Summer Favorites

For this blog post, I'm going to try something a little different. Rather than showcasing one recipe or one wine, I'm giving a quick summary of all my favorite food and beverage discoveries of the summer. I've had lots of free time to experiment with new recipes and read cookbooks that use flavor combinations I never would have thought of. I've also been frequenting the local farmers markets and indulging in all the nectarines, watermelons, and blueberries I can possibly handle. It's been fun and savory, and made me incredibly grateful that I'm able to bike off all the calories as I ride around town! Without further ado, here are some of my current favorites, and I hope that you are able to try them and enjoy them before summer comes to a close:

1) Bok Choy and Pineapple Slaw

This recipe was in the July issue of Real Simple Magazine, and I've adapted some of the amounts of the ingredients. It's fresh and sweet and you will likely find yourself eating bowl after bowl of it.

3 raw baby bok choys, thinly sliced (use everything except the core at the very bottom)
3/4 of a pineapple, cut into small cubes
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, diced
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
a few pinches of Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Toss all the ingredients into a large bowl, mix thoroughly, and let sit in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes
before serving.

2) Wailua Wheat Ale by Kona Brewing Co. (on sale at BevMo, $6.99 for a 6-pack; regularly $8.69)

At first glance, it may look like your typical wheat ale, but what sets this Hawaiian beer apart from say, a Hefeweizen or a Blue Moon, is the tropical passion fruit that's added to every batch. It's super refreshing, and takes wheat beer to a whole new level. 

3) My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family and Togetherness

Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook is awesome. She provides a million healthy alternatives for everything under the sun, yet still manages to make it sound and taste really good. She'll have you substituting Agave syrup for sugar; spelt flour for regular white flour; adding flax seed to random meals; roasting heads of cauliflower; and eating entire bowls of brown rice and kale. Yes, she does use meat, though it is always organic, and the ingredients are bordering on gourmet, but the recipes are rather simple, and everything I've tried so far has been rich and flavorful. Below, is one of my favorites from her cook book, and once again, I changed some of the amounts of certain ingredients:

Best Stir-Fried Chicken over Fried Rice With Kale and Scallions

Fried Rice With Kale and Scallions
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups uncooked brown rice
10 0z. bag cleaned and cut kale from Trader Joe's
2 Tbsp. Canola Oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
3 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Put the water on to boil for the rice. Once it boils, add the rice, cover and cook on low heat for 40 minutes. While the rice is cooking, add a small amount of water to a large pot and steam the kale for 7 minutes. Once it's cooked, drain the water and put it back on the heat. Turn it up to medium heat and add the canola oil, garlic, and green onion. Saute until garlic and onion are soft. Once the rice is finished, add it to the kale mixture and then toss in the soy sauce. Stir everything together and set it aside while you cook the chicken.

Best Stir-Fried Chicken
2 large organic chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
2 Tbsp. corn starch
pinch Kosher salt
fresh black pepper
1 Tbsp. Canola Oil
9 cloves (or 1/4 cup) garlic, peeled and minced
3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 green onions, chopped
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup firmly packed, dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
large handful, fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

In a medium-sized bowl, toss the chicken, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Heat canola oil in a large, nonstick frying pan or wok over medium heat (as Gwyneth puts it,"this is a gentle stir fry"). Add garlic, ginger, green onions, and chili flakes and saute for 1 minute. Add the chicken and stir fry until cooked all the way through.

Add vinegar, sugar, and about 6 grinds of black pepper. Boil on high for 3 minutes until the sugar has carmelized and the vinegar has mellowed. The whole mixture should be dark brown and sticky. Add the soy sauce and cook for another 30 seconds. Serve over the fried rice and top with fresh cilantro.

4) Broadbent Vinho Verde (on sale for $7.99 at BevMo; regularly $9.99)

I first learned about Vinho Verde when I was living in New York. I worked at a South American restaurant called Nuela, and we were the only restaurant in Manhattan to feature a wine list composed solely of wines from South America, Spain, and Portugal. Vinho Verde is a white table wine from Portugal, and I loved it the moment I tried it. Just as in Spanish, "verde" means green in Portuguese, and the wine is affectionately called that because it is young and is meant to be consumed directly after it's been made. The Broadbent bottle doesn't even have a date on it, which means that it was likely made this year or last.

This bottle has a light, refreshing taste with a little dose of fizzyness resulting from the carbon dioxide that wine makers add to it right before bottling. It pairs well with seafood and salads, which makes it the perfect wine to sip on a hot summer day.