Best summer garden snack or amuse bouche

We had some leftover mozzarella from making pizza and decided to make these as an amuse bouche, since we didn’t have any bread for the original. I could have eaten only these for dinner!

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Best summer garden snack or amuse bouche
Servings
Ingredients
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. We have found the best flavor comes from the broiler. Line your favorite baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Slice or wedge your tomatoes.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil. If you want to add garlic, you can do that now.
  4. Slice the mozzarella. If the cheese is slightly bigger or smaller than the tomatoes, that's ok! It will melt.
  5. Add to the pan oven under the broiler. If using the broiler on high, don't walk away, the dish will burn faster than you might think it will!
  6. When the cheese starts to slightly brown and bubble remove it the oven.
  7. Drizzle with the balsamic and top with a basil leaf.
  8. Allow to cool a bit before eating.

My opinion:
So delicious. The next time it’s too hot for a whole meal and we have left over mozzarella, I’ll make this as a stand alone dish. I didn’t even miss the bread (which is how this is traditionally made)!

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Tom Yum Noodle Soup

Tom Yum Noodle Soup
Or as a dear friend of mine calls this, sick soup. It’s perfect when allergies are high or a cold is settling in. We like ours a bit on the hot and sour side, so if you don’t feel the same way, make sure you adjust the spices. A good rule of thumb is you can add spice easier than you can take it away. Like the last recipe, J found the base on RasaMalaysia.com and with a few modifications, it is thisclose to our favorite Thai restaurant in town. If only we could get our hands on fresh ingredients…

Ingredients:
1 roll packaged soba noodles (We used rice noodles because we had a hard time finding soba noodles)
1 1/4 cups water
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, pounded and bruised (we finally found dried lemongrass from Thai Kitchen at our local grocer. If only we could find fresh…)
5-6 kaffir lime leaves, bruised (just like with the lemongrass, we could only find these dried from Thai Kitchen, but dried is better than none!)
4-5 slices fresh galangal (if you aren’t already noticing a trend, this is also only available in our area dried from Thai Kitchen, if you can’t find anything fresh ginger root will do in a pinch)
1/2 small tomato, cut into 3 to 4 wedges
6 medium-sized shrimp, shelled and deveined (we just used a whole bag of frozen, shelled, deveined ready to use. But we like shrimp)
one can straw mushrooms pieces (pieces were the only kind available)
1 1/2 tablespoons Nam Prik Pao (Thai roasted chili paste, we couldn’t find this so we just used Thai chili paste, it was a bit sweeter than we expected)
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce (we ended up using at least 1 and 1/2 tablespoons)
3 dashes chili powder (we used three squirts of Sriracha sauce)
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
Cilantro leaves, for garnishing

Directions:
Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain the noodles, rinse with cold water and set aside. At the same time, bring the 1 1/4 cups water to boil in another small pot. Add in all the aromatics, follow by the shrimp, mushrooms and Thai chili paste.

Tom Yum Noodle Soup

Keep boiling until the shrimp is cooked through. Add the fish sauce and Sriracha. Turn off the heat, add in the lime juice. Stir to combine well. We opted to remove the lemongrass stalks and the kaffir lime leaves because they didn’t taste very good on their own. We added the cooked noodles and stirred to combine.

Tom Yum Noodle Soup

Top with some cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

My opinion:
This was one of the fastest dinners we’ve made in a long time. I’m sure if we had let it simmer a little longer, the flavors would have been even better, but we were hungry. Next time, we will add more vegetables like zucchini and onions. I was surprised at how much the noodles absorbed the broth, which I think is the best part. By the time we got around to a second bowl, there wasn’t a drop of broth left. To remedy this, we plan to add at least a cup  more water at the beginning.

Gyro Meat with Tzatziki Sauce

Gyro Meat
A couple of weeks ago we had some friends over for a Sunday feast. J has previously mastered the Chicken Gyros (recipe soon!) and wanted to try his hand at the more traditional gyro meat, which is a combination of lamb and beef. As usual, one of our favorite Food Network chefs, Alton Brown, didn’t disappoint with this easy recipe. The hardest part was pressing the meat without a brick!

Ingredient Gyro Meat:
1 medium onion, finely chopped (we used the food processor)
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (we probably used a little more)
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Tzatziki Sauce (recipe below)

Directions Gyro Meat:
Process the onion in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds and turn out into the center of a tea towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice. (We actually just used a coffee filter inside a strainer with a weight on top). Return the onion to the food processor and add the lamb, beef, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper and process until it is a fine paste, approximately 1 minute. Stop the processor as needed to scrape down sides of bowl. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press into the sides of the pan. We ended up cooking this in two loaf pans. A bread loaf pan and a 9×13 pan. Place the loaf pan into a water bath and bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. (We ended up doing this twice as the first time the temperature wasn’t quite high enough. In fact, we ended up turning up the heat to 350 degrees just to make sure it cooked through.) Place the loaf pan on a cooling rack and place a brick wrapped in aluminum foil directly on the surface of the meat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees F. We used smaller pans to press the meat. Warning: Be careful during this process, the water is hot, the meat is hot, the pan is hot and there are lots of opportunities for burns. Steam burns hurt. If you are using traditional pot holders and oven gloves, be extra careful the steam will cause these to get wet and increase your chances of getting a burn. If you have an oveglove, use that, we plan to invest in one ourselves.

Slice and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes and feta cheese.

My opinion:
This was so so so so good. I couldn’t stop eating it. The flavors rally shine and despite my hesitation (and general aversion to sauces) the tzatziki sauce make all the flavors pop even more. I cannot wait to eat this again!

Ingredients Tzatziki Sauce:
16 ounces plain yogurt (we used Dannon because it came in the right sized container)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
Pinch kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil (we used extra virgin)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
5 to 6 fresh mint leaves, finely minced

Directions:
Place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator. (We actually didn’t do this as the yogurt we purchased had already separated so we just drained it off). Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week. (We just used the original container.)

My opinion:
This is good as a dip too! I’ve eaten it with pita chips and tortilla chips. Where it really makes a difference is on the gyro meat.

Poisson Cru

Some people call this Tahitian Salad. I call it a taste of Hawaii. I had this delicious dish at Halei’wa Joe’s on the North Shore. I ordered it on a whim and was so very thankful I did. This is a modified version of the epicurious recipe found here.

Ingredients:
1 pound high-grade ahi tuna, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup coconut milk (fair warning, this does separate)
1/2 cup diced peeled and seeded cucumber
4 to 5 scallions, green and white portions, split lengthwise and minced
3/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste (sea salt works best!)
Freshly ground pepper
1 medium tomato, diced

Directions:
Combine in a medium bowl (we used glass) the tuna, lime juice, coconut milk, cucumber, scallions, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour. Mix in the tomato and serve right away.

My opinion:
This is wonderful alone and just as tasty with tortilla chips. I could seriously eat this every day.

Pineapple Mango Salsa


There is something so summery about pineapple and mango and this is the perfect dish for a hot summer evening. It’s wonderful topped grilled chicken or tilapia but just as fantastic on its own with some tortilla chips.

Ingredients:
1 mango, diced
1/2 pineapple, diced
1 tomato, diced
dash habanero sauce (or two!)
10 large mint leaves, Chiffonade (about 2 tbs)
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tsp brown sugar

Directions:
Mix everything in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes. Note: the longer you let it sit, the more the flavors will meld.

My opinion:
This was wonderful. Spicy and refreshing. I was sad when the last bit was gone.