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Heirloom Tomato and Herbed Ricotta and Goat Cheese Tart

Heirloom Tomato and Herbed Ricotta and Goat Cheese Tart | Salty Sweet Life

August is playing a trick on us.  It’s usually a million degrees here, but between overcast skies, afternoon thunderstorms and temperatures hovering around 100 degrees, I’ve almost convinced myself that Autumn is right around the corner.  So pervasive was this thought that I actually turned on my oven and made this Heirloom Tomato Tart!

I know I’ve been waxing poetic about heirloom tomatoes these last few weeks, but I cannot resist! Tomatoes are just so juicy and sweet and plump this time of year that I cannot help myself. Fresh tomatoes are here and we are stuffing our faces with them every chance we get! Before long, it will be October and all we’ll have are canned tomatoes or at worst, those awful mealy, off-season tomatoes at the grocery store!  So, I hope you’ll bear with me for one more week while I continue to gorge myself with vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes!

This tart was inspired by a dear friend and coworker who makes the most amazing comfort foods!  She is the Queen of Cream; the Baroness of Bacon!  Everything she makes is just filled with so much love and joy and butterfat (and oftentimes, bacon fat)! This dish was inspired by her very own crustless Ricotta Pie which I always look forward to when she brings it to the office!  It is so decadent and rich and filled with creamy, ricotta cheese! She finishes it with roasted grape tomatoes, warm from the oven.  I fully intended to follow her recipe, but I accidentally left the recipe at work, so, I had to improvise and I was so happy with the end result!  I filled a buttery, flaky pie crust with a mixture of ricotta, parmesan and goat cheeses, fresh herbs, and garlic.  In honor of these last days of summer, I kept it light and topped it with fresh tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, and fresh-picked basil! I used mini heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe’s, but feel free to use your favorite type of tomatoes. This tart is perfect for brunch or a light lunch and I promise you won’t be sorry that you turned on your oven in August!

Heirloom Tomato and Herbed Ricotta and Goat Cheese Tart | Salty Sweet Life

I made this tart crust from scratch, but I will not judge you at all if you want to use a pre-made pie crust for this dish!   Since I am far from an expert at making pie crust, I will tell you that I used this recipe from Martha Stewart, because if anyone is an expert in pie crust, it’s her! This recipe makes enough for two crusts.  You can freeze the second crust for a future tart!  For this tart, I used a 14″x4 1/2″ rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom and blind-baked the crust prior to filling it.  My tart crust was far from perfect-looking…let’s call it “rustic”, shall we?

Heirloom Tomato and Herbed Ricotta and Goat Cheese Tart

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hour, plus 1 hour resting time
  • Difficulty: somewhat fussy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  • 1/2 pie crust recipe, rolled out to just less than 1/4″ thick
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons herb salt (if not using herb salt, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of kosher salt)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Assorted heirloom tomatoes, either quartered if using mini-tomatoes, or sliced
  • Good olive oil
  • Fresh basil
  • Maldon Salt
  1. Line a tart pan with the pie crust and press into the corners. Trim away the excess crust with a knife, but don’t trim it flush with the top of the tart pan. Leave a little extra at the top edge to account for any shrinkage. With a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the crust. Place the tart pan on top of a baking sheet. Place a piece of parchment paper over the top of the crust and weigh it down with dried beans or pie weights. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the crust is lightly browned. Remove the crust from the oven and remove the parchment paper with the beans. Set the crust aside.
  2. While the crust is baking, make the filling. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the cheeses, the chopped basil and thyme, garlic, herb salt (or plain salt), egg and black pepper until smooth.
  3. Fill the tart crust with the filling and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until it is firm to the touch and not jiggly in the middle.
  4. Place the quartered tomatoes in a bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of Maldon Salt. Drizzle with a little olive oil and toss with a handful of torn basil leaves. Distribute the tomatoes over the top of the tart and serve.

Heirloom Tomato and Herbed Ricotta and Goat Cheese Tart | Salty Sweet Life

Heirloom Tomato and Herbed Ricotta and Goat Cheese Tart | Salty Sweet Life

 

 

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Cheese Caprese Salad - Salty Sweet Life


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Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Caprese Salad and That Time I Broke the Cat.

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Cheese Caprese Salad - Salty Sweet Life

DIY and I just don’t get along and I’ll tell you why.  Home improvement projects, on the whole, are NEVER as easy as they look, and sometimes, when you’re me, they can cause a cascade of unfortunate events that just might make you decide that the ugly wallpaper in the bathroom just might be fine for another year. It all started last Saturday morning.  It was that glorious, early morning golden hour, before the cats were awake and meowing, before breakfast needed to be made.  HGTV was on in the background, I was reading the latest issue of Better Homes and Gardens on my iPad and then an article popped up on my Houzz app that gave me 11 (really awesome) reasons to paint my interior doors black!  Do you know Houzz?  Houzz is awesome.  It’s a huge database of Things You Want to Do To Your House But Should Really Call a Contractor for.  “This is a great idea!”, I thought. “This is going to be an easy, low budget update!”  So, with visions swirling in my head of elegant, black doors, off I went to the home improvement store for black paint and supplies!

First I tackled the honey-oak finished handrail going up our stairwell.  I had to sand it first to remove the existing finish and that’s where things began going downhill.  I’d say about an hour into sanding, I was ready to throw in the proverbial towel and by then it was way too late to back out, so I forged ahead.  It took me all day to paint that handrail black!  All day for a relatively straight piece of wood that seemed to go on for miles!  What I didn’t realize, however, was that while I was involved in this Sisyphean task I was unwittingly opening a huge can of whoop-ass on my poor cat, Simon.

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The handrail that began it all: Before and After. Oh, and that cat at the top of the stairs about to walk through sawdust? That’s Simon.

Simon.  My sweet, talkative, lovable kitty is allergic to absolutely everything.  The irony is not lost on me that my hairless cat, whom I chose because I’m allergic to furry cats, has allergic reactions that send him to the vet about every six months.  These are not just mild allergies–runny nose, sniffles, that kind of thing;  but major, potentially life-altering ones. A couple of years ago, he went into anaphylaxis after normal vaccines! That episode left him with a huge scar on his butt and a free pass from the vet to never again get vaccinated!    And I didn’t even think, until I heard a distant string of sneezes, that he would be allergic to either paint or wood dust, or both. First came the sneezing, then the congestion and then on Wednesday morning, he was covered in hives from head to tail with big, angry-looking splotches on his belly. I took one look at him and burst into tears!  He wouldn’t eat or drink, which, is a scary situation in cats because it could lead to liver failure. The next three days were spent shuttling back and forth to the vet and to his allergist.  Yes, you read that right, he has an allergist.  Two steroid shots and an arsenal of prescription medications later, Simon is finally beginning to come back around.  He just started eating voluntarily last night (we had to force-feed him with a syringe before that) and his hives are fading (much to his mama’s relief).

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Simon, my little allergy-prone kitty, shown before his mama broke him.

I realize that I started off talking about painting doors, and I did manage to paint a set of French doors in the dining room before the weight of Simon’s allergies came crashing down around me.  I will tell you that painting doors (or anything for that matter) black is an exercise in frustration!  I applied coat after coat of paint, and still it’s not quite perfect.  To be honest, it may just stay “not quite perfect”.   It does look nice, though.  For the price of three days of vet bills, I could have hired a painter to come and do ALL the doors in my house AND paid to send Simon to a sitter for the day.

One set of doors down…eight more to go.

One set of doors down…eight more to go.

So how does this apply to Caprese salad?  Well, it really doesn’t but after the week I had, I needed something that would be easy right off the bat!  No hidden complications, no potentially devastating consequences.  This dish fit that bill!  It is gorgeous and unlike those black doors, it really is as easy as it looks! I’ve been binging on heirloom tomatoes lately–as we all should be since this is the season that they are at their juicy best!  I look for any excuse to eat them and this salad is simply perfect.  It starts with creamy, burrata cheese.  Burrata cheese is a fresh cheese that is traditionally made from the leftovers of the mozzarella cheese-making process. It is essentially fresh mozzarella cheese, but it is filled with cream and bits of fresh mozzarella.  When you slice it open, the creamy filling pours out and it is decadent and delicious! I found this cheese at Trader Joe’s and it is fantastic and affordable. With a simple recipe like this, the quality of the individual ingredients is so important.  Surround that cheese with the ripest tomatoes you can find.  Tuck some torn, fresh basil leaves into every nook and cranny. Drizzle it with your very best olive oil and balsamic vinegar.   If you really want to get fancy, top it with some good pesto–homemade or your favorite store-bought.  It’s like summer on a plate and unlike DIY, it will neither break the bank, nor your cat!

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Cheese Caprese Salad - Salty Sweet Life

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Cheese Caprese Salad

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 balls of Burrata Cheese at room temperature
  • Assorted ripe heirloom tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Maldon Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Good olive oil
  • Good Balsamic vinegar or Balsamic Reduction
  • Pesto, if desired
  1. Place one ball of burrata cheese in a bowl or on a plate. Surround the cheese with the heirloom tomatoes and torn basil leaves.
  2. If using pesto, spoon over the top of the cheese.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and season with a sprinkle of Maldon salt and fresh ground pepper.

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Cheese Caprese Salad - Salty Sweet Life

Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Cheese Caprese Salad - Salty Sweet Life

 


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Gnarly Tomato Water Blood Mary with Hot Pepper Infused Vodka

 

Tomato Water Blood Mary - Salty Sweet Life

I will be the first to admit that Bloody Marys have always been a bit of a mystery to me. Is it soup? Is it breakfast? Is it a non-pharmaceutical hangover cure? Aside from the Bloody Mary that one of my favorite restaurants in town makes (they serve them up spicy with a big piece of peppered bacon as a garnish), I’ve never really enjoyed them. If I’m really honest, that big piece of bacon is a major reason why I like that one! Until now, I was prepared to accept the fact that like the Negroni, the Bloody Mary would forever be a mystery to me.

So, when I saw a recipe for a Tomato Water Bloody Mary in the pages of Food and Wine Magazine this month, first, I was intrigued and then a lightbulb went off in my head!   Since I’m already a chronic over-purchaser of certain items (in-season tomatoes, limes, and lemons, for example) and after last weekend’s baby shower, I ended up with an insane amount of leftover cocktail tomatoes! Added to that, we harvested what was left of our sad tomato crop from the garden. A word about that. This has been the most disappointing growing season ever! We planted more tomato plants this year than any other year and yet we harvested the least amount of tomatoes! Between an early heat wave,  a bunch of crazy windstorms, and a healthy dose of user error, our tomato plants looked like hell and they had to go.  So, we ripped out most of them and harvested what we managed to wrangle from the beaks of some very aggressive pigeons.  What we had left were some of the gnarliest, ugliest tomatoes I’d ever seen. Scarred, sun-scalded, split, unevenly red, you wouldn’t have wanted to run into these tomatoes in a dark alley; yet in a twist of irony, they were some of the juiciest and sweetest tomatoes I’d ever tasted!

Tomato Water Bloody Mary - Salty Sweet Life

So, while I pondered a way to use all these juicy and awesomely ugly tomatoes, I had another Eureka moment. Remember that hot pepper infused vodka that I made a while back?  Well, silly me left that hot pepper vodka to infuse for far too long and it was fire-breathing dragon hot!  It was so hot that the heat overpowered just about everything I tried it in.  I had a hunch that a Bloody Mary, with all its crazy, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink list of ingredients, would be the perfect vehicle to showcase such an in-your-face ingredient! So, with my armload of tomatoes, a bit of salt and a little patience, I whipped up this Bloody Mary and I’m proud to say that it’s the first one I’ve truly enjoyed!  It was bright; it was refreshing!  It didn’t taste like soup in a cup.  It had the perfect amount of lip-tingling heat, but it was balanced by that fresh, sweet, tomato water. I had to dilute my hot pepper vodka with plain vodka, but if your infusion isn’t too spicy, feel free to use all hot pepper vodka!

As I mentioned, it does take a little patience to wait for all of those tomatoes to release enough water for the drink, but it is well worth it!  This is truly a great way to enjoy fresh, summer tomatoes, whether they are picture-perfect, or downright homely! And fear not, those tomatoes did not go to waste!  I threw them into the food processor with some onion, garlic and jalapeño peppers and made a mean bowl of salsa!

Tomato Water Bloody Marys

  • Servings: 2
  • Time: 1 hour prep, 5 minutes assembly
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, August 2014, Chef Gavin Kaysen

  • 1 pound fresh, ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup tomato juice
  • 3 tablespoons Hot Pepper Infused Vodka
  • 1/4 cup plain Vodka
  • 1 teaspoon grated horseradish (I used jarred, prepared horseradish because fresh horseradish was difficult to find)
  • 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes Tabasco Sauce
  • fresh ground black pepper
  1. Place the fresh, sliced tomatoes in a colander set above a bowl. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the kosher salt and allow the tomatoes to sit for at least one hour. You’ll begin to see the water drain from the tomatoes into the bowl. After an hour and just before you prepare the drink, press lightly to squeeze out any additional tomato water. Set the colander of tomatoes aside.
  2. Pour the collected tomato water into a mixing glass. I collected about 1/2 cup of tomato water from one pound of tomatoes. Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing glass and stir well. Pour the cocktail into two Collins glasses filled with ice and garnish with your favorite herbs. I used a sprig of Thai Basil, a cocktail tomato and a dill pickle spear!

Tomato Water Blood Mary - Salty Sweet Life

 

Israeli Couscous, Asparagus and Mushroom Salad - Salty Sweet Life


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(BABY!) Israeli Couscous (BABY!) Asparagus and (BABY!) Mushroom Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

Israeli Couscous, Asparagus and Mushroom Salad - Salty Sweet Life

Ahh, babies.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had babies on the brain. Most of my peers had kids so long ago that they are now old enough to be productive members of society; but a month ago, one of my closest and dearest friends had a baby boy the day after my birthday!   I cannot tell you how excited I am that a new baby has come into our little group of mostly child-free friends! I don’t have children of my own and that’s not entirely by choice.  I struggled with infertility for many years before coming to the realization that one day my lady parts were going to become my undoing.  That realization came in 2007 when I landed in the hospital with a collapsed lung caused by severe endometriosis.  The following year, almost to the day, my lung spontaneously collapsed again. That time, I spent 6 grueling weeks in the hospital having 4 unsuccessful surgeries before finally heading to the Mayo Clinic for treatment.  Remember when I mentioned my scars a few weeks back?  That situation accounted for about 60% of them!  I spent a week at the Mayo Clinic and they got me in good working order and I am forever grateful for that medical facility–they are nothing short of amazing!  For the next 5 years, I tried to avoid the question of what to do about my fertility but once again, my body kind of chose for me.  Between the endometriosis and then fibroids, my quality of life was declining, so last year, I bid adieu to my defective parts and gained a few extra scars.  You should see me in a bikini!  I now just tell people I was attacked by a shark!  It was ultimately a good decision, but one made with the stark realization that I was closing the door on having children and assuming the permanent title of Aunt Tracey.  And, you know, being Aunt Tracey isn’t so bad. I get to have all the baby-snuggling, play-doh buying and party-throwing fun, without the parent-teacher conferences and college funds!

Last weekend my friends and I threw a baby-welcoming party to welcome this new little person to the tribe!  Since this is not a story about biting off more than I can chew, I won’t mention how it’s totally possible to exist on a diet of pink and yellow Jordan almonds and caffeine for 48 hours or that my default amount of food for any gathering equates to “enough to feed an army”.  5 people?  Army.  15 people? Most definitely an Army. Probably throw in the Navy for good measure…

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Here’s one thing that I know to be true about every party. No matter how much planning and preparation goes into it, party day time is different than normal time.  Party day time elapses at a speed that will make your head spin.  This party was scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m. and I swear, 9:00 to 11:00 went by in 10 minutes!  Thank goodness I had a lot of help from my friends who helped decorate and put together this amazing spread of appetizers!

Melon balls with prosciutto, Vietnamese summer rolls, roasted potatoes and cucumbers with creme fraiche and capers, tomato caprese skewers

Melon balls with prosciutto, Vietnamese summer rolls, roasted potatoes and cucumbers with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and capers, tomato caprese skewers

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I did not make these cupcakes! But my awesome friend made the adorable elephant cut-outs! So cute!

The theme of the menu was salads and flatbread pizzas and I was pleased that there was something for every dietary need–vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, omnivore–I think we had it all covered!  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a few of the newer dishes from this menu, but this Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad was on the menu as well as this Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread Pizza.

Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad with Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette

Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad with Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette

Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread with Balsamic Reduction

Fig and Prosciutto Flatbread with Balsamic Reduction

This Israeli Couscous, Asparagus and Mushroom salad was a big hit! I know this because there was only one tiny bowl of it left after the party was over!  What I loved about this salad was that it could be assembled the night before without the dressing and quickly finished just before the guests arrived, which is great if you’re Aunt Tracey, who makes too much food and is pretty much going crazy making more and more dishes at the last minute.  This salad is a playground of flavors and textures: bouncy, tender couscous, crisp-tender asparagus and crunchy spinach are balanced against the meaty umami of sautéed mushrooms.  Salty Parmiggiano-Reggiano is tucked in throughout the salad and the whole thing is punctuated by a bright, tangy, red wine vinaigrette.  It’s healthy and it’s filling without making you feel heavy.  There are a few different components that are made separately, but I’m going to tell you how you can save a little time by changing your method for cooking grains!

Israeli Couscous, Asparagus and Mushroom Salad - Salty Sweet Life

In the past, I’ve always made grains in my rice cooker or on the stovetop.  Usually I would use a 2 parts water to one part grain ratio and cook it until the grain has absorbed all of the water.   But, last year, my friend Alexandra, from Alexandra’s Kitchen who is also a big fan of grain salads, started talking about cooking grains in a big pot of water, just as you would when you boil pasta.   The grains cook completely and retain their fluffiness in the salad and what’s more, it cooks in LESS time than the rice cooker or stovetop method. It’s foolproof.  I’ve been using this method for quinoa and decided to apply the same method to the couscous for this salad, since Israeli Couscous is essentially a small, pearl-shaped pasta.  I simply started a pot of water, threw in a generous pinch (more like a tablespoon) of salt and put the water on to boil.  To save time, I blanched my asparagus for the salad in the boiling water, removed it and shocked it, then put the couscous right into the same boiling, salted water.  I cooked it for 10 minutes, drained it with a fine mesh strainer and gave it a rinse with cold water.  It worked perfectly! The couscous retained its shape and was well-seasoned by the salted water.  Since I was making it ahead of time, I drizzled it with a little olive oil just to keep the grains from sticking together.  I’m going to try it soon with farro and barley and I’ll report back on how it turns out, but I’m pretty confident that it will work.  I actually used Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend for this dish.  It’s a blend of Israeli Couscous, quinoa, orzo, and garbanzo beans and I love all of the different textures of the grains!  If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, you can find Israeli Couscous in the grocery store located near the rice.

The party was a blast.  Everyone had a great time and left with full bellies and to-go containers!  I got to honor my best friend and her new little guy. Food, friends and family.  It’s what it’s all about. I am Aunt Tracey.  And I will snuggle your babies (because my cats don’t tolerate that one bit).

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Israeli Couscous, Asparagus and Mushroom Salad - Salty Sweet Life

Israeli Couscous, Asparagus and Mushroom Salad

  • Servings: 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This recipe can easily be increased for a larger portion.

  • 1 cup Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend or Israeli Couscous
  • 8 ounces sliced Crimini Mushrooms
  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • A few handfuls of baby spinach
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon herb salt or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup or honey
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese or Parmiggiano Reggiano
  • kosher salt
  • unsalted butter (optional)
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a little butter, if desired, in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Sauté the mushrooms in batches with a pinch of kosher salt until they are golden brown.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
  2. Fill a pot with water and season with about one tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Fill a medium sized bowl with ice water. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for one minute. Remove the asparagus (leave the water in the pot) with a slotted spoon or fine mesh sieve and immediately plunge the asparagus in the bowl of ice water. After the asparagus cools, drain and set it aside.
  3. Pour the couscous or couscous blend into the pot of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes, or until the couscous is tender.
  4. While the couscous is cooking, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the vinegar, crushed garlic, dijon mustard, agave syrup, herb salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in 5 tablespoons of olive oil until the mixture has emulsified and set aside.
  5. Drain the couscous into a large mesh sieve or colander and rinse with cool water. Toss the couscous with a little olive oil to keep the grains from sticking and place in a large salad bowl.
  6. Add the asparagus, mushrooms, a few handfuls of spinach and the shaved Parmesan cheese to the couscous. Add the dressing, then toss, using your hands if necessary. Garnish with more shaved Parmesan.

Israeli Couscous, Asparagus and Mushroom Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette - Salty Sweet Life

Israeli Couscous, Asparagus and Mushroom Salad - Salty Sweet Life

Sriracha-Ponzu Glazed Salmon - Salty Sweet Life


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Cedar Planked Salmon with Sriracha-Ponzu Glaze

 

Sriracha-Ponzu Glazed Salmon - Salty Sweet Life

I am a girl who loves to grill!  For me, grilling season starts early at the first signs of spring. At that point, it’s still a choice whether I cook outside or just turn on the oven.  Then as summer takes hold, grilling becomes an all-out necessity and maybe even a little bit of an obsession! I can honestly tell you that during the summer, if we are eating cooked food, odds are, it was cooked outside on the grill!  And what a grill it is!  I picked out the biggest propane grill I could afford and thanks to the Husband who converted it to natural gas, there’s no more running to the propane exchange in the middle of dinner!  I’ll tell you in one word why I love a gas grill:  convenience!  With the turn of a knob (ok, five knobs), I am cooking. No fuss, no hassle.  I have baked desserts on the grill, pizzas, artisan bread, casseroles and even kale! Whoever said that the grill was the man’s domain never came to my house, because this baby is mine, all mine!

Rarely do I deal in absolutes, but for grilled salmon, I have two: I always cook it on a cedar plank and I always chose wild-caught salmon.  If you’ve never had wild-caught salmon cooked on a cedar plank, then you are missing out!  First of all, the salmon.  A few years ago, I swore off salmon entirely because I just didn’t like the flavor. Then I tried wild-caught salmon during a trip to Oregon and I was hooked!  It was nothing like the farm-raised salmon I had been choking down! The flesh was deep and rosy and the flavor was rich without being oily or funky.  I buy wild-caught salmon and steelhead at Costco, where a two-pound fillet averages around $25.00.  I can get eight to nine portions from a fillet, which makes it well worth the cost.

Sriracha-Ponzu Glazed Salmon - Salty Sweet Life

Salmon Fillets are glazed and ready for the grill!

Grilling salmon on a cedar plank gives it amazing smoky flavor with very little effort.  The only you have to remember is to soak the plank in water for at least 2 hours prior to grilling.  Soaking the planks prevents the plank from burning (read: bursting into flames) and also creates that wonderful cedar smoke!  Simply take a roasting pan or a sheet pan and fill it with water.  Place the plank in the pan and weigh it down with something heavy, like a mug or a large canned good.  When it’s time to grill, place the salmon on the cedar plank and set it right on top of the grill.  Grill with the lid closed so that you retain all the smoke inside the grill.

Cedar planks are very easy to find–check your grocery store near the seafood department.  In the past I’ve purchased these on Amazon.com and more recently, I found these at Costco, which were larger and thicker.

This salmon is glazed with a sweet and spicy combination of sriracha, ponzu and soy sauce.  It comes together so quickly that you’ll be happy to serve it even on a busy weeknight.  The day I made this, I soaked the cedar plank before I left for work so that once I got home, it would be ready to go!  The sauce is simple, yet bold and flavorful–just toss everything in a saucepan and let it bubble until it thickens, then slather it on the salmon and grill it!  It is that easy!

Cedar Planked Sriracha-Ponzu Glazed Salmon

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat your grill to 400 degrees

  • 4 6-ounce portions wild-caught salmon
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons ponzu
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 inch knob of ginger, grated
  • pinch of Chinese five-spice powder
  • white pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1 green onion, sliced, for garnish
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the soy sauce, ponzu, brown sugar, sriracha sauce, sesame oil, garlic, grated ginger and a pinch of five-spice powder. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer until the mixture has reduced by approximately a third, then remove from the heat.
  2. Arrange the salmon fillets on the cedar plank and season them with ground white pepper and a small pinch of salt. With a basting brush, brush the sauce over the fillets, being sure to coat the sides of the fish.  I basted the fish several times with the sauce prior to grilling in order to get a nice glaze.
  3. Place the cedar plank on the preheated grill and cook the fillets for 6-8 minutes (with the lid closed), or until the fillets are firm to the touch, but still juicy on the inside. Remove the fish from the grill and allow the fillets to rest for 2 minutes. Garnish with sliced green pinions and serve immediately.

Sriracha-Ponzu Glazed Salmon - Salty Sweet Life

Sriracha-Ponzu Glazed Salmon - Salty Sweet Life

Bok Choy, flash grilled and basted with a little of the Sriracha-Ponzu glaze! Delicious!

Bok Choy, flash grilled and basted with a little of the Sriracha-Ponzu glaze! Delicious!

Fingerling potatoes, roasted on the grill.

Fingerling potatoes, roasted on the grill.

Sriracha-Ponzu Glazed Salmon - Salty Sweet Life

Rosemary-Thyme-Basil Herb Salt


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One Salt to Rule them All: Rosemary-Thyme-Basil Herb Salt

One taste of this herb salt and you are going to be in love and you are going to use it for anything and everything this summer–from meats and vegetables to your Saturday morning eggs; you are going to find yourself reaching for it and wondering how you’ve lived your whole life without it!  At least, that’s how I felt about it the first time I tried it!  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that I learned about this herb salt last year from The Splendid Table.  The concept is so simple–fresh, pungent garlic is minced into a couple of tablespoons of coarse kosher salt, then fresh herbs are added, bunch by bunch until you’re left with a verdant handful of the best smelling stuff on earth!

Rosemary-Thyme-Basil Herb Salt

Of all the things we planted this year, the herb barrel in the front yard is truly the only thing that can be described as “bountiful”.  French Thyme, Lemon Thyme and Red Creeping Thyme are starting to climb out of the barrel and drape over the sides.  The basil is abundant!  We have Thai, Amethyst and Sweet Basil that have grown so much that even after we harvest it for pesto, it still doesn’t look like we made a dent in it!  The sage is trying its best to grow in the shadow of these high achievers; so part of my reason for replenishing my herb salt stash was an attempt to prune some of this crazy growth so that the sage can see the sun again! Next year, I will keep this in mind and space them out a little better!

This isn’t so much a recipe, as it is a set of ideas. You can use whatever herbs you choose in whatever ratio seems best to you.  My herb salt reflects the overabundance of basil and thyme, whereas you might enjoy other herbs–lavender, tarragon, oregano.  Once you’re done with the initial chopping, you can use the herb salt in its fresh state.  I mixed some of the fresh herb salt with olive oil and used it as a rub for a grilled pork tenderloin–so amazing! Then I took what was left and spread it on a baking sheet to dry overnight.  The salt preserves the flavors of the herbs and you’ll be able to use it again and again (and you will, I promise)! I used a combination of rosemary, three varieties of thyme, sage and three types of basil.

I chose to do this task by hand, without the help of my trusty food processor, for the simple reason that it was therapeutic.  I found myself reveling in the rhythm of the knife against the cutting board, mincing and mincing until every herb was used, finer and finer still, until it was all done and my whole kitchen smelled like it had been transported to Tuscany.  It is truly divine.

Rosemary-Thyme-Basil Herb Salt - Salty Sweet Life

Rosemary-Thyme-Basil Herb Salt

  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2-4 Cloves of garlic
  • Approximately 1-2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
  • Fresh herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, lavender, oregano, basil, washed and removed from the stems
  • zest of one lemon, if desired
  1. After harvesting the herbs, wash them and then dry them in a salad spinner.
  2. Place peeled garlic cloves on a cutting board along with the salt. With a chef’s knife, mince the garlic into the salt until the garlic is finely minced and the salt is evenly distributed.
  3. Pluck the herbs from the stems and mince the herbs into the garlic and salt. Continue chopping the herbs until you have a consistent, fine mince. If using lemon zest, add it at this point and gently toss it into the other herbs with your fingers.
  4. Spread the herb salt mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and allow it to dry overnight. I live in a dry climate, so this only took one night. Let it dry for a longer period if needed.
  5. Store the dried herb salt in a sealed container.

NOTE:  If you don’t have fresh herbs in your garden, of course you can buy them at the grocery store or farmer’s market.

Rosemary-Thyme-Basil Herb Salt - Salty Sweet Life

Garlic is minced into coarse kosher salt until it’s thoroughly mixed.

Rosemary-Thyme-Basil Herb Salt - Salty Sweet Life

Rosemary-Thyme-Basil Herb Salt - Salty Sweet Life

Spread the herbs onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to dry.

Rosemary-Thyme-Basil Herb Salt - Salty Sweet Life

Ponzu-marinated Shrimp Skewers with Nectarine Chutney


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Ponzu-Marinated Shrimp Skewers with Nectarine Chutney

We are officially in the thick of summer! It is hot, hot, hot and when it’s like this, we try our best to cook everything outside on the grill so that we don’t heat up the house! I’m sure many of you can relate! So, with that in mind, I wanted to make a dish that was easy to make, yet so bold and flavorful that even my husband, who had declared himself “not a fan of shrimp” would become a believer!

Ponzu-marinated Shrimp Skewers with Nectarine Chutney

Sweet, succulent shrimp is marinated in a bath of cilantro, Thai basil, garlic and Ponzu; grilled over a hot flame, then topped off with a sweet and spicy nectarine chutney! It’s a perfect summer meal–light, flavorful and kicked up with just enough spice to keep things exciting! If you’ve never had Ponzu before, you must give it a try. It is a Japanese condiment that is made from vinegar, lemon juice and sudachi, a Japanese citrus fruit. It has a light citrusy flavor that really compliments the shrimp; plus, the ponzu doesn’t “cook” the shrimp the way that adding fresh lemon or lime juice would. It’s easy to find in the Asian or Ethnic food aisle in the grocery store.

Ponzu-marinated Shrimp Skewers with Nectarine Chutney

For the marinade, I used about half of a bunch of cilantro that I bought at the grocery store. You don’t even have to remove the stems, just wash it well and toss it into the food processor. I chose Thai basil for its peppery flavor and because it’s growing like crazy and taking over my herb barrel! Sweet basil will work just as well. Because I like things on the spicy side, I used a whole Serrano chili pepper, seeds and membranes included. If you want a milder marinade, discard the seeds and membranes, or simply use half of the pepper. This marinade is also very versatile!  I’ve used it on both chicken and pork with delicious results!  In addition, the chutney makes a wonderful companion to seafood, chicken and pork!  It’s so delicious, you’ll want to eat it by itself!

Ponzu-marinated Shrimp Skewers with Nectarine Chutney

Grilled Ponzu-Marinated Shrimp Skewers with Nectarine Chutney

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 pound large, fresh, uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro (stems and all)
  • several sprigs of Thai basil or sweet basil
  • 3 tablespoons Ponzu
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon agave syrup or honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 Serrano chili pepper
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

For the Nectarine Chutney

  • 2 nectarines, slighlty unripe, chopped
  • 1 serrano chili pepper
  • 1/2 cup red onion finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 inch knob of ginger, grated or pressed
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or pressed
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • juice of one fresh lime
  1. Place 2 cloves of garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse until the garlic is minced finely. Add the cilantro, basil and Serrano pepper and pulse until everything is finely chopped. Add the oil, agave syrup, salt and pepper and puree until smooth. In a medium bowl, pour the marinade over the shrimp and stir to coat. Allow the shrimp to marinate for no more than 30 minutes. While the shrimp is marinating preheat the grill on high to 450 degrees. Be sure to oil the grill grates with canola oil.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the chopped nectarines, Serrano pepper, onion, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, salt, pepper and lime juice. Over medium low heat, cook until the sugar has dissolved completely and the mixture comes to a slow simmer, about 10 minutes. I started with one teaspoon of brown sugar. Add a little more sugar if your nectarines aren’t very sweet. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro.
  3. Thread the marinated shrimp onto the skewers. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper, then place on the hot grill.  Allow the shrimp to cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, then flip them and grill the other side for 2 minutes more.  Top the shrimp with a generous spoonful of the chutney.

Ponzu-marinated Shrimp Skewers with Nectarine Chutney

After many years of using bamboo skewers for grilling, I finally bought some inexpensive metal skewers and I am so happy I did–they are so much easier to work with.  If you do use bamboo skewers, be sure to soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling to prevent burning.

Ponzu-marinated Shrimp Skewers with Nectarine Chutney

Ponzu-marinated Shrimp Skewers with Nectarine Chutney

Ponzu-marinated Shrimp Skewers with Nectarine Chutney

This dish was such a hit and it received rave reviews from my “not a shrimp fan” husband!

 

 

 

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