You say tomato…
Every year my now 88 year old grandfather grows tons of his favorite vegetables (and fruits) in his garden in Philadelphia. You can always find a tomato, tons of lima beans, string beans, cabbage or collards. He was raised on a farm in North Carolina during the 1930s & 1940s a time when many families had to grow their own food to survive.
Today the farm to table movement is booming with a whole new generation leading the charge.
Tomatoes have long been considered as a beginner gardeners friend, especially grape and cherry tomatoes. In fact, when I was in the 3rd grade one of our projects was to grow cherry tomatoes (luckily, my grandfather was able to revive my almost dead plant before it was due). And even though my gardening skills leave much to be desired, there are numerous farmers around the country with tons of tomatoes this time of year.
And such a versatile fruit that is treated like a vegetable deserves a box.
Eating them raw in salads and gazpacho or roasted in a hot soup or tomato sauce, tomatoes are great for large dishes that you can freeze or can.
All the recipes this month may call for a specific type of tomatoes but feel free to swap out your favorites or what is abundant at the markets. Maybe even branch out and try the many heirloom varieties easily found these days.
It’s HOT out there!
The month of July is a great one in America. There’s an abundance of red, white, and blue spirit, baseball, and laid back Saturdays at the park along with grilling burgers and hot dogs with your family.
While growing up in Philly, we had a lot of block parties. Kids would play in the fire hydrants (local Fire Department approved) and Independence Day would mean sparklers, late nights, and fireworks.
July was amazing!
And in my family, July was filled with TONS of seafood, so much that I started a fish market about a decade ago. It’s the perfect summer meal option. It’s healthy and you can cook a lot at one time, invite family and friends over, turn the radio up loud, and a party will ensue.
And there are so many wonderful family owned small businesses making great seafood seasonings. One of our favorites is JO Spice. If you’ve ever had steamed blue crabs at a restaurant in the Maryland area more than likely they use JO Spice.
Great shellfish is messy and social. So this month, we’re encouraging you to lay out the newspapers, roll up your sleeves, and chow down on some amazing local seafood. #unlockhomemade.
Food Road Trips
America’s favorite past time isn’t baseball. I totally believe it’s food road trips. After the surge in shows like Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, Southern Food Road Trip and Man Vs Food, people everywhere are hopping in the car and driving miles out of their way just to try the “best fried chicken in the country” or the “juiciest brisket this side of the Mississippi” or whatever.
And I am a proud food road tripper! When my husband took a job in Texas and we had to move him from Connecticut, we could have flown and had our stuff shipped. But then how would we get a chance to try the fried chicken at Gus’s World Famous Friday Chicken in Tennessee or compare it to Uncle Lou’s Fried Chicken 20 minutes away? So we opted to drive 28 hours and stop in Tennessee cause honestly we didn’t know another time when we’d get the chance (or want to).
And when it was time for me to move from Connecticut to Texas I spent the last 3 months in Connecticut taking mini food road trips to try and hit as many of the “50 best dishes to try before you die in Connecticut” as I could. I also snuck in a quick road trip to Newport, Rhode Island which has some amazing food as well.
While I didn’t get a chance to eat all 50 dishes. I did spend some memorable weekends with friends trying new places and tasting new dishes. I had the best pasta of my life, incredible lamb sausage and jalapeño bacon and way too many Connecticut style lobster rolls to count!
That was 6 years ago and today I’m going to recreate a small part of that with my daughter.
We’re flying into my hometown of Philadelphia there we’ll eat cheesesteaks, have real soft pretzels that don’t cost $3 each and overindulge on water ice our all time summer favorite.
And after spending a few days with my grandfather we’re renting a car and heading north. We’ll end in Rhode Island and turn back around. Stopping in Beacon NY, New York City, Boston Massachusetts, New Haven, Guilford, & Bridgeport Connecticut and Rhode Island, Although my daughter is only 4 and won’t fully appreciate all the food we COULD have on this trip she is serious about her favorite foods. So I’ll taylor the trip more around her tastebuds than mine (this time).
But I figure if I get her started early she will learn to love the all-american food road trip as much as me and her dad. Because I already have our next one planned in my mind.
Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. As a little girl, school was out, everything was a little relaxed, I could stay up late to watch any and all firework displays (and in the city of brotherly love the 4th was a big deal). And it was around this time we had block parties on our street. Somehow the adults got permission to block off the street so no one could drive down it. Everyone brought their grills from the backyard to the front sidewalk. And us kids played every game we could think of like Hide & Go butter bee, Hide & Seek, Double Dutch, we’d have Uno and Acey Duecy tournaments and any other game that lends itself to 20+ kids playing together.
Food was usually a simple fare burgers, hot dogs, chicken, sometimes steamed crabs and lots of fruit. These days I love bringing vinaigrette based pasta salads. I know a lot more vegetarians and pescatarians these days and want to make sure they eat well too. And if I could find or create more recipes that taste as good as this I’d consider pescatarianism at the very least.
And the cool thing about pasta salad is you can totally personalize it. My husband hates bell peppers so they can be taken out. I love onions and garlic and tend to add them in everything. Fresh squeezed lemon juice or lemon zest brighten up everything in my opinion so it’s always an ingredient. And everyone knows I love crabs. So if it’s possible I’m adding it to a recipe. Prefer lobster or shrimp? Swap it out. The only thing you need to be aware of is having enough vinaigrette to adequately coat all the ingredients. If you stick with these ratios you should be good but you can always double or triple the vinaigrette recipe if you find your ingredients list is getting kind of big 😀
So make a bowl of this amazingly fresh summer pasta salad and serve at your next 4th of July bash!
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Pasta Salad with King Crab
A wonderful summer side dish for any bbq!
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 1 tbsp finely chopped shallot
- 2 tbsp honey (we use Orange Blossom flavored local honey)
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
- Salt & pepper
- Kosher/sea salt
- 2 cup fresh corn kernels
- 1/2 lb pasta, such as campanelle, cavatappi or tortiglioni
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 oz baby spinach or arugula
- 1 small bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and very thinly sliced (red, yellow or orange)
- 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 4 oz crumbled feta
- 1lb king crab legs
- 2 tbsp old bay (optional)
- Combine lemon juice, mustard, shallots, honey and lemon zest in a bowl and set aside for 5. Whisk in extra virgin olive oil. Add in dill, and stir to combine. Season with 3/4 tsp and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Taste and adjust honey and lemon juice to your taste.
- Over high heat, get a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Put the corn in a metal strainer/small colander and dip it into the boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove corn,rinse under cold water, draw well and place in a bowl to let cool.
- *At this point you can add the crab legs to the water to heat through. I prefer to steam mine with a little old bay seasoning in a separate pot*
- Bring water back to a boil and add pasta. Cook to al dente. Drain well and toss with olive oil set aside to cool (if I'm really hungry, I put the pasta and corn in the fridge for 10 minutes to speed cooling)
- In a large bowl combine pasta, corn, spinach/arugula, and the vinaigrette. Stir to combine. Add cheese, the red onion and crabmeat and stir gently. Let stand for 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy!
Adapted from Fine Cooking: Pasta Salad with corn, spinach and red bell pepper
Adapted from Fine Cooking: Pasta Salad with corn, spinach and red bell pepper
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