Easy Summertime Peach and Arugula Salad
Yields 6-8 servings
A little bit of dressing goes a long way! Pouring off most of the dressing and leaving only a small amount in the mixing bowl with which to coat the leaves prevents this delicate salad from getting drenched and soggy.
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ red onion, very thinly sliced
6 ounces baby arugula (about 6 cups)
10 basil leaves, chiffonade
3 large firm-ripe peaches, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
2 ounces finely crumbled feta, goat cheese or blue cheese
A handful of hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and chopped
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
Whisk together vinegar, juice, honey and salt in a large mixing bowl. Then add olive oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified. Pour off about ¾ of the dressing into a separate cup and reserve. Add the red onion, arugula and basil leaves to the remaining dressing and toss until leaves are coated.
Divide amongst serving plates. Arrange peach slices over greens. Drizzle with a little more dressing. Garnish with little bits of crumbled cheese, a sprinkling of hazelnuts and few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
Avocado Variation (parve): Omit cheese. Slice 1 avocado into long slices. To serve, alternate slices of peach, avocado and whole basil leaves (not chopped) in a beautiful starburst pattern over the dressed greens. Finish with a drizzle of dressing, the hazelnuts and pepper.
Fried Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Reduction
Yields 16 skewers
Aged provolone cheese—a smoky semi-hard Italian cheese—is a perfect choice for frying in this flavorful starter. Other semi-firm cheeses, such as mozzarella, can also be used in this recipe. Look for small skewers to serve on—fanned out on a serving platter, they make a beautiful presentation.
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
8 ounces aged provolone cheese or firm mozzarella, cubed
1/3 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko or coarse bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup canola oil
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
16 short wooden or plastic skewers
1. Place vinegar and brown sugar in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk to combine. Bring to a boil and cook until mixture is reduced by more than half, about 20 minutes; mixture should have a syrupy consistency. Remove from heat, allow to cool. Transfer to a container or squeeze bottle to store.
2. Next, place flour, beaten egg and panko/bread crumbs each in separate bowls for dredging. Season crumbs with black pepper. Dredge cheese cubes in flour, then egg, then crumbs. Place breaded cubes on waxed paper in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm or until ready to fry. Slice the cherry tomatoes while waiting and set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat until oil is hot and shimmering. Fry cheese cubes until golden brown, turning once, about 1 minute per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain and cool slightly.
4. To assemble the skewers, carefully thread a tomato half (cut side up), a baby basil leaf (or medium leaf folded over), cheese cube, another basil leaf and finish with another tomato half (cut side down). Drizzle with balsamic reduction immediately before serving.
Yields 4 servings
Quesadillas are a fun spin on your average grilled cheese and a great way of adding some extra vegetables into the meal. Serve with guacamole, salsa and sour cream on the side. Below are two variations for quesadillas, but feel free to just make plain cheese quesadillas if you have picky eaters at home.
2-4 teaspoons vegetable oil
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
8 ounces Monterey Jack or sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
For corn and mushroom quesadillas:
1 small can corn, drained
6 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
For black bean and
red pepper quesadillas:
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
½ onion, diced
½ red bell pepper, seeded and diced
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup canned black beans,
rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1. Prepare filling of choice. For corn and mushroom filling, combine all ingredients together. For black bean and red pepper filling, heat oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and red pepper; season with salt and cumin. Sauté until peppers are tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add beans and cilantro and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.
2. Heat 1-2 teaspoons of oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet until hot but not smoking, Place a tortilla in the bottom of the pan. Spread a layer of cheese over the tortilla; sprinkle about ¼ cup filling evenly over cheese. Cover with another tortilla.
3. Cook until underside is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a wide spatula, carefully flip and cook until the other side is golden, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining tortillas, adding more oil as needed. Cut into wedges (like pizza) and serve with guacamole (recipe below), salsa and sour cream on the side.
Stuffed Dates with Goat Cheese
Yields 16 stuffed dates
A sweet hors d’oeuvre with tart goat cheese and a touch of honey. Be sure to use Medjool dates, whose caramel tones and substantial size are ideal for stuffing.
16 Medjool dates
4 ounces (about ½ cup packed) goat cheese
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon orange zest
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons honey, plus more for drizzling
8 pecans, halved (or sliced almonds)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Using a sharp paring knife, make a slit lengthwise in each date and remove pits. Set dates aside.
3. Combine goat cheese, cream cheese, orange zest, cinnamon and honey in a small bowl, mixing until well blended.
4. Stuff each date with about ¾ teaspoon of the cheese mixture. Top each with a pecan half (or a few sliced almonds). Place stuffed dates in a small baking dish. Bake for 5 minutes to warm. Drizzle each date with a few drops of honey prior to serving.
Naomi Ross is a cooking instructor and food writer based in Woodmere, New York. She teaches classes throughout the country and writes articles connecting delicious cooking and Jewish inspiration. Her first cookbook, The Giving Table, was recently released.