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summer eating

Celebrating summer flavors: sour cherries, the ruby fruits that keep on giving

Mom and MIL getting busy over jars of sour cherry preserve

You get sweet, you get a hint of bitter, you get caramel notes. It’s layer upon layer of thick, rich flavor, sophisticated yet pure. The moment you try sour cherry preserve, your mouth explodes with this complexity of summer tastes, and your foodie world changes for good forever. Having used sour cherries every summer since childhood, I have taken it upon myself to let everyone know how wonderfully versatile they are. Right now, I just want to pack this sour cherry preserve in tiny jars and gift it to the whole wide world. It’s that good – and, in my opinion, deeper and more satisfying than the coveted jarred amarena cherries.

We used to do a lot of baking and canning with sour cherries when we lived in Europe. These fruits are precious and very delicate, and there is only a small window of opportunity at the end of June -beginning of July when you can buy them and use them straight away, otherwise they spoil. You can find sour cherries at select Chicagoland grocery stores, such as Fresh Farms International Market and Rich’s Fresh Market. For those of you with a bit of time on your hands, I strongly suggest you pick them yourselves. It can be so much fun!

This is what we did recently, when we spent one lovely Saturday morning picking sour cherries at The Valley Orchard. Keep Reading

Chicken, tomato & arugula salad: the perfect side dish for burgers and hot dogs on 4th of July

I don’t know about you, but we love to eat salads on July 4th. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of burgers and sausages on our grill to keep up with tradition (check out my posts here, here and here for 4th of July meat-based menu ideas). However, we also have 4-5 kinds of salads on hand, to brighten up the atmosphere and to ensure we eat a balanced meal. Yep, for us, 4th of July is a balancing act 🙂

The salad recipe below concludes my Pure Flavor veggie cooking bonanza, and it’s a salad I will definitely make again on July 4th. Simple yet very effective, this salad succeeds thanks to the crunchy baby arugula and the thirst-quenching cherry tomatoes, whose assertiveness cuts through the richness of the roast chicken and provides it with summer flavors and freshness galore. Keep Reading

When life gives you eggplants, you make an eggplant & sweet pepper panino!

Today, post #2 covering my Pure Flavor veggie cooking bonanza, where I highlight the taste and versatility of eggplants. I’m so excited to be writing about good, nutritious food!

I had a colorful assortment of Pure Flavor baby eggplants and I immediately thought I should use them to make my family’s version of baba ghanoush, one of the oldest recipes ever posted on this blog. In the end however, I decided to push myself a little harder (lol) and after some thinking and experimentation I came up with this vegetarian panino recipe, in which I married the gorgeous eggplants pictured below with the Pure Flavor Aurora Sweets peppers.  More on these peppers will be revealed in my upcoming veggie post #3 (hint, hint!) Keep Reading

Mother’s Day mango crêpes: a decadent sweet for the sweetest mom!

I ate these crêpes with mom in the park yesterday, as the warm sunlight was about to wave us goodbye for the day. A decadent sweet was just what my mom needed after the long day she had spent taking care of the little one. It was not Mother’s Day, yet I knew she would love getting out of the house and the daily routine, and celebrating motherhood one day in advance. The park was peaceful and quiet and the crêpes were delicious – so mom simply couldn’t say no 🙂

The idea for this dessert came to me by accident a few months ago, while I was looking for ways to use up a bunch of ataulfo mangoes I had got at a deeply discounted price from the local grocery store. I found several authors who advocated using these mangoes along with sweetened condensed milk, which is a rather popular dessert combination in Mexican and Filipino cuisines. Keep Reading

My Zucchi extra virgin olive oil blending experience: “a kind of magic” and a search for perfection

Close your eyes and imagine a salad ripe with the flavors of summer, fresh and perfect, and ready to be devoured. Then, try to imagine the extra virgin olive oil that would go with it. You know it has to be light and delicate, yet at the same time it has to be strong enough to assert itself among the other flavors on your plate, and to make your salad taste experience complete. You know the basics, but that’s not all. How can you turn this oil – this figment of your imagination – into something real, something which can be enjoyed by many, something authentic, which represents your values and stands the test of time?

You may think these are way too many questions. After all, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is just another kind of oil, right? The makers of Zucchi extra virgin olive oil would definitely disagree with you on this point. I reconsidered my own perception of this oil recently, when I was invited to attend an EVOO Tasting Master Class conducted at Chicago’s Quartino restaurant by Giovanni Zucchi, the blend master behind an Italian company with three centuries of tradition and experience in the field: Oleificio Zucchi.

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A meat bonanza which holds up beautifully: my three meat panino – with plenty of cheese and veggies to boot!

Some time ago I asked a “panino pro” for tips on creating the perfect panino, and here’s what he said: 1. Use quality bread; 2. Don’t put too many ingredients in the panino because it will fall apart. I fully agree with tip #1. Inspired by the artisan bread I tried at the recent National Restaurant Association Show (you can read my review here), I have been exploring local bakeries in search for tasty and nutritious bread to use in my panini and sandwiches, and some of the culinary discoveries I have made have been nothing short of amazing. When it comes to tip #2 however, I don’t think that’s true in all situations. As long as you handle the panino carefully and choose a good foundation (aka a sturdy quality bread), the panino will hold up beautifully even if made up of more than a couple of ingredients. To support my case, I’m bringing you this delicious three meat panino 🙂

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It’s time for summer lightness and freshness: It’s time for a caprese salad

I don’t know about you, but I always develop an appetite for healthy foods during the summer. It is in the summer that I feel the need to take the greatest care of my body, giving it as much nutrients as possible and taking advantage of the abundance of fruits and veggies. The summer season’s fresh produce always inspires me to come up with new ideas in the kitchen, and this summer makes no exception. It’s even better now, because since becoming pregnant I have miraculously started eating a lot healthier than before. The little one definitely knows how to stir me in the right direction food-wise. 🙂 Keep Reading