could take you no further than your garden, or just the produce aisle of your local grocery or farmer’s market (can’t WAIT for Jersey tomatoes to come into season here). If you’re having a big barbecue this weekend — ’tis the season, after all — this is an easy side that is a great complement to steaks or baked chicken or a hearty rice dish and takes absolutely no time at all to make.

This recipe for Baked Tomatoes is a vacation for your mouth. Check it out and remember to come home when you’re finished!

Rigatoni with Chicken, Spinach, Mushrooms and Feta

Here’s what I want to know: whose idea was it to put magic wands in the hands of today’s little princes and princesses? Scepters I can understand, but no royal dress-up costume is complete these days without a magic wand. Maybe that’s just part of the expanding job description: “must be able to perform such royal duties as knighting brave squires, kissing frogs, and using a magic wand to zap the bejesus out of any inanimate object that must be transformed into a royal coach.”

Thank goodness we can put those magic wands to better use in the kitchen to conjure up a quick meal like Rigatoni with Chicken, Spinach, Mushrooms and Feta. It’s just the kind of thing Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother would have whipped up for the ball. Great dish for a roomful of nobility, but an equally good weeknight dinner that comes together so quickly that you’ll hardly have time to say “bibbidy, bobbidy, boo” before it’s on the table.

Satisfying and easy: it's rigatoni with chicken, spinach, mushrooms, olives and feta in a tomato base

Satisfying and easy: it’s rigatoni with chicken, spinach, mushrooms, olives and feta in a tomato base

It isn’t just the quick prep that makes this meal magical. If you’ve already purchased ingredients for our Savory Bread Pudding or our Brown Rice, Wheat Berry and Quinoa Salad or the Roasted Beet, Cucumber and Feta Salad or the Quick Greek Salad, this is an extra dish you can add into rotation later in the week with very little advance warning. Having several dishes planned in the course of a week that use the same ingredients in different ways is one of my favorite tricks, and is certainly both resourceful and a time-saver.

The pan sauce comes together...next step is adding the pasta

The pan sauce comes together…next step is adding the pasta

This rigatoni dish has a wonderful medley of Mediterranean flavors that some kids might at first shy away from, but serve it with familiar pasta noodles and it is both comforting and approachable. We’re lucky that our Stout Sprouts (aka the little women with the wands) like spinach. Using it as a supporting ingredient here — and not a main ingredient — makes this all the more child-friendly. This is also the first dish in which we were able to get Daughter 2 to try mushrooms, and I’m hopeful it’s not the last. (Is there a magic spell for that?)

Get out your wands and keep reading for our Rigatoni with Chicken, Spinach, Mushrooms and Feta recipe!