On their own, in-season cucumbers are cool and refreshing. But when it comes to the fine art of pickling, arguably no other veggie does it better. Cold, refreshing and satisfyingly crunchy, pickles spike burgers with acidic crunch and pickle spears are a barbecue necessity. Before reaching for the jar, remember that pickling is actually a relatively simple science and you can do it to a whole slew of vegetables.
Today FN Dish is zeroing in on the cucumber and considering cuke creations that push way beyond the standard dill.
Let’s start simple with quickest of the quick. True pickles take some time to come to fruition, but Rachael Ray’s Quick Pickles take a mere 15 minutes to come together. Tyler Florence’s Quick Sweet Pickles run a little longer — though not long at all — at four hours.
Alton’s Dill Pickles are the most iconic. Patience is key here; you’ll have to push your pickle craving back a bit for it to undergo the transformation. Alton’s calls for both fresh dill and the seeds, so the end result will likely resemble the pickle of your childhood. For pickles that don’t pucker, Alton’s Kinda Sorta Sours run the middle ground.
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You don’t need us to tell you it’s hot. We’re officially occupying the dog days of summer, and there’s no escaping — or is there?
When you post up after a long day, arm your wet bar with a little something different: the cooling qualities of watermelon. There’s no better ingredient to better your summery cocktails, with the fruit’s natural sweetness and refreshing water content. Though all of these drinks employ the same fruit, they each revive in a different way, running the line between iced and frozen, alcoholic or virgin, traditional or eccentric. If these don’t cool you down, nothing will.
Everyone loves a good cocktail. Today FN Dish is slurping the iconic ones, this time with a watermelon twist. With light rum, fresh mint leaves and a big squeeze of lime, the Barefoot Contessa’s Watermelon Mojito is best enjoyed curled up on a beach chair. As for Food Network Magazine’s Watermelon Sours, sour mix, lime and fruit-flavored liqueur punch up each slurp.
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Of all the wonderful fruit that comes into season during the summer months, apricots are my very favorite. It hasn’t always been this way. When I was growing up, it was nearly impossible to find truly good apricots unless they came from someone’s backyard tree. As those were pretty darn hard to come by back then, I spent most of my formative years eating terrible, mealy grocery store apricots.
Five or six years back, I discovered just how good a locally grown, never-refrigerated apricot can be. Because I know their season is short, I always order at least half a bushel from one of my local growers. (I get the seconds, because they’re so much cheaper and really, who cares about a few bruises and blemishes?)
Once those apricots are in my kitchen, I spend the next week finding ways to use them up. I make jam. I make chutney. I can them in halves in honey syrup. I eat the ripest ones in just a couple greedy slurps. Once I’ve done all my favorite things, there are still more apricots to be used. That’s when I start digging through my collection of apricot recipes, looking for other things that are begging to be made.
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A good tomato sauce, a piping hot slice of margherita pizza, the iconic tomato soup — all of these are made possible by the juicy tomato. Tomatoes add richness to any number of home cooked dishes, whether roasted until the skin falls off or stewed into a multipurpose sauce. Though tomatoes have worked their way into our everyday lives, today we’re viewing them from a different angle. When you’re entertaining this summer, showcase the sophisticated side of the tomato, in all of its in-season glory.
As an appetizer, have guests smear Food Network Magazine’s Spicy Tomato Jam and goat cheese on a fresh baguette. Or create mini pizzas for a bite-sized starter. Giada De Laurentiis uses a cookie cutter in her recipe for Pizzette with Gorgonzola, Tomato and Basil, which will disappear the moment they’re set out.
Imagine slicing into Food Network Magazine’s picturesque Heirloom Tomato Pie (pictured above), with its red and yellow hues amplifying any main dish it meets. Or in Food Network Magazine’s savory Tomato Cobbler, fresh dough and a rich tomato filling reach bubbling perfection together in the oven.
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I went to the farmers’ market to get strawberries. I thought I might have missed their short season, but they were in fact there. And then, as if I were somewhere I might never visit again, I suddenly needed everything else there, too.
I hadn’t thought of tea radishes or pink or icicle radishes either — or purple, yellow or white spring onions, carrots, herbs, peonies, tiny, odd lettuces — or shell peas. I didn’t need snap peas, but there they were, tight in their skins, like a bin full of miniature blimps. I wanted to see them again, so I took a picture. The farmer said I could even taste one. Almost involuntarily, I found myself unfurling a bag from the roll and stuffing some in.
The less common the vegetables were, the more I suddenly needed them. And now that I already had to carry a bag, there wasn’t much reason not to quench my drought of fresh chamomile flowers, or to fill the now obvious garlic-scape chasm in my life. I pressured a nearby stranger who claimed not to know what to do with radishes to drag them through butter and dab them in salt, and later saw her headed to the register with three bunches.
Each summer I choose a salad that will become my go-to barbecue and party contribution for the season. One year I spent three months making variations of potato salads (my husband really liked that year). The next time around, I declared that it was to be the summer of slaw and ended up shredding cabbage, carrots, beets and kohlrabi well into the fall. The year I got married, I was all about quinoa salads.
I find that I really appreciate having a particular genre of salad to work with each year, as it gives me some structure (always a good thing in a busy life), but also allows me to explore the many different varieties that each kind of salad embodies. There’s a great deal of pleasure in trying on different combinations and seeing how the various flavors mix and marry.
Recently I decided that the summer of 2013 is going to be all about panzanella. This is a traditional Italian salad that stars cubes of toasted stale bread and often features tomatoes and a variety of other crunchy, savory things. It can be made with grilled vegetables, sweet potatoes and even chicken or tofu (I do love a salad that can become a full meal).
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Nibbling corn on the cob has its perks, but you already knew that. This hand-held side is as easy as boiling water, smearing butter and going in for a bite. If you ask FN Dish, corn is a cornerstone of the great American barbecue, and it need not be fiddled with.
But as it turns out, things get a lot more interesting when the corn is shaved right of that cob, and Food Network’s fleet of killer summer corn salads are proof.
For a true summery flavor, kick up the grill. Bobby Flay’s Grilled Corn Salad with Lime, Red Chile and Cotija marries charred, sweet kernels with the most aromatic ingredients around. In this Grilled Corn and Chipotle Pepper Salad, all that’s left to do is combine all the ingredients after the corn finishes grilling. Plate these salads next to Tyler Florence’s Carne Asada for a grill-reliant, outdoor meal.
Ina Garten’s Fresh Corn Salad (pictured above) places corn on a pedestal, bringing it together with nothing more than an effortless vinaigrette, diced red onion and fresh basil leaves.
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Peas are good popped straight from the pod, but they’re even better with a little TLC. Here at Food Network, FN Dish is lining up our top pea sides, each popping with a whole lot more than color. Sweet peas, garden peas, English peas, whatever you choose to call ‘em — these babies are bright, light and in-season.
Your classic mashed potatoes are revisited in this Tyler Florence recipe for Smashed New Potatoes with Peas, Lemon and Pearl Onions, and serve as a solid side to a grilled steak.
Food Network Magazine‘s Creamy Spring Peas with Pancetta (pictured above) comes with three doses of peas: shelled English peas, sugar snap peas and snow peas. Spring Peas with Dates and Walnuts utilizes the same pea trilogy, but this time integrates a natural sweetness from the dried fruit.
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When strawberries start popping up at the farmers’ markets, that’s my signal to get jamming. The window for enjoying sun-kissed, sweet berries here in the Northeast is far too short. Learning to preserve is one way to extend the season — and add much-needed variety come January, when we’re knee-deep in apples and pears. Berries are just the beginning of it all, though.
Preserving is a way to stretch the life of your fruits and vegetables. You can choose short-term storage, by making jams that will stay fresh for a few weeks in the fridge, or pickling, which lasts a few months. This is a good way to get your feet wet and master part of the technique needed for long-term storage.
These days, the containers of blue and red berries stacked on produce shelves might be the most difficult thing to decline. Especially when they’re so in-season, so plentiful and so perfectly sweet. Of course, berries do wonders layered in a trifle, baked into a cheesecake or scattered in a fruit salad. But today, we’re focusing on one specific utilization of the berry: its hand in breakfasts. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries — you name it. They’ve each got a place in the first — and oh-so-important — meal of the day.
First things first, let’s talk parfaits. They make for layered, well-rounded breakfasts you can eat all week long, whether you switch them up or not. Ellie Krieger’s Muesli Parfaits are filling with a good dose of nutty crunch. This recipe for a Berry ‘Nana Oatmeal Parfait laces oats and vanilla almond milk into the mix. And if you want to get really creative, Food Network Magazine‘s Strawberry-Shortcake Parfait Pops transition the breakfast favorite into a refreshing dessert.
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