Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Melon Cucumber Salad with Lime and Mint

This is So Cal Summer Salads, the Fruit Version!  With only four ingredients summer doesn't get more simple, and the flavor is incredibly beautiful.  Oh yes, this salad just sings.   

During the summer months, it is really no surprise to see various salads with melon and fruits; watermelons, cantaloupes, and honeydew are at their peak, and a cool, sweet slice is astonishingly satisfying on a hot summer day.  I think it is natural to want to combine the light sugary taste from the melons with complementary ingredients, and the most common paring seems to be watermelon and cucumber.  I can remember a salad I ate last summer where I enjoyed a cucumber and melon salad with tsatziki and it was an elegant and simple lunch.  Plus, the bright red color of watermelon just makes me smile.    

But I like to expand my horizons, and I am always out to change up things and try different produce.  That is why I get so excited every summer for those 3 or 4 weeks when my local Henry's Farmer Market features some more "exotic" melons.  Some of them have been grown right here in California, but many of them come across the border from Mexico.  My favorites so far are Canary, Casaba, and Santa Claus-have any of you ever tried these varieties?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps with Noodles (aka Larb)

In case you haven't noticed yet, I am not a big meat eater.  Oh sure, I love a thick, juicy steak, or a beautiful roasted chicken, and there really is nothing like biting into a huge burger with all the fixings; but, on the whole, I don't actually eat that much meat on a regular basis.  There are many days when I have yogurt and granola for lunch, maybe eggs for dinner, or possibly just a big bowl of veggies with couscous or a salad.  These meals might not be terribly exciting or always representative of my inner foodie, but they keep me fed, and are quick, easy, and healthy.  To keep a rounded diet, I get a lot of my protein from eggs, dairy, beans, cheese, and fish (not all at once, of course), and I love vegetables and fruits so I eat those all the time.       

Although I eat this way intentionally to be healthy, to save time, and to be easy on the wallet, I am well aware that this type of eating can sometimes seem a little rabbit-like, and is certainly always not suitable for feeding friends, family, or one hungry Norwegian boyfriend.  I think most of the world likes to eat well-balanced meals, usually including a vegetable, a starch, and of course, meat.  Plus, I personally really do want to eat meat: I want to cook it well, and and enjoy a variety of types of meats.  So it is this type of thinking that drives me to make impulse purchases like leg of lamb, or ribeye steak, or ground organic turkey... and then try to dream up some way to prepare it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's a Pickle Party!

PICKLES!  Pickles, pickles, pickles!!!  Oh how I love them.  Just thinking about pickles makes me want to do a happy dance, so just use your imagination to conjure up your best of image of what I do when I actually eat one.  And just look at the word "pickle," doesn't it make you want to giggle?  

Pickles have been a favorite food of mine since childhood when I used to eat them by the jar.  Literally.  (As I mentioned before, I am not sure how my mom let me get away with this, or how my stomach could handle digesting an entire jar of pickles.  Children are tough.)  I would eat all varieties of pickles: Kosher, zesty dill, bread and butter, spears, hamburger slices, and especially those giant deli pickles that they pull out of the huge glass jar at the local sandwich shop.  No dill spear was safe from the voracious appetite of The Little Cilantropist.  Pickles are an old-fashioned food that I associate with home, and comfort, and a casual, fun sort of eating, and it looks like I am not alone

Now that I am all grown up (or at least I am often seen masquerading as an adult), I still eat pickles with gusto, although not by the jarful any longer.  Instead, I get my fix through pedestrian supermarket-variety pickles and dill spears that accompany the occasional sandwich or cheeseburger when I eat out.  Since I think I am a pickle addict at heart, I began to wonder if this was really enough pickle-eating to get by.  You see, I have recently felt like something was missing in my life, and I think that thing is The Pickle.  

Notice that I used a few capital letters there when I referred to The Pickle.  I did that on purpose, to specifically delineate the olive-green, less-than-crunchy, Vlasic-type pickle, from The Bright-Green, Full-of-Flavor, Homemade-Type Pickle.  In fact, these homemade pickles really shouldn't even share the same name as those knock-offs crowding the shelves of giant supermarket chains; but alas, a pickle by any other name might not really be a pickle at all (plus, I don't actually have any power or influence to change the names of foods), so for now these are Pickles with a capital P.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread, and a Beach Picnic

Do you have a little sweet spot in your heart for cornbread?  I know I do, and I am not sure if it is because I grew up in the Midwest or just because I like corn.  Tell me, is cornbread a best-loved food in the New England states, or the Pacific Northwest, or even in Europe?  (Maybe I am showing a little foodie ignorance here, but I really don't know, and I think googling isn't going to give me the answer I want.)  Whatever your current preference, I think you should consider developing a little adoration for this slightly sweet treat.        

I know for sure that some San Diegians are eating the delicious cornbread that is served at Bud's Louisiana Cafe.  Oh, their cornbread muffins are delicious little bites of heaven that are flecked with sweet corn... and also some other sweet flavor that I can't seem to put my finger (or tastebud) on.  And, you can get a cornbread muffin at Bud's for the bargain price of 50 cents!  So if you have a few quarters in your pocket and you live in So Cal, just cruise on over to Bud's and get yourself a muffin or two.      

Or, if you don't live in San Diego, you can whip up a batch of cornbread for yourself in a jiffy with this recipe.  This cornbread is sweet, and moist, and definitely spicy, and the golden cheesy topping really takes it just over the top. If you want it a little less spicy, just decrease the amount of jalapenos or omit the whole jalapenos from the top.  Don't want cheese?  Just leave it out!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lemony White Bean and Tomato Salad with Dill

Another So Cal Summer Salad!  Yay!  Actually I was sort of feigning excitement; to be honest, I was almost tempted not to make this salad.  You see, this salad came from the June issue of Bon Appetit, and this particular issue was the one where I had found my recipe for Arugula, Fennel, and Apricot Salad... and well, we all know how that turned out.  A recipe for disappointment and pain (specifically a battle wound that has just finally healed), and that is certainly not what The Cilantropist is striving for.  

So, needless to say, it was with some trepidation and marked hesitation that I approached this recipe. (I also decided to be a little superstitious and not use my nemesis The Shun.  I figured if I brought out my trusty Henkels workhorse I would be less likely to cut myself and would instantly increase my chances of eating a delicious salad.  This is ridiculous, I know, but I refuse to apologize for the crazy way my mind works.)

It started out like the previous Bon Appetit salad: I enjoyed all the ingredients, the flavors seemed like they would meld together flawlessly, and the colors were fresh and bright. Then I was chopping everything up, and somehow the combination of the scents wafting up from the cutting board and the small tastes I took when I quickly licked my fingers (we all do this right? A little taste test here and there...) seemed somehow, just off.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Ahhh... Summer.  Those lazy days when the living is easy and life is breezy.  I definitely love the bright blooms and fresh air of spring, the changing colors and brisk chill of fall, but I feel like I live for summer.  (Winter, eh, not such a fan.)  I think some of that summer love comes from a strong sense of nostalgia; dreaming about long midwest summer days filled with splashing around in the pool, running through sprinklers, and selling lemonade at the corner of our street for 25 cents a glass.  Of course, I love San Diego summers too, with the salty spray from the Pacific Ocean, backyard barbeques with friends, and an abundance of fresh produce.      

And I have always loved summers for the food (even before I actually knew I was a bona fide foodie).  There really is nothing like a thick hamburger or a steak, fresh off the grill...juicy watermelon or strawberries...and a tall glass of lemonade or iced tea.  Somehow, if I sat down to enjoy a meal like this in the spring, it just wouldn't feel the same as if I was relaxing with my feet up on a balmy summer evening.   

Although dessert is usually not the star of most summer meals (and those men hovering around the grill would deem anything other than meat-worshipping blasphemous), I wanted to make something summery but unique.  I found the recipe for these lemonade cupcakes in a cookbook I borrowed from a friend.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Few Orders of Business, Plus Blog Awards (Part Two!)

Hi there!  So my dear friend has politely pointed out that it seems I have not posted in over a week.  Yikes!  Not to worry, life has just been a little hectic and I have been traveling, but am here with new posts and exciting Cilantropist updates. 

I am actually most excited about the fact that I have recently expanded my social media connections: I'm finally on Twitter!  Thats right, just divert your eyes for a moment over to my sidebar and check out the new little button with that cute bird that we all know so well.  If you love The Cilantropist (which I hope you do), then follow me on Twitter!  By following you can be sure to get notifications for all my new posts, plus extra witty and hopefully interesting commentary on foodie related happenings, restaurants I visit, and life in general.  Not on Twitter yet?  Scroll down a bit more on the sidebar and click to follow me with your preferred Reader.  And if you don't have Twitter or use a Reader, I plan to have both a Facebook page and the option for email subscription up and going soon.  Basically I want to give you, my readers, as many options to connect with The Cilantropist as possible because I really love connecting with you too. :)  

So on that note, I also just added my contact email to this page.  JennieFurla just brought it to my attention that it was sadly missing, and I definitely do not want to shut anyone out.  So if you like, shoot me an email, I would love to hear from you!  Ask me about a recipe, tell me about your favorite foodie experiences, or even send me a picture of your cat Princess Fluffy.  And if you try one of my recipes posted here, definitely tell me about it by comment/email.  To email me, just click on my profile and go from there.  

Next order of business: I received the Sunshine blog award from a foodie friend, Lauren Zabaneh of Foodie House!  So excited and honored to receive the Sunshine award from such a lovely gal.  I know she hasn't been blogging for long, but I think one of the things that really sets her apart is her inclusion of lots of really cool video content in each of her posts.  Her posts are always really interesting to read, and usually make me laugh too, and her food is totally delicious.  Be sure to check out these chocolate cupcakes in particular, YUM.

I am ashamed to admit that I got this same award from the Baking Barrister last month, and I completely forgot to pass that award on.  Ugh, sometimes my mind feels like a sieve!  So without further ado, I would like to pass the Sunshine award onto the following bloggers because they make me happy, I think their blogs are awesome, and they have the wonderful tendency to spread cheery rays of sunshine to other foodie friends.  I decided to list 10 of them, since I got this award times two, and they are listed in no particular order: 

Laurie of Simply Scratch
Azmina of Lawyer Loves Lunch
Kait of Cooking with Kait
Brian of A Thought For Food
Roxan of Kitchen Meditation
Chef Dennis of More Than a Mount Full 
Jessie of The Messie Kitchen
Penny of Jeroxie (Addictive and Consuming)
Silvia of Citron et Vanille
My good friend Jill of Strawberry Spice

Please, please, please go and check out all of their blogs, I promise you that they are amazing.  I would love to write a little bit about each one, but I am slightly pressed for time so I just want to give a quick shout out especially to Laurie of Simply Scratch; hers was the first site that I ever saw my own blog listed on a blogroll and I was just tickled pink!  The little things... 

And on that note, my last order of business for the day is my blogroll.  I just listed quite a few more blogs that I love and I am adding more day by day.  So if you are looking for a new food blog to check out, this is a good place to start!

Happy (almost) Friday! 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lemon Meringue Cheesecake, Inspired...

I actually made this recipe quite awhile ago, but I was waiting for the right time to share it with you.  Um, wait.  That's actually a lie.  Two lies in fact.  

Lets start again: First, I didn't really make this recipe alone, in fact it wasn't even my idea.  This cheesecake is inspired by a version from Extraordinary Desserts, and the brilliant thought to recreate it at home came from my friend's boyfriend, Jeff.  So second, I wasn't really waiting for the right time to share this with you; I was merely holding out until I could pay my most favorite dessert restaurant another visit.  Which I just did, and I blogged about it, and seem to be continuing to shamelessly promote it.  It is my favorite place, can you blame me?    

So anyway, this cheesecake idea seems to have been born when dear Jeffery chose to have the lemon meringue cheesecake from Extraordinary Desserts.  The heavens opened, pure sugary sunshine shone down on him, and it was love at first sight (or bite, I suppose).  And although he didn't consciously realize it at the time, I believe the sneaky sweet spot in his brain started setting a plan in motion so he could enjoy it at home.      

Time went on, as time does, and Jeffrey pined away after his cheesecake.  But since he is a manly man, the pining really didn't last that long and he quickly took action.  One day, I got a phone call from my friend Jenn, saying, "Hey you should come over, Jeff wants to make this cheesecake.  He is really serious about it."  And let me tell you, she was not kidding.  After talking over this grand cheesecake venture with Jeff, I realized two things: he is really obsessed with cheesecake (I find this awesome), and he also painstakingly and strategically planned how he would create the perfect lemon meringue cheesecake.