Icebox Dill Pickles

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I love pickles. Like LOVE love. When we were little, both Grandma and Nana would hand my brothers and me a “pickle for the road” when we left their houses after a visit. This was after we had each probably had 3 during the visit! I was picky, I only liked dill pickles. Bread & butter and sweet pickles had no place in my world. I’ve since developed a taste for them but, deep down, I’m a dill pickle girl. Nothing compares to fresh, homemade or house-made (restaurant) pickles. I’ve tried a few recipes over the years but never really loved anything I made. Usually there was just too much going on, too much sugar, too many spices. I wanted a good old simple dill pickle. Well, I finally found it! The recipe below is so simple and, honestly, there are no bells and whistles. Most people are pretty picky about their pickles (say that three times fast!) and these may not be to your taste. For this dill pickle girl, they come pretty darn close to perfect.

A little pickle making music…

Smile and Nod from The Lowest Pair

Icebox Dill Pickles adapted from Pick a Pickle by Hugh Acheson (this is a fabulous little book!). Makes 2 quarts or 4 pints (I usually triple the recipe).

You’ll need: 

  • 8 cups small Kirby pickling cucumbers (I buy mine at Sprouts), 4-5 in. long / 1.5 in. dia.
  • 8 sprigs fresh dill
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons pickling salt (I use Diamond Crystal Kosher bc it DOES NOT contain anti-caking agents)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups water

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Pack the cucumbers, dill and garlic into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top. *Quick aside here on the jars: I use plastic deli containers, not mason jars. The pickles don’t last long enough in our house to warrant processing the jars. As long as you eat them within a month, they will be fine kept refrigerated. If you want them to keep longer, you’ll need to use mason jars and process them.

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Combine the salt, mustard seeds, peppercorns, dill seeds, vinegar, and water in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

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Ladle to hot pickling liquid into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.

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Cap with lids, cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.

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Let them soak for a week before devouring them. They will keep for a month in the fridge (if you do choose to process them, they will keep up to 10 months).

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Pour yourself a craft beer and enjoy! IF you decide to share these with your friends, they will love you, but I don’t blame you if you want to keep them all for yourself!

Notes & Tips:

  • Sprouts has great pickling cucumbers!
  • Smart & Final carries the deli containers I use.
  • Don’t you love that beer glass? I know, right?! You can get one, too, from my awesome friend, Craft Beerd! Just click right here to check out his website.
  • For one of my favorite pickles ever, head over to O’Brien’s Pub or to Nickel Beer Company and, hopefully, you’ll be able to try one of Tom and Lindsey Nickel’s amazing spicy pickles.
  • And finally, Sierra Nevada.

Cheers!

Let me know if you make the pickles! Follow The Incidental Spoon on Facebook, @IncidentalSpoon on Twitter and @TheIncidentalSpoon on Instagram!

Kat’s Buffalo Chicken Dip

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I have THE PERFECT DIP for the Big Game tomorrow. It is so simple and, oh, so bad for you. A girlfriend brought this dip to my birthday get together last June at Balboa Park. I don’t think it lasted 10 minutes! So, when I had a ton of cooked chicken leftover from making stock this past week, the hubs was insistent we make Kat’s Buffalo Chicken Dip. Kat was not only kind enough to share this recipe (she certainly doesn’t claim it as her own, but I’m giving her credit), she’s allowing me to blog about it in order to share it with the world. She doesn’t use the green onions and she may use mayo instead of sour cream for the ranch mix, other than that, this is hers. Make this, trust me, you’ll both thank me and hate me for it. But, you know what? There is only one Big Game a year, treat yourself!

Here is a little tune to get you excited about tomorrow!

Let’s Get it Started – The Black Eyed Peas

Kat’s Buffalo Chicken Dip

You’ll need:

  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1 cup ranch dressing (use the HVR powdered mix with sour cream)
  • 1 roasted chicken, shredded
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • chips
  • beer, for drinking, it’s not actually IN the dip

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream cheese, Lousiana hot sauce and ranch dip until melted.

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Add the chicken and cheddar cheese to the sauce pan and mix until combined. Cook over medium heat until heated through and bubbling.

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Transfer dip to a casserole dish.

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Place in oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Add green onions.

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Serve with potato chips (or just eat it with a spoon) and a cold beer.

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Because I’ve lived in Washington state, I am cheering for the Seahawks tomorrow. Who are you rooting for? May the best team win!

Cheers!

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Ricotta & Egg Focaccia Sandwich

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I have to confess, my kids are super picky eaters. My oldest (11) eats more than my youngest (9); he is also willing to give new foods a taste. But, really, they are annoyingly picky. So when I do find something they both like, I get really excited. I’m going to share one of our favorite sandwiches in this post. Now, full disclosure here, my youngest will not eat the actual sandwich (he only likes the focaccia) and my oldest wouldn’t eat a fried egg if his life depended on it. While Ben and I eat the sandwich in its entirety, the kids like a more deconstructed version. Whatever, we’re all eating the same thing, I am happy.

This sandwich is a take on Saltie’s, Ship’s Biscuit sandwich. The only difference is that I like to poach my eggs (or in this post, fry them) instead of soft scrambling. This sandwich is perfect for anytime of day. How good would this be late-night?! OMG. Anyway, it is dreamy. You really can’t go wrong with homemade focaccia and homemade ricotta, seriously. Please make this, I promise it won’t disappoint.

Have you heard these guys? They are incredible! Pentatonix performing Problem.

Ricotta & Egg Focaccia Sandwich adapted from Saltie, A Cookbook.

For the Focaccia…

You’ll need:

  • 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbls kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup evoo, plus more for greasing & drizzling
  • coarse sea salt

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In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, kosher salt and yeast.

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Add the warm water to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is fully incorporated and a sticky dough forms.

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Pour the evoo into a 6-qt. plastic food container with a tight fitting lid.

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Transfer the focaccia dough to the container, turn to coat with oil and cover tightly.

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Place in the refrigerator to rise for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days (I leave it overnight).

When you’re ready to bake, oil a baking sheet. Remove the focaccia dough from the refrigerator and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Using your hands, spread the dough out on the sheet as much as possible, adding oil as needed to keep it from sticking. Place the dough in a warm place and let it rise until about doubled in size. The rising time will vary, I like to let it rise for a few hours, but if it’s warm, it may only take 20 minutes.

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When the dough is ready, it will be room temperature, completely spread on the sheet and fluffy feeling.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

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Pat down the focaccia to an even thickness of about 1 inch on the baking sheet.

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Make indentations in the dough with your fingertips. Dimple all of the dough and drizzle the whole thing with evoo. Sprinkle the entire surface with sea salt.

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Bake about 15 minutes, rotating once (front to back), until the top is golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool. Best used the same day as baking.

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For the Ricotta…

You’ll need:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp good white wine vinegar

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Set a large sieve, or colander, over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

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Combine the milk and cream in a stainless-steel or enameled pot. Stir in the salt.

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Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for one minute, until it curdles.

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl for 20-30 minutes (you may need to discard the liquid that collects in the bowl a few times). The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker your ricotta.

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Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, squeezing the cheesecloth to get it all. Discard the cheesecloth.

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Ricotta will keep, refrigerated, for up to 5 days.

Assembling the sandwich…

  • Prepare your eggs (soft scramble, poach, fry, whatever you fancy).
  • Cut a 3 inch square of focaccia and then slice it open.
  • Put a generous amount of ricotta on each half of the focaccia.
  • Place your eggs on one half.
  • Close the sandwich.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Enjoy the dreaminess of this creation.

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Let me know if you make anything you found on The Incidental Spoon! Be sure to sign up for email updates so you don’t miss a thing! #TheIncidentalSpoon on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Cheers!

Turkey Salad with Peanut Dressing

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TGIF! On this Friday before Thanksgiving, I have a quick post for you. If you are lucky to have leftover turkey after the big meal, I suggest you throw together this quick salad. This salad is bright, crunchy and fresh. Perfect for the day after that heavy meal that puts us all into a tryptophan coma. Best of all, it only takes a few minutes to throw together!

For your listening pleasure – I Was Made for You – She and Him

Turkey Salad with Peanut Dressing adapted from Bon Appetit November 2014. Serves 4.

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You’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Sriracha
  • 2 cups shredded cooked turkey meat
  • 1 cup shredded green or Napa cabbage
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 1 large carrot

Whisk peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and Sriracha in a small bowl.

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Mix turkey, cabbage, cilantro, and mint in a large bowl. Shave carrot lengthwise with a vegetable peeler and toss into the salad.

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Spoon some of the peanut dressing onto serving plates.

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Mound salad on top, drizzle with more dressing and serve. A refreshing salad for the day after Thanksgiving!

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Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving! Cheers!

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Salted-Butter Apple Galette with Hidden Rose Apples

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“The woman that was helping me showed me the craziest apple!” This was my husband, Ben, around this time last year. I had asked him to stop by Specialty Produce, a local produce warehouse that I adore, to pick up some apples for pies. He’s often the one running my SP errands. He works near downtown San Diego and we live north of the city so it’s easy for him to go on his way into work. Anyway, I will never forget him calling me after this trip, “It was totally red, on the inside! I bought you some, you won’t believe it! They taste like tart green apples.” Both Ben and I get excited about food but, and I think he’d agree here, it was unusual for him to be this excited about an APPLE. I knew this was a big deal.

The apples he brought home were so beautiful on the inside, I had never seen anything like them. I went to high school and college in Washington state. I lived in Chelan, part of the apple valley of the state. Dear friends of mine are generations deep in the apple business. I jump for joy when I see Chelan apples in local markets. And yet, the Hidden Rose apple had remained a mystery to me. I did what any baker would do, I put them in a pie (click here for that pie).

A glimpse of my life in Chelan…

My family moved to Chelan, from La Jolla, when I was 12 (heading into 8th grade). My grandparents had lived there (and had recently bought a home on the lake), my mom was born there, there was history. It is a gorgeous lake town in north central Washington. When I lived there, the surrounding hills were filled with apple orchards. Since then, the land has proved to be a boon for vineyards. Either way, the valley is absolutely beautiful. The lake itself is 50.5 miles long, fed by the Cascade and Chelan Mountains and is the third deepest lake in the country. In the summer, the people come. Towing boats, jet skiis, bbqs, beers, teenagers, and toddlers. At 14, I worked at Lakeview Drive-In, a burger joint open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The summer I was 16 (and until I was 21), I worked at the local waterslide park, Slidewaters, also open for summers only. After I graduated from Chelan High School and went off to Washington State University, I went home for the summers to lifeguard at the “Slides”. We all did.

I remember someone once saying, “Chelan has a population of 3,000 but in the summer it bumps up to 30,000.” I’m sure even when I lived there those numbers were grossly inaccurate, but I think you can picture what I’m describing. We had “summer friends”, those people who showed up every summer, year after year, and just kind of came back into our lives as if we’d seen them yesterday. They just kind of fit. Summers there were amazing and went by so quickly, like a glorious, sparkling blur.

It snowed in the winter. We’d sled at the golf course, meet up at the local pizza place. The entire town would show up for the high school basketball games (at least, it felt like it), even when they were on the road. It was that kind of town. I loved living there, I’m so happy my parents decided to give us that experience.

While Chelan will always be a home, and so dear to me, southern California is where I’m supposed to be. My heart and soul belong right where I am now. You can try to take the girl out of California, but she’ll always come back;).

This song makes me think of beautiful Lake Chelan, a place I also consider home. Golden by Lady Antebellum.

Back to the apples…

So this year, when Specialty Produce tweeted that the Hidden Rose were back in stock, Ben headed there on a mission. I already knew what I wanted to make, I had seen the recipe in my newest Bon Appetit, an apple galette. This dessert showcases the fruit beautifully.

For this post, I am going to link you to the Bon Appetit recipe here. I followed the recipe perfectly, omitting the Maple Whipped Cream (I don’t feel like it was necessary, but if you love whipped cream, you should definitely include it) and, obviously, replacing the Pink Lady apples with Hidden Rose.

Below are my step by step pictures.

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Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Scones

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My kids LOVE the pumpkin bread made from the Trader Joe’s mix. They ask for it all year so I try to keep a few boxes on hand out of season. It is the only boxed mix I use for anything. I don’t love it, though, it is just a little too sweet for me. I tend to crave more savory items (crazy, I know, I have so much fun baking sweets). So, when I saw the recipe for Pumpkin Scones in November’s Bon Appetit Magazine, I knew I had to try them. I feel like most scones are a little less sweet than muffins or breads. Less sugar, more butter, sounds good to me;).

I woke up a little earlier this morning to whip these up for the family before we sent the boys off to school. I am so glad I did, they are amazing. And while the boys may still prefer the box mix pumpkin bread, this scone recipe has won Ben and me over. It is the perfect fall baked treat with your morning coffee or afternoon tea.

Here is a great song for early morning dancing in the kitchen. Escape by Rupert Holmes.

Pumpkin Scones adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2014. Makes 8 scones.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk, plus more for brushing
  • 2 tbsp. raw sugar

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Whisk granulated sugar, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, cloves, baking soda, and flour in a large bowl.

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Grate the butter, using the large holes on a box grater, tossing to coat in dry ingredients as you go.

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Mix in egg, pumpkin and 1/4 cup buttermilk.

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Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and pat into a thick disk.

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Cut into 8 wedges. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, about 25-30 minutes.

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush scones with buttermilk and sprinkle with raw sugar.

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Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Serve with butter.

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Loved enjoying mine with my morning coffee!

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Fava Bean & Proscuitto Soup

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Fall in Southern California is a strange phenomenon. It can be 90 degrees on the coast one day and 66 the next. We’ve run the gamut this year. Humid, yep. Dry, totally. Chilly, not enough for my liking but, sure. Hot, definitely. I love living here, there is nothing like a fall sunset in Encinitas, it is a gorgeous sight to behold. We don’t, however, get that chill in the air that most associate with the beginning of this beautiful season. Therefore, we need to create a sense of it ourselves, in our homes, in our kitchens.

I get really excited about soups, like ridiculously so. I think homemade soup is such a wonderful thing to have in the refrigerator. My husband works odd hours, so he loves when there is something easy for him to reheat and enjoy when he gets home. Soups are also one of those heavenly dishes that are usually better the day after you make them.

I’ve decided that, over the next year, I am going to cook my way through one of my favorite soup cookbooks. It is a tiny little thing, but everything I’ve made from it so far has huge flavor. Zuppe is collection of recipes from the kitchen of The American Academy in Rome. The author, Mona Talbott, has broken the book down by season with about 11-15 recipes per season. I’m going to start with the first recipe and make one a week, in order, over the next year. While I am planning to blog some of my favorites, including this first one, I won’t be blogging all of them. I encourage you to buy the little book (proceeds support the Rome Sustainable Food Project) and follow along with me on social media, sharing your stories and pictures. Of course, I’ll still blog other recipes. With the holidays coming up, I have a ton to share!

For now, join me on my first of the Zuppe Challenge…

Sing, Sing, Sing performed by Louis Prima…

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Fava Bean & Proscuitto Soup adapted from Zuppe by Mona Talbott. Serves 4 to 6.

You’ll need: 

  • 10 1/2 oz. dried peeled fava beans
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 5-6 oz. proscuitto shank (I bought a boneless, trimmed hock from the butcher)
  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried chili pepper flakes (or less, to taste)
  • 8 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 2-3 bay leaves

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Peel and cut the onions, celery and carrots into a small dice. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Cut the prosciutto shank in half.

Over low heat, in a 6-qt. stockpot, cook the onion, celery and carrots in olive oil until the vegetables are coated in oil and glistening. Add a pinch of salt and cook until tender, about 5 more minutes.

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Add the garlic and dried pepper flakes to the pan, stir and cook for 2 minutes.

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Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, stir and simmer for 5 more minutes.

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Add the fava beans and proscuitto to the vegetables.

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Cover with 3 quarts of cold water.

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Bring soup to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the fava beans have softened and the soup has a creamy texture.

Remove bay leaves and discard. Remove the tender proscuitto and cut into small pieces (it will really just fall apart), return it to the soup.

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Taste and re-season with salt if necessary (be sure to taste it first, the prosciutto adds quite a bit of saltiness). The soup will thicken as it cools, you may need to thin with water when reheating.

Enjoy!

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A delicious, hearty fall soup!

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Cheers!

Berry and Lemon Curd Pavlova

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Happy Independence Day! Ben, the boys and I are looking forward to spending today with some of our family, and the rest of the weekend with friends. It will be filled with flags, barbecues, smiles, and many cheers. I usually don’t have the opportunity to cook on this holiday weekend; our traditions put the food in the hands of others, which is just fine by me. But I still like to find festive ideas for all of the holidays, this being no exception. The following recipe is a fantastic summer dessert. As you’ll see, the color theme makes it perfect for some of our spring and summer national holidays.

Honestly, I’ve never made a pavlova. So, you can imagine my happiness when my husband told me that it was the best dessert he’s ever had, in his life. Ever. Even compared to restaurant desserts (we’ve been to some pretty amazing restaurants). It really is fantastic, and gorgeous, which helps;).

American Honey – Lady Antebellum

 

Berry and Lemon Curd Pavlova adapted from Gourmet, April 2009.

Meringue

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar (use superfine if you have it, I didn’t and it still turned out perfect)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature
  • salt
  • 1 tsp distilled white vinegar

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Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Trace a 7 inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Turn parchment over and place on a baking sheet.

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In a bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch.

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Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Add 3 tbsp. cold water and beat again until the egg whites can hold soft peaks.

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Increase speed to medium-high and beat in sugar mixture, 1 tbsp. at a time. After all of the sugar has been added, beat for 1 more minute.

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Add vinegar and beat on high until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.

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Carefully spread the meringue inside the circle on the parchment.

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Make the edge of the meringue slightly higher than the center (bowl-like for holding the curd and fruit).

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Bake until meringue is pale golden and has a crust, about 45 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN AT ALL DURING BAKING. Turn the oven off and, without completely opening the oven door, prop the door slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool the meringue in the oven for 1 hour. *Meringue can be made up to 2 days ahead and frozen, wrapped in plastic. Thaw before serving.

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Lemon Curd and Fruit

You’ll need:

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • salt
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups mixed berries

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In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together sugar, cornstarch and 1/8 tsp salt.

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Add lemon juice and butter.

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Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking, then continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Lightly beat yolks in a small bowl.

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Whisk in 1/4 cup lemon mixture, then whisk back into remaining lemon mixture in the saucepan. Reduce to low and cook, whisking constantly, until curd is thickened, about 2 minutes (do not let boil).

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Transfer to a bowl and stir in zest.

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Chill, covering surface with parchment paper, for about 1 1/2 hours. *Curd can be made 2 days ahead and kept refrigerated.

Beat heavy cream until it just holds stiff peaks, then fold 1/4 cup of the beaten cream into the lemon curd.

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Spoon the lemon curd into the meringue and mound berries on top.

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And, behold, The Incidental Spoon’s first pavlova (it won’t be the last)!

Enjoy!

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Mushroom Tart

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My love for San Diego’s Specialty Produce is well-documented. If you’re local and you’ve not visited this amazing produce wholesaler, which is open to the public, GO NOW. So, I wasn’t surprised when a friend, who I introduced to Specialty Produce, was telling me that the mushrooms he found there were the best he’s ever had. The problem was, I had never bought any mushrooms there. I needed to, right away, so I came up with this quick tart. It highlights the mushrooms, so be sure to find the best you can.

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Mushroom Tart

You’ll need:

  • 1 box frozen puff pastry (two squares)
  • 1/2 stick (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter
  • 7 cups thinly sliced fresh mushrooms (button, porcini or a mix of any favorites)
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 5 oz. goat cheese

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay out pastry squares on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

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Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

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Melt butter in a large skillet.

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Add mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

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Divide mixture among the pastry squares. Sprinkle herbs and dot with goat cheese. At this time you could pop it back in the oven to heat it up a bit but we ate it right away so it was unnecessary.

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Enjoy!

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Birthday Beach Party

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A few months ago, my mom offered to host a family birthday party for me at La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. Of course I accepted, but on one condition. Other than the beach set up, I do the rest. I absolutely love throwing get-togethers. I enjoy every part, invitations, set up, table settings, flowers, menu planning, and food. So with that, we had a party to plan.

La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is gorgeous. My mom has been a member for many years. My brothers and I spent our summers running around the beach, swimming in the pool, feeding the ducks at the pond and, at the end of the day, eating ice cream on the boardwalk. It was pretty dreamy. So, obviously, I jump at any chance to take my kids and family.

It’s a treat to have a party on the beach at LJB&TC. While I wanted my party to be casual, I also wanted it to be nice. I wanted it to convey how special the guests are to me. I knew, right away, that my colors would be white and blue. With that in mind, I headed to Paper Source for more inspiration.

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I adored this nautical wrapping paper with the mix of blues and the pop of orange. I try to line my envelopes when I can, I think it gives the invitation or card a little boost.

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I found these adorable seal bottle openers at Anthropologie for party favors.

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Disposable bamboo plates have always been a favorite and are so nice at the beach. They give the impression of a “real” plate but can be tossed at the end of the evening. This silver plastic flatware does the same thing, elevating the table setting while being very practical. Finally, I decided to cut cheap flour sack towels in half, wash and use them as napkins. I tied them with burlap ribbon.

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I found nice linen-feel paper cocktail napkins but I wanted to add a touch of the nautical theme so I stamped them.

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I LOVE flowers. Flowers are one way to my heart, I promise you. I was so happy to find a bucket of perfect white peonies that would bloom just in time for the beach party. I added a touch of green and blue to each arrangement, keeping it simple and elegant.

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In theme with the party, I wanted the meal to be a little extra special.

  • Drinks – Growlers of craft beer, wine and sodas
  • Starter – Avocado, Feta and Cherry Tomato Salsa Flatbreads (June 2014 Food & Wine)*
  • Bean Salad with Lemon and Herbs
  • Green Tomatoes and Peaches with Burrata and Balsamic
  • Barbacoa Beef Tacos with Two Sauces (June 2014 Food & Wine)
  • Dessert – S’mores
  • Dessert – Banana Meringue Pudding (June 2014 Bon Appetit)

*Recipe shared below.

The evening was absolutely perfect.

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I’m sharing my favorite recipe of the evening, the flatbreads. The entire meal was fantastic, but I’ve used this one again since the beach party. Grilled flatbreads are the perfect summer get-together meal. They can be thrown together last minute with whatever you have in your fridge and pantry.

Avocado, Feta and Cherry Tomato Salsa Flatbreads adapted from the June 2014 issue of Food and Wine Magazine.

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup evoo, plus more for brushing
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped mint
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • kosher salt and fresh black pepper
  • flour, for dusting
  • 1 lb. store-bought pizza dough, cut into 4 pieces
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 Hass avocado, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced

Toss the cherry tomatoes with the 1/2 cup of evoo, shallot, mint, cilantro, vinegar, and crushed red pepper in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Light a grill. On a lightly floured surface, press and stretch each piece of dough to an oval (this doesn’t have to be perfect) and brush with evoo. Grill the dough over moderately high heat, turning once, until puffed and lightly charred, 5 minutes. Transfer to a work surface. Spoon salsa over the flatbreads and top with the feta and avocado. Cut into wedges and serve.

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I’ve since played with the flatbread toppings, even having a flatbread party:), and came up with a few more favorites.

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Peach, goat cheese and arugula.

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Asparagus, ricotta, arugula and lemon (I also added meatballs to this one).

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Pizza dough will be a staple in my fridge this summer season. Such an easy thing to throw on the grill, yet an amazing treat for guests.

Hope you enjoy!

Cheers!