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summer produce

Calendula summer salad: make it now, love it forever!

What’s the first thing you do when you are bitten by mosquitoes? I don’t know about you, but I immediately cover the affected skin area with calendula cream. Indeed, calendula (also called pot marigold) has been my family’s go-to option for minor scrapes and bruises for as long as I can remember. Nowadays, I use calendula cream to moisturize and treat my daughter’s skin. Such was the case yesterday, for instance, when she was bitten by mosquitoes during our usual walk in the park.

In 2008, calendula was named Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association, an official recognition of the exceptional healing properties and culinary value of this plant. You read that right: culinary value. The petals of calendula flowers can be eaten raw (in salads) or cooked (in soups and stews). To satisfy my family’s appetite for fresh summery dishes, I recently used calendula petals as an ingredient in the salad pictured above. The tangy, peppery taste of the petals made this a summer salad like no other – a salad packed with layer upon layer of flavor, a great lunch option for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Here’s a salad to remember 🙂

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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