Plum Muffins with Cinnamon, Cardamom and Orange Zest

Plum Muffins

Yield: 12 Muffins

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup whole roasted and salted almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon orange zest (zested on a Microplane)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 whole eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 (medium-sized) ripe plums, quartered, pits discarded

Set an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cups.

Place the sugars and almond in a food processor with the blade attachment. Run for 1 minute until it begins to clump. Add the flour, zest, baking powder, spices and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter. Pulse 5 to 7 times, until it starts to resemble wet sand. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Pulse until the texture turns into a uniform, thick batter.

Fill each muffin tin equally, with 2½ tablespoons of batter. Gently press a quarter plum into each muffin, skin side up or skin side down – both ways are equally delicious!

Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Test readiness by poking a toothpick or knife in the middle of a muffin; if it comes out clean, it’s ready.

Remove from oven. Place tin on a cookie rack and let the muffins cool in the tin for 15 minutes before removing the muffins from the tin.

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Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad

Spicy Smashed Cuc salad

For those of you who like spice – this recipe is for you! The play of the heat from the red pepper flakes and numbing effect of Sichuan peppercorns (commonly used in Sichuan cuisine) makes this dish have an addictive quality. That, plus it’s easy to whip up AND when you have a glut of summer cucumbers on hand, it’s nice to try something new!

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

Smashed Cucumbers:
1 pound small cucumbers, Persian or Japanese, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise, seeds scooped out
1 tablespoon natural (unseasoned) rice wine vinegar
¾ teaspoon dark brown sugar
¾ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons roughly chopped dry roasted peanuts
1 scallion, ends trimmed, sliced thinly (white and light green part), optional

Place cucumbers flesh side down on a cutting board. Gently smash with the side of a large knife. Tear into bite sized pieces.

Place vinegar, sugar, oil and salt in a medium bowl. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Add cucumbers, peanuts and scallion (if using) and stir to combine.
Spiced Oil:
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/8 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper (chili flakes)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan. Turn heat to medium low. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic turns light brown, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Pour spicy oil over cucumbers. Fold to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and serve.

Asparagus Frittata with Preserved Lemon, Mint and Feta

Asparagus Fritatta

Asparagus Frittata with Preserved Lemon, Mint and Feta

Yield: 6 servings

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon*, peel only (rinse lemon before chopping)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced small
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound asparagus, bottom of stems trimmed, stalks cut on the bias into 1/2 -inch slices, tips kept whole
7 large eggs, whisked with a fork
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 packed tablespoon chiffonade (sliced very thinly) fresh mint leaves

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 325ºF.

2. Set a large, oven-safe, nonstick sauté pan over medium heat and add the butter, preserved lemon, chopped onion, salt and some pepper.

3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions become soft and transparent, about 8 minutes.

4. Add the asparagus stems, stir and let cook for 2 minutes.  Add tips, stir and cook for 1 more minute.

5. Add eggs and sprinkle over feta and the mint evenly. (Shake the pan to distribute the ingredients if needed.) Cook for 30 seconds, then transfer the sauté pan into the oven.

6. Bake, uncovered, for 11 to 13 minutes or until the eggs are just set.

7. Remove the frittata from the oven, slide out onto a cutting board, slice into 6 pieces, and serve.

*You can find preserved lemon at some local grocery stores and at Whole Foods and/or Amazon.

Sweet Cherry Shrub with Fresh Mint (Bevvy)

Sweet Cherry Shrub with Mint

Yield: approximately 2½ cups shrub concentrate

 

1 pound organic sweet cherries, pitted

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons lemon zest (zested with a microplane)

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

30 medium mint leaves, plus more for garnish

6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

 

Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend on medium-low for 1 minute.

Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and strain the mixture, pressing on the solids with a spatula to extract as much liquid as possible.

Transfer shrub mix into a bottle or jar, close to seal, and store in the refrigerator until ready to enjoy.

Serve one part shrub mixture for every four parts sparkling water (or to taste). When serving, add water and ice (if using) first (to a glass). Then slowly stir in the shrub. This helps to reduce any foaminess.

Add a shot of gin or mezcal for a delicious adult beverage.

Garnish with fresh mint.

Baby Yellow Potatoes with a Lemony Herb Citronette

German Butterball Potatoes

Yields: 2 servings

 

1 pound small yellow potatoes (preferably German Butterball or Baby Yukon Gold), cut into eighths

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 small shallot, peeled and diced finely

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon roughly chopped fresh oregano

1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh chives

¼ cup crumbled fresh sheep’s milk feta

 

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover potatoes with cold water, just enough to cover by ½-inch. Add the salt and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are cooked through (easily pierced with a fork), but not falling apart approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add shallot, lemon juice, olive oil and pepper to a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.

Drain potatoes and add to the mixing bowl along with the oregano and chives. Mix to combine.

Serve potatoes topped with crumbled feta.

Tray Baked Chicken Thighs with Roasted Grapes and Arugula

Chicken and Roasted Grapes

 

Yields: 4 servings

 

Zest of 1 lemon (grated on a Microplane)

10 (3-inch) sprigs fresh thyme

1¾ boneless skinless chicken thighs (approximately 6 chicken thighs)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound seedless red grapes

4 packed cups arugula (5 ounces)

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

 

Adjust an oven rack 5 inches from the broiler and set the oven to broil.

Add the lemon zest, thyme, chicken thighs, olive oil, salt and pepper to a large mixing bowl. Mix to combine.

Place chicken thighs on an aluminum foil lined sheet tray.

Add grapes to the same large mixing bowl and mix so that you coat the grapes with the excess olive oil and seasoning left in the bowl.

Distribute grapes on the sheet tray, but do not cover the chicken. (You may need to do some rearranging on the sheet tray so nothing is overlapping.)

Place sheet tray in oven and set a timer for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, flip the chicken. Continue cooking for another 7 to 10 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees with a digital thermometer.

Remove sheet tray from the oven and transfer chicken and grapes to a plate (don’t pour out the jus!).

Add arugula to a large mixing bowl. Pour ¼ cup of the warm chicken/grape jus from the sheet tray over the arugula. Add the balsamic vinegar and gently fold to combine. Season with salt.

Serve by dividing the arugula onto plates. Top each salad with chicken and some roasted grapes. Got any leftover jus? Drizzle it over each plate for extra flavor.

 

Rosemary Garlic Tomato Confit

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Rosemary Garlic Tomato Confit

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, crushed, skins discarded
1 (3-inch) sprig fresh rosemary
2 dried bay leaves
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

In a medium sauce pan over low heat, combine the olive oil, garlic, rosemary and bay leaves. Mix until well coated and cook until just beginning to bubble. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes collapse. Discard the rosemary and bay leaves before serving.

Add confit to pasta or serve over toasted bread.

Note: If you enjoy a little heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the confit to spice things up!